Criticality of Societal Influence on Women Workforce in Indian Corporate Sector

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Confronted with the challenges of a low GDP and rapidly increasing population combined with the limitation of resources and stereotypical career profiles, the government of India has initiated multiple programs such as Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana for skill development, subsidized loans for businesses led by underprivileged women such as Bharatiya Mahila Bank and also the legislation increasing maternity benefits through The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017. It is a well-established fact that India can accelerate its growth through greater participation by women in economic activities. Through this paper, the researchers have attempted to identify the significance of reforming the societal norms in order to adopt appropriate measures to enhance the contribution of Indian Women towards the Nation’s Economic Growth. The participation of women in acquiring higher education is on the rise with the recent trend of women leaving their male counterparts behind. However, the logical culmination of the acquired education is not resulting into the substantial addition to the existing working population in the India Corporate Sector. The research dwells deeper into the key societal factors affecting participation of educated and qualified women workforce.


Women, in Indian society, are traditionally expected to confine themselves to domestic environs and play a passive role as daughters, daughters-in law, wives and mothers. Woman‘s perceived interests linked to domesticity may adversely affect her empowerment outcomes (Aggarwal 1997; Kabeer 1999; Sen 2006). The Government reformation measures for women development started as early as 1954 in India but the exact participation began in the year 1974. Currently, the Government of India has over 34 schemes for women. For instance, The Skill India Mission ensures women relevant skills development and employment opportunities. It also sensitizes training programs by aiding to offer safe transport, flexible schedules and childcare support. The World Bank is investing in adolescent girls in Jharkhand, for completion of their secondary education and giving them suitable mentoring services for success in the job market. However, these interventions need sustainability. Research suggests that even women who have completed skills programs tend to get jobs and drop out in response to family pressures. Altering social norms about marriage, work and household duties is the dire need of the hour.

When it comes to female labor force participation India ranks 120 among 131 countries. The instances of gender-based violence remain high. When half of the population is not completely participating in the economy, it poses as a major hindrance to the Economic Development of the country. Considering the country’s stance at 17% of GDP, the economic contribution of Indian women is comparatively less as compared to half the global average. This is less even in comparison with the 40%. India could enhance the development by about 1.5 percentage points to 9 percent every year if about 50% of women could enter into the labor force.

Nanhi Kali is a project by Mahindra Group apart from another campaign called #LadkiHaathSeNikalJayegi. The latter has provided a positive angle on an age-old and negative mentality by evolving the mindset beyond just girl child education moving towards unconventional career choices. Nanhi Kali talks about education as the tool to enable girls to rise from poverty towards dignity.

#LadkiHaathSeNikalJaayegi, is a project that tackles patriarchal attitudes towards girl child education. These projects empower women to attain their goals and aspirations in order to mold self-reliant and independent women. The Rise Up is another project to make girls fearless encouraging them to take up unconventional career choices.

The government has also strengthened the legal machinery which ensures protection of women dignity. In the year 2012, there have also been amendments to the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986. The purpose was to banish stereotypes of women wrongly portrayed through Posters and TV serials with the help of new technologies such as MMS and the electronic media. serials which perpetuate. These programs ensure women development measures to be enforced and the news that unfavorably affect their development must be censored or banned.

Research Gap

While there have been diverse researches to identify the causes of women’s lack of continuous participation towards the GDP growth of India, there seems to be a gap in understanding the critical point or the Most Effective Influencer for the same. While availability of institutional and governmental policy reforms is an important dimension of ease of continuing service, the root cause of the sudden yet willing drop-out from the career enhancing path needs to be probed further. Thus the gap that this paper addresses is, to identify and highlight the exact supremacy of the societal norms in influencing the participation of Indian women in commercial activities.

Contribution of the Study

Usually, societal influences are well established yet not studied much in issues relating to women liberation or empowerment. Due to varying cultural beliefs and outlooks it is challenging to derive at a particular generalized conclusion in the Indian context. This paper intends to draw attention towards the heart of the issue and suggests reforms that can help supplement better national prosperity.

Objective of the Study

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To study the relationship between societal norms and participation of qualified women in commercial roles.

Research Methodology

The research is qualitative in nature. The secondary data will be collected from the organizations as well as publications such as journals, newspapers, magazines, books, Internet, and from other studies taken up by government or other independent organizations.

Literature Review

India has seen a massive population and economic development, urbanization and demographic revolution in the past four decades. Ranging from the period 1990 and 2013, the GDP growth has also enhanced to a major extent. As per The World Bank 2015 information, urbanization has also enhanced to a major extent. According to Neff et al., 2012; Kapsos et al., 2014 Girls’ primary school enrollment in the Indian Education sector has been at par with boys since 2015. The proportion of women of the age group of 15-24 years enrolling in the educational institution has doubled between the period of 1994 and 2010. The percentage increase has been from 16.1% to 36% (Kapsos et al., 2014). Conversely, though, India has seen tremendous development and contribution from women in the educational and economic sector, there is an evident absence of the Indian women from the Labor Force. According to Klasen and Pieters, 2015 in the present scenario, contrary to their participation in education, the female labor force participation (FLFP) rates has been diminishing. It has even drastically declined in the recent years. In spite of increased schooling and remarkable performance in acquiring quality higher education, this perceived decline in the involvement of women in the Indian work force continues with. The pursuit of attaining specialized or further Education even suspends or discontinues their entry into the labor force.

Latest evidence from the study of Hsieh et al., 2013 implies that certain factors such as inappropriate allocation of female talent in the labor market wherein high-skilled, experienced and well educated women are in occupations that procure poor returns and require less skills, poses as a major deterrent to their growth. Esteve-Volart (2004), suggests that in the Indian workforce context particularly, a 10% surge in the female-to-male ratio of workers would increase per capita net domestic product by 8%. Sivasankaran, 2014 further, considers the scenario from the perspective of an individual woman and suggests that wage work interrupts the age of marriage and age at first childbirth. It also enhances her decision-making power in the household and improves child schooling (Qian, 2008).A study by the India’s National Family Health Survey (NFHS), implies that women who work, irrespective of their level of education tend to have additional say in the house-hold.

Another aspect is the concentration of male labor force in the top management positions with less or negligible opportunities for women for positions in the higher strata of the organization. It is a misconceived yet popular notion that women are yet less likely as compared men to have the line experience needed to get the top job. A 2011 McKinsey report, signified that in the largest US corporations, 62% of senior women were employed in staff jobs which are Human Resources and Communications, that seldom result in acquiring a CEO role. As opposed to this, 65% of men who were on executive committees were employed in line jobs that could lead to Top Management positions in the future. The World Economic Forum Corporate Gender Gap Report states a survey that was conducted wherein the top HR person in the leading companies of 20 OECD countries were asked what percentage of the assignments given to women workforce could be considered as critical to the business. Were significant projects such as key start-ups, turnarounds and line roles in key business units of markets held by women. The most frequent answers to this was between 0-10% or “not measured”.

According to the study by Bose and Das, 2014 Sudarshan, 2014; Sudarshan and Bhattacharya, 2009, The presumption in Indian house hold lays emphasis on women to prioritize housework and overtly constrains work by married women). The societal expectation of women in India is solely of caregivers and care-takers of the household. This generally means that women who look for work come across opposition from their peers and families which acts as a major contributing factor to their lower participation. These perceptions are also often coopted by women and might therefore subdue labor supply even in the lack of such constraints.
Rustagi (2010) delivers evidence that over the last two decades, these norms per se have not considerably reformed. As per the evidence these norms are particularly more obligatory among the wealthier and upper caste households. This therefore implies that economic growth might not necessarily alter their impact. Also, women face legal, normative, and economic constraints in the Indian work culture. Indian women are still subject to laws governing shifts and rules that can disproportionately affect women even as the economy continues to develop.

According to Gupta, 2014 female participation in export-oriented manufacturing jobs decreased in spite of developed trade and decreased trade barriers during the era of 1990s. This was most likely the effect of legal constraints on women’s working hours as stated in the factory laws. If there are norms against women’s engagement, it could further lead to gender wage gaps and gender-based discrimination in hiring. As per World Values Survey (WVS), these norms in India might constrain women’s labor force outcomes. The eminence of gender-biased perception of women’s roles in the economic and political scenario in India is a challenge. Further, the study suggests that norms against women walking shoulder to shoulder in the classroom and market still continue in India.

Key Inferences

  1. Crèches in different corporations – The government should create, regulate and monitor policies regarding availability of Creche or Day care facilities in multinational corporations and large scale organizations.
  2. Media having an access to a large audience should be an effective tool in the empowerment of women – Media is considered to be the most important tool of society in the modern times as it has the power to reach out to a large audience by mass communication and create an impact wherever it can reach, which now has become far and wide. Social media has swiftly, and widely spread feminism ideologies. Hashtags and online campaigns have given women around the world a voice. Social media has shed light on women’s issues not covered by mainstream media. It has shed light on women’s issues that were not previously discussed and enhances conversations around topics not covered by mainstream media. It triggers participation for real-life campaigns. And in many cases, these seemingly simple hashtags have instigated change. For example, Ariel’s #ShareTheLoad has grown into an active movement for gender equality at home. It has generated greater emotional equity for the brand and has triggered a positive change in society. It is one of India’s most recognized and awarded advertising ideas. The brand is about to launch the next phase of the movement which is based on an uncomfortable truth that calls for breaking the stereotypical mindset of the societal norms. In the film, the mother’s realization of an unspoken social conditioning and her determined resolution is thoughtful, sensitive and a big leap for society. Her simple action gives men one more reason to share the load at home.
  3. Government and Non-Governmental Organizations to encourage smallest participation of women through surveys, etc. to ensure freedom of expression – The increase in the participation and access of women to self-expression and decision-making through the media and new technologies of communication shall in a way empower women. Especially when women believe that without disturbing the
  4. Media must act responsibly and must be strictly regulated – Promoting a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media is very important to use it in a progressive way and avoiding the ill effects of any such medium of Media. As media has huge influence on people, it should act with more responsibility before reporting and publishing any news. Portrayal of women which is derogatory to their image by media is an evidence of lack of gender sensitivity and has called for making them accountable for such representation of women. Such instances had led the National Commission for Women to recommend amendment in the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition Act), 1986.
  5. Male counterparts must be sensitized to the challenges of multiple role handling –
  6. Provision for Lawful and registered Work-from-Home, Contractual, Assignment/ Part-time jobs especially for women employees – There is a plethora of official tasks which account for less than 1 full time headcount. If all such roles were to be officially reserved for Women Contractual or Women Adjunct employees, not only would the number of women participants inc


There are various instances and suggestions implying that the government is formulating ways to turn the trend around. Some promising indications are the government’s program for the skills development of women, providing subsidized loans for businesses that are run by women and recent legislation reforms that encompasses doubling up maternity leave. They have also enhanced the childcare facilities in companies that tend to employ more than 50 people. If executed and respected, these policies have the caliber of eliminating certain potent challenges women face which could further be a significant boost to India’s economy. As the instances and anecdotes state, success of these government reformations for enhancement of women participation completely rely on the alliance between stakeholders, starting from the government ministries to various education providers, to public sector and particularly private sector employers till the actions of each and everyone in the society. Lastly, Indian women themselves have to step up and play a vital role in acquiring a prominent niche for themselves in India’s work force.

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