The concept of Gender equality and diversity in India
The meaning of gender equality in law has been descended from Aristotle’s dictum i.e. “treating alike, unlikes alike”, which means equality is pivotal to mandate equality for equals and dissimilar classes need to be similarly treated. In India, gender inequality has not only been an important social issue but also a critical economic challenge. According to a survey conducted by National Family Health Survey (NFHS) in 2016 girls in India have mortality rate as high as 61%. A survey by Catalysts suggests that the organizations with highest percentage of women on senior management on boards are technology, media and telecommunication. Women hold only 7.7 % of board seats and 2.7% of board chairs.
Although with time there have been some improvements in the society, the working women ratio has increased from 14.8% to 27% from 2012 to 2016, but still gender inequality is the most prevalent issue in Indian workplaces. It is far below the world average of 50% according to the World Bank. Not only in India, but organizations across the world witness that Gender ratios are usually imbalanced irrespective of sectors, industries, and job categories. This is regardless of the fact that most nations are developing or developed and they have almost equal numbers of male and female students at the school and university levels.
Some of the problems which women feels they face at workplace are as follows:
- Women get paid less as compared to the men at the same position.
- Women are less likely to advance their careers as far as men are concerned.
- Sexual harassment
- Gender stereotypes.
These inequalities exist in India from a very ancient age. Also due to a large number of cultural and structural barriers,+ that are evident in our society, gender inequality can be reflected in the workplaces too. In order to create gender equity in the workplaces, gender stereotypes must be knocked down and access to resources must be made equal to both genders and the most primary fundamental rights granted by our constitution under Article 14 “Equality before law”, Article 16 “Equality of opportunity for work”, Article 42 “State to make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief” and various other rights. Times are changing and we are witnessing some of the reforms taking place in society and one of the recent action taken by government is to increase the maternity leave from a period of 3 months to 6 months. However, simpler structures must be created to reduce inequalities in career opportunities, and growth, between genders.
The below-mentioned actions can lead to better gender diversity:
- Occupational education: Educating girls with a career perspective can make a big difference, especially in rural sectors and small towns. Girls should be brought up with a mentality that they have to make their career when they grow up. Initiative “betipadao and betibachao” is a great initiative by government as a stepping stone towards providing equal opportunity of education to both genders
- Job creation: More opportunities in fields with better gender ratios will lead to more women joining the workforce. Companies with women employee ratio above 20% are considered as high working women employees company, we should be proud only when this ratio increases to 50% because that is where equality comes into picture.
- Corporate policies: Diversity and inclusion programmes should be created, which will help in creating awareness and encourage big organizations to proactively hire women.
- Grooming women leaders: Women at decision-making levels not only results in encouraging more working women to aim for higher leadership roles but also helps in providing a supportive work environment, with female-friendly policies and perks.
- Provide safety at workplaces: Women should know their right while working in an organization. The employees must be sensitized about sexual harassment at workplace. Sexual Harassment Act, 2013 provides for a redressal mechanism, but a preventive mechanism should also be formulated to ensure safety of the working women. This is one of the main factors where working women do not get support even from their spouses so a employer should provide full support in this regard so that women do not repent in filing such complaints and feel comfortable in coming forward with such issues.
- Providing equal wages to women: According to Wage Indicator data report in the year 2013, the gender pay gap in India was estimated to be 24.81%. Although gender pay gap has decreased over the years but is still a big issue. Equal pay for equal has been enshrined in article 39(d) of The Constitution of India.
Gender equality is still a distant concept in India. Constitution on India has guaranteed gender equality but still it is not implemented. The organizations have not understood the importance of gender equality; practices such as sexism and sexual harassment at workplace are still very much prevalent, even after so many laws and acts have been enacted.
Centre4POSH is an initiative taken up by an enthusiastic lawyer Mr. Kanishk Agarwal, who thinks that the issue related to gender equality and sexual harassment needs to be addressed promptly. Centre 4 POSH focus on prevention and redressal mechanism rather than compliance. Prevention is better than cure!
Adv. Kanishk Agarwal