The World Economic Forum’s Global gender gap index 2019-2020 ranks India at an alarming 112th among 150 countries. The index ranks countries on the basis of gender gap in four areas: health, education, economic participation and political empowerment. India’s ranking was worst on the health and survival parameter.

We all know that India has gone a long way in achieving parity for women in various areas. But the findings of the WEF report raises a lot of questions about the claims made on women empowerment.

1. Is the initiatives taken reaching all sects of women equitably, or just catering to a small subset that is visible from the outside?

2. How much growth is commendable growth, as India’s growth seems to be low in these gender-related parameters when benchmarked against other countries?

3. Gender parity may be a more challenging target for highly populated countries like India than this year’s toppers like Iceland. But how much more efforts are required to address this national issue?

Another interesting report published by Mckinsey Global Institute suggests that women contribute to only 18% of GDP in India, which is less than half the global average. Though India has shown considerable improvement in achieving gender equality in education, women’s participation in economic development is one of the lowest in the world.

How can we reverse this? The answer is to bring more women into the workforce. Majority of women in rural India are working in areas which are probably unpaid or with meagre wages that go unaccounted. For eg, household and agricultural work. The presence of more women in organized sectors can help to improve the two key alarming rankings mentioned above. Women’s economic participation and contribution to GDP can also contribute to better health and survival rates for such women, by improving their quality of life if the earnings are channeled in the right direction.

There is need for concerted efforts by government, industries and families. Government should play a role by ensuring safety for working women through provision of safe infrastructure and zero tolerance to any kind of harassment. Industries and companies can contribute by encouraging the recruitment of women, and providing facilities like childcare within premises, flexible working options and equal pay. Families play a key role in extending moral and physical support to the women, in terms of educating the girls and inculcating a culture of equitable treatment of women. This goes a long way in determining the mindset of future generations.

When a woman goes to work, she converts her less productive hours at home into income, which in turn gets invested as savings or spent to improve the quality of life. This in turn boosts the economy and contributes to the overall GDP growth. As a consequence the whole economy flourishes.

Women bring to table a set of skills which is different from the skills of men. Women express more empathy, are more tolerant and are better than most men in people skills. Women, specifically working mothers are more likely to value the intangibles associated with a job, like work culture, flexibility, comfort working in a team etc. over quantitative benefits, and hence are less likely to leave the job for better emoluments alone. Hence in most circumstances, a satisfied woman employee is more loyal to the employer than a satisfied male employee.

India scores high on the educational gender parity, which means that there are educated females out there who are unable to enter the workforce. This could definitely be a splendid source of talent, that can add value to organizations.

Apart from all the facts mentioned above, women entering the workforce will result in emotional wellbeing of the many qualified womenfolk who are unable to achieve their dreams due to personal and familial inhibitions.