Women power: Improvement in positions, a long way to go
Moneylife Digital Team 07 March 2012

The World Development Report of the World Bank says that as compared to $1 earned by a man, a woman in India gets only 64 cents. Overall, the report showed that despite some significant improvement in their quality of lives, women are still behind men in claiming their rights

The 2012 instalment of the Grant Thornton’s International Business Report (IBR) shows that the proportion of women holding senior management roles in India is steadily increasing, with 14% of the positions being held by women this year compared to 9% last year. However, the global average is at 21%, barely higher than the 2004 level.

India is way ahead of the global average in terms of flexible working conditions for women. The report says 66% of Indian businesses offer flexible working conditions (flexible hours, alternative locations, etc.) to female employees, against the global average of 52%.

“Human resource (HR) seems to be the favourite among Indian women, with 23% holding senior positions in this space, followed by 16% in financial positions and 10% in sales,” says that IBR. Nidhi Maheshwari, director, marketing communications, said, “A consistent rise though measured, in the number of women in the boardrooms of Indian companies is a positive sign.”

On the occasion of World Women’s Day on 8th March, Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile and executive director of UN Women said that nearly 400 chief executives worldwide have publicly declared their commitment to implementing the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) over the last two years. The corporate support has doubled since last year.

According to the World Bank, Women now represent more than 40% of the global labour force, 43% of the agricultural workforce, and more than half of the world’s university students. But the World Development Report of the World Bank shows that female disadvantage within countries is more marked at low incomes; India being no exception. It also says that between 1998 and 2008, there were almost 856,000 missing women in India—second only to China.

The economic disparity is also pronounced. The report says that as compared to $1 earned by a man, a woman in India gets only 64 cents. Overall, the report showed that despite some significant improvement in their quality of lives, women are still behind men in claiming their rights.

In many parts of the world, it has been noted that the last year has not been fair to the fairer sex even at the higher levels. On 2nd March, a study by Inter-Parliamentary Union revealed that there are fewer women parliamentarians in the Middle-Eastern region post the Arab Spring. According to its ‘Women in Parliament’ study, despite the revolutions that toppled regimes, the Arab region was the only area in the world without a parliament of at least 30% women.

The most serious setback has been noticed in Egypt, where the percentage of women parliamentarians has fallen from 12% to 2%. However, Tunisia and the newborn South Sudan have been working towards having quotas for women in parliament.

According to the report, countries like Belize, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the Solomon Islands have no women representatives.

 Ms Bachelet said that female heads of state and heads of government around the world are doubling since 2005 to 17, while the number of women ministers edged up by 2.5 points to 16.7%. She said that women find it difficult to contest elections because they have fewer resources at their disposal and face antagonism from political rivals.

She said, “Amidst all the challenges and opportunities in our world today, one fact is unassailable; countries and companies with higher gender equality enjoy higher levels of growth and performance.”

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