While women have made rapid strides in corporate world over the past few decades, the growth has come at a price. Women are now managing both a career and a home, rather than either of them. As a result, the constant pressure on women is now higher than ever. This is especially true for working mothers with small children. It will be some time before a full transition can take place for women and men to become equal partners at home and work. But till then. recognising these very modern challenges, policy makers are stepping in.
The draft National Policy for Women was released by Union Minister for Women and Child Development last week. The policy, which is open for comments, recognises the need for a more conducive working environment for educated urban women, besides touching upon every other strata of women as well.What would particularly be a big positive consideration for many women, is the idea of a more supportive infrastructure, that recognises and supports women in meeting the demands of their enhanced role in today’s world. Some of the suggestions in this regard are finding ways to free women’s time for paid work through time-saving technologies, provision of child care services like creches and child care leaves for parents.
Many companies have already enhanced maternity and child care leaves in India, a case in point being e-commerce biggie Flipkart. The company provides 24 weeks or 6 months of maternity leave, flexible working hours with full pay and if so required, a one year break without pay as well. Mandated maternity leave stands at 12 weeks at present. A number of other companies are also becoming increasingly progressive when it comes to maternity related flexibility.
Women in the workplace are also expected to be supported through the addressing of gender wage gaps. A recent survey by job portal Monster.com has recently found out that there is as much as 35% wage gap between men and women. Even in highly skilled professions like consulting and IT, the wage gap is at 24% and 34% respectively!
The policy also talks of increasing women’s participation in governance and decision making bodies. Here too, there are glaring gaps. While India has mandated at least 1 woman on the board of every company, many Indian companies have been unable to ensure this. And even in many of the companies there the requirement has technically been fulfilled, it is often the spouse of the promoter or any other key decision maker. This is not to take away from anyone’s inherent abilities, but it is a reflection of the degree of to which the challenge remains unaddressed at a deeper level.
It remains to be seen how far these issues actually get addressed, given the change in mindsets required. But it is certainly a step in the right direction.
A version of this article was first published on Contemporary Indian Woman.