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Women play a crucial role in the growth of the economy. Over the years, Indian women have made a substantial impact and achieved success across sectors, both within the country and overseas. Today, India boasts nearly 1.4 million women panchayat leaders – a number that is an indicator of the leadership roles women are increasingly taking up.
For more women to be a part of the workforce, it is essential to promote skill development. Skill development facilitates high productivity, increased employment opportunities and higher income. Skill India envisions to train over 400 million people in India by 2022.
Indian women in manufacturing
In India, the manufacturing sector employs 20% of the total workforce, much lesser than a number of Asian countries. Though women are under-represented in this sector, there are a range of companies that have set an example for others to follow. JCB India, which manufactures construction and agriculture equipment, has witnessed a significant rise in the employment of women.
Today, JCB employs over 110 women in India, who are trained at frequent intervals on the latest technologies. Similarly, Maruti Suzuki has increased women workforce in their manufacturing team from 274 employees in 2012 to 366 employees in 2014. The other companies that are increasingly hiring more women are Kinetic Communications and United Technologies. The latter has started an all-women assembly line at its air-conditioner manufacturing facility in Gurgaon. Samsung too has opened 18 technical schools in India. The branch at Patna is India’s first female-only technical training centre and imparts skills to over 5,000 women each year.
Internet and Women
In India, over 110 million women are active users of internet and growing at a rate of 46% for females, according to a report by Internet and Mobile Association of India and IMRB International Urban India isn’t just witnessing women’s contribution to social change, health care and education. There are a considerable number of initiatives undertaken by rural women at the grass root level too in spreading awareness for gender equality. Women village-level entrepreneurs run a range of Common Service Centres in India. Vaijanti Devi, who hails from Bihar, runs one such centre and offers online banking services and enrolls villagers for the Aadhar programme.
There are certain sectors where Indian women are leading the way. The quantum of their workforce is gradually moving up the ladder across various industries:
Women hold the reins of some of the largest Indian banks and financial service companies. The biggest example is that of the Chairperson of State Bank of India (SBI), Arundhati Bhattacharya, who is the first woman to have held this position. She was also named among the 50 Most Powerful Women (International), according to a list compiled by business magazine Fortune.
The other names that are part of the list are Managing Director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ICICI, Chanda Kocchar and Shikha Sharma, Managing Director & CEO of Axis Bank, who have played a significant role in the development and progress of the retail banking sector in India. Another achievement in this industry was the establishment of an all-women’s bank, Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) Ltd in August 2013. A pan-India bank, BMB has over 100 branches across the country. The bank focuses on providing monetary assistance to economically neglected, discriminated, rural and urban women.
• Pharmaceutical and Healthcare
The pharmaceutical and healthcare sector has seen enterprising women leaders. The first woman to have been at the helm of a pharmaceutical empire, Swati Piramal, is regarded as a pioneer who campaigned for new drug research in India and highlighted the importance of scientific innovation. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is another exemplary woman leader who founded Biocon, the country’s leading biotechnology enterprise. She has immensely contributed to research, innovation and affordable healthcare. Mazumdar-Shaw has been conferred upon with the ‘2014 Othmer Gold Medal’ and the coveted ‘2014 Global Economy Prize’ for Business by Germany-based Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
• IT-BPM sector
According to NASSCOM’S IT-BPM Sector in India ‘Strategic Review 2015’, this industry contributes a staggering 9.5% to the national GDP and employs more than 1.2 million women. Some of the biggest multinational technology firms, including IBM India and HP, are headed by women. The Managing Director of global technology solutions company IBM, Vanitha Narayanan, is consistently working towards the development of women’s leadership in India as well as the South Asia region. She is also a member of IBM’s Multicultural Women’s Network that encourages multicultural business women to expand their career network.
Similarly, Nivruti Rai was appointed as the Intel India General Site Manager in March 2016. She succeeds Kumud Srinivasan, who was the first woman president of the computer chip maker. Having joined Intel in 1987, Srinivasan has spent more than two decades at the company and held several significant business positions. In an empowering move, Infosys has also set a target to have 25% women in senior leadership roles by 2020. The second largest Information Technology services company in India currently has 35% women employees, though most occupy junior and mid-level positions.
• Women CXOs
Apart from the sectors mentioned above, there are multiple spheres where women have achieved success at the CXO level. The biggest accomplishment is that of former MD of Britannia Industries, Vinita Bali, who quadrupled the company’s revenue to USD 989 million in Financial Year (FY) 2013-14 from USD 248 million in FY 2005-06 (She took over as MD in 2005). As the face of Britannia, Bali made efforts to promote nutrition and build the brand.
She is the only Indian who is a part of the United Nations committee that was set up to lead the ‘Scaling up Nutrition’ across the globe. Another name that is counted among India’s most inspiring women is Indra Nooyi, who has ensured steady revenue growth ever since she was appointed Chairperson and CEO, PepsiCo, the second-largest food and beverage business in the world.
Capacity building movement undertaken to build skilled workforcee
Of the nearly 4,400 start-ups, fewer than one in 10 were founded by women, according to industry body NASSCOM. In the words of the CEO of NITI Aayog, Amitabh Kant,” India can grow at over 10-11% if we include women in the economic process. They can contribute to building new businesses – from traditional industry to startups.” To address this concern, the government has introduced a slew of initiatives to empower women and aid them in leading a sustainable life.
• Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP)
The Ministry of Women and Child Development introduced the ‘Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP)’ scheme to provide employment to women. Under this scheme, women above 16 years of age are provided training to help them become self-employed. The sectors covered under this programme include Agriculture, Food Processing, Handlooms, Handicrafts and Computers, among others.
• Women’s Vocational Training Programme
The Women’s Vocational Training Programme was introduced in 1977 by the Ministry of Labour and Employment. The programme attempts to promote the employment of women in industries (mainly the organised sector). As part of this programme, women are trained under the Craftsmen Training Scheme and Craft Instructors Training Scheme.
• Digital India
Digital India aims to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. A beginning has already been achieved, with the first Women Village Level Entrepreneur Conference that was held in March 2015. Other programmes include Arogya Sakhi, which is a mobile application that assists women entrepreneurs to deliver preventive health care at the doorstep. Similarly, Internet Saathi aims to deploy 1,000 specially-designed bicycles with connected devices to give women a chance to experience the Internet for four to six months.
• Start Up and Stand Up India
Both the Start Up and Stand Up India initiatives empower women entrepreneurs and provide financial assistance to those who are setting up their businesses. The programmes also aid those who have already established their business but fall under the startup category. Through these schemes, the government aims to turn women from job-seekers to job-creators.
With the power of digital technology and growing opportunities, there is a revolution in the way women are doing business. Some of them are already running successful enterprises, and many more are joining the bandwagon. For ‘Make in India’ to grow even further, women should be considered and promoted as key drivers.