Women's Day is a good opportunity to assess not only how far women have travelled but how much farther they need to go. As far as women and work go, it is clear that India is at a disturbing impasse. The International Labour Organisation says the participation of Indian women in the labour force fell from 37% to 29% between 2004 and 2011, leaving India ranked 11th from the bottom. Also, when compared with the global average of 20% women in leadership positions; only 5% of the woman workforce in India makes it to the creamy layer. The question here should not be which women-centric measures should be taken, but how the fruits of growth and globalization can be shared equitably between men and women to meet key development goals.
It is high time that the bill to make crèche/day-care facilities mandatory in every office sees the light of the day.
Why cannot this Women's Day in India be dedicated to understanding why so few women in the country work in paid jobs. Why can't we revisit the draconian policies of companies that pull down women? Why can't the government conduct an extensive survey on what it will take to retain Indian women in the workforce (I think the government is the only body with the resources to carry out such a task)?
Interestingly, women tend to start their career around their early 20s. By the time they are eligible for their promotion though—say, three years after starting work—the prospect of marriage looms. Her parents are keen to get her "settled" and therein starts the loss of career momentum. Even if she somehow manages to sustain her career after marriage, her job is seen as secondary and as something she does to "pass the time." She may labour on for a while, but then pregnancy happens and her odds of success hit rock bottom.
Ultimately, maternity leaves, nursing breaks and childcare leaves affect her value at the workplace. Her increments and promotions are compromised the minute she embarks on maternity leave. If she joins back, she often ends up taking more leaves for childcare which again affects her prospects. Of course, fathers rarely take leave from work to tend to their children... It all falls on the mother and she pays a heavy price.
Women who are nursing their children should have a designated space where they can take breaks to pump milk or feed their baby.
Although today there are policy changes and new measures being taken in this regard, we still lag behind in accepting that it is nigh impossible to compartmentalise work and personal life. Parents may not always have childcare at home and may feel uncomfortable leaving them at a location away from them.
It is high time that the bill to make crèche/day-care facilities mandatory in every office sees the light of the day. And the facilities should have a disclaimer which notes they are for all parents—not just mothers—because we need to consciously change mindsets. The crèches/daycare facilities must have sufficient infrastructure with a CCTV camera installed to avoid mishaps. Moreover, women who are nursing their children should have a designated space where they can take breaks to pump milk or feed their baby. Even the male bathroom should have infant area, where diapers can be changed. Work from home is another option which has to be incorporated in the rules of offices. It not only reduces the usage of office resources but also allows personnel to work productively and in comfort. Such policies would build loyalty among employees and enhance retention of talent.