The balance between genders in the learning environment through growing years and in the workplace has been an area of hot debate for a long time now. On the auspicious occasion of the launch of a Women’s IPL Cricket Team last weekend, this conversation comes to a head in a country where gender inclusion and equality in all spheres of life is riddled with many complex aspects. While some challenges that women face are global, one needs to look at the specific cultural issues that impact women in India. The cultural fabric of the specific geography within the country, the class/ caste background, economic factors etc, all play big roles. A few aspects one can see on-ground.
Vidya-dhanam Sarvadhan Pradhaanam (i.e. Wealth of knowledge is the most precious wealth)
Education was and is always held in high esteem for both genders, across all social and economic backgrounds. For the growing middle-class parents and families in India, a good education for their wards is an important factor as this is believed to propel them onwards to a better life in a highly competitive world. As evidenced by the film Motichoor Chaknachoor, even if marriage is the ultimate goal, education – especially English education – will help you nab the best spouse! This is visible in the steady rise in women literacy rates in the country.
Inspired by the legacy of Aryabhatta
Mathematics, commerce or the sciences are not such a challenge for the girl student in India. A controversial statement for sure, but you can see the evidence in the number of girls with the boys in the vedic maths and abacus math classes across the length and breadth of the country. Fact remains that Indian students take to STEM subjects quite easily and girls are not left behind for a lack performance in the subject.
Here one must also remember that India has a large population of traditional business communities wherein all family members are taught math informally within the home itself. Plus, women who are migrating with their spouses to urban locations are expected to do household math at their fingertips, teach all subjects to their children proficiently and manage family accounts in many cases. It’s just a culture thing.
India is set to be a one of the biggest smartphone markets in the world
With over 1 billion users in 2023 and women making up 25 per cent of these smartphone users India now has a growing number of self-taught tech enthusiasts, who are today using it to watch their favourite television programs, to connecting with family and friends, to using it to grow their micro to small social-commerce businesses quite successfully. The circle of community trust around women entrepreneurs is seeing this sector grow disruptively large. A recent research report shared that today 53 per cent of online shoppers coming in from social commerce.
So why aren’t we seeing a speedier growth in women’s education or women in the workplace in India ? The difference that pushes them away from the mainstream tech education or the workplace:
Industrial line-processing Vs visual, creative, collaborative workers
It is a well-known fact that women think and work differently. Taking forward the cultural values imbued within them, they prefer to work towards a collective win rather than an individual goal achievement. This fundamentally clashes with the current organizational paradigm wherein a learner or worker is valued for individual accomplishments within the process line. While this is a challenge at a gender level, this is also a huge opportunity for businesses. When including women within the workforce, the move towards a more cooperative workplace which has a view of the larger goal is more easily achievable. One can see examples of this in sectors which have adopted women workers ahead of the curve – example, research and consulting, data sciences etc.
The difference that is the strength – Intuitive Intelligence
Intrinsically, women are able to see the larger picture behind the processes, data and insights faster than their male counterparts. CEOs and leaders seeing the impact of this intuitive intelligence that female colleagues are bringing to the table are working to harness it to business results. An odd and funny statistic to check out, but this is visible in the numbers of women Chief of Staffs as against men appointed to the same position. Women are well-suited to the role, and the opportunity to showcase their strengths within this role sets them up for many successes down the road.
(Please note: This comment based on author’s personal observation and not an actual research on Chiefs of Staffs hired in the recent past.)
From a multi-tasker at home to champion of the agile path to goal achievement in the workplace
It is known that men work better with clear directions while women like the discussion that leads to the discovery of a better the path in the journey. Given their instincts to get personal and understand deeper, women are able to get more out of their colleagues. This is a positive in agile program management where women are able to pull off some impressive successes. A classic example is the production coordinator in the film/ video industry – a sector that seems to be dominated by strong, empathetic women.
Success is the sum of small efforts — repeated day in and day out
Reimagining infrastructure and processes for an inclusive world is an essential task in changing times. There is a need to account for the different roles, responsibilities, and support systems that women and provide for safety to flexibility in that context.
Durga, the ambitious woman
The Indian career woman is an ambitious woman. She has chosen her path in her bid to claim the mantle of equal partnership within her family and workplace. Supporting her in this journey, understanding the differences she brings to the table, helping her achieve individual and common goals is an important objective for businesses today.
This is definitely easier said than done within the multicultural workplace that one sees in India. The good part is that India is still a young country with more on-ground openness to change and inclusion than one sees in media stories. There is so much hope for everyone today!