Women Safety: Obligation of Businesses

Hillary Clinton has made the observation, “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world; so, let’s unleash the power of this segment and strive for an equal world.”

Consider the case of several million women who spend days growing sorghum, and, the proceeds of the sale is pocketed by their husbands. Shouldn’t these women instead be allowed to be involved in the decision of how the money they helped earn should be used? That does not happen. Research has shown that it is women who are more concerned than men to provide nutritious food, healthcare, and education for the children and find ways and means to extricate the families out of the morass of poverty. Therefore it is imperative that everyone should start to rethink about the part women can play in their own communities. The sharp decline by a third in just 10 years in the number of women workforce in India is the most worrying of trends.

A recent study conducted in the state of Madhya Pradesh has revealed that NREGS-women workers were able to negotiate for more work when they got direct access to earnings through individual (bank) accounts instead of holding household accounts, besides mentoring. The study also found that these women were able to bring about a positive change in men’s perception of them. In short, women can do what all the philanthropic organizations in the world can never do: change the unwritten rules that categorize women as ‘lesser beings’ than men. With this in mind, there is a need to invest in women’s economic and social empowerment.

A multitude of research shows that improved business performance, promoting gender equality and social upliftment can be achieved if women’s leadership role in the organization is enhanced. Businesses need more women leaders since success in a rapidly changing environment requires quick response and nuanced approach to innovation. It is required that businesses move towards diverse human resource perspectives to face and overcome the challenges in today’s complex world. For example, a more balanced leadership team comprising men and women is likely to be better placed to harness the opportunities created by an increase in women’s spending power or navigate the challenges created by globally and socially connected communities. Further, when a company has a more diversified leadership of men and women; it gets better opportunities and higher investments for growth. In the process, their chances of moving up the ladder to leadership positions increases by 33% and their opportunities for advancing to the highest levels in the leadership team double.

Several studies link women’s economic independence to overall GDP growth and faster alleviations of social issues. Encouraging an environment that actively seeks to hire more women and support their professional growth would kick-start a veritable cycle of empowerment and socio-economic advancement process in the country. With an equal representation of women in the workforce, India would become a socially better country and economically a richer nation. It is found that factoring these elements into the work environment would result in harvesting significant benefits including an immediate increase in women’s earnings by the US $ 2.9 trillion globally.

Just like all the unequal fingers are needed for the hand to function efficiently, organizations can greatly benefit from having a diverse set of talented persons functioning in different roles. Each finger, the thumb, index, middle, ring, and the little finger have a role to play and together with the hand, they form a strong unit for action. Having a diverse set of people consisting of youth and experienced professionals from different creeds, castes, communities, and regions, can make a more inclusive, robust and strong India.

Role of Men/Women Employees

Inclusion of diversity initiatives in organizations will only be fruitful when male employees take more than an active role. Men as allies create a greater impact. When men initiate this course of action, the buzz spreads quicker and it strengthens the case for gender inclusion. Also when different cohorts-Millenials, GenX-ers, line managers, salespeople all focus on getting more women into their respective groups, the decibel reaches a never-before high pitch. For the active participation of both male and female staff in networking, diversity committees, the formation of goodwill ambassadors, orientation sessions and social events to spread the awareness, the leadership initiative should come from men, and, it should permeate a sense of complete cooperation by both the male and female staff.

It is a fact that women cannot count on success and fulfillment unless men help them. It is not a symbol of weak gender but simply a matter of nature and numbers: there are many more men in positions of power than women and more women who need advocacy to manage. If men abrogate their responsibilities to help women, then the gender gap will persist and the “old boys’ network” will continue to prevail.

Enactment and Amendment of Laws

  1. Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017

The Act increases the maximum period of maternity benefit from the existing 12 weeks to 26 weeks, in the case of women who have less than 2 surviving children, and, in other cases, the existing period of 12 weeks continues.

The Act extends the maternity benefits to a ‘commissioning mother’ and ‘adopting mother’ and they shall be entitled to 12 weeks of maternity benefit from the date the child is handed over. The Act provides for the provision of ‘work from home’ to a mother by inserting an enabling provision. The Act ensures Crèche facilities to make it mandatory in respect of an establishment having 50 or more employees, to have the facility of crèche either individually or as a shared common facility within such distance as may be prescribed by rules and also to follow four visits to crèche by the woman daily, including the interval for rest allowed to her.

Conclusion:

Though laws are enacted, amendments are made, and regulatory framework put in place to have greater participation of women, the glaring fact is that two-thirds of the female population still do not get to work, thus India is missing out on a vast pool of resources. This is affecting its economic growth. India needs to do much more to encourage women to go to work, provide assured safety of travel from home to work, to provide for childcare and extend mandated maternity benefits. Women possess qualities of patience, are able to prioritize, negotiate and nurture. The task here is to get leaders, a very high percentage of who are men, to discover these unique qualities in women and find a way to capitalize on them.

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