India’s finance ministry Arun Jaitley says we are moving towards gender parity, steadily but surely. At a FICCI FLO event held recently, Jaitley said, “If you look at the world today then obviously there are several challenges that the world is facing today.  And if you compare those trends with what is happening in India then you will surprisingly find that more than ever before India is will to reform.”

 Talking of women as a workforce, Jaitley said, “it is not merely those who have been privileged enough and who have benefitted from those processes but a layer of those who aspire is becoming a very powerful layer of the society.”

FICCI FLO has formulated a gender parity index for companies and governments to use as a tool kit. At FICCI FLO’s 33rd Annual session on 14 April, Jaitley launched this gender study that tried to redefine parameters used. “A number of global indices focus on empowerment of women and gender parity; however, most of them look at the subject from a macro view; almost all quantify the dimensions of control oner resources and outcomes. None address gender parity at a micro level in the formal sector. The index created by FLO is broad and holistic which measures where an organisation stands vis-a-vis while presenting a step by step guide to achieve higher levels of gender parity in different dimensions,” said Vinita Bimbhet, FLO ex-president.

The index is built around six parameters with four components each. Each components are formulated in a way that guides a company on how it can achieve gender parity in a measurable way. The six dimensions are listed below:
  1. Setting the tone at the top management: This dimension measures the seriousness of a company to achieve gender parity within the firm.
  2. Employment and career progression measures: The current level of employment and the opportunities a company provides for the growth lof its employees without being biased.
  3. Work place environment measure: Company is encouraged to take measures to improve the physical environment at the workplace for women and analyze the level of income of women in comparison with men working at the same level.
  4. Senior management and board diversity measure: Push to include more women at the senior management level to improve diversity in the board.
  5. Women-friendly policies including health and safety measures: Assessment of the various company policies in support of women and level of safety for women at the workplace.
  6. Gender sensitivity and workplace harassment measures: Unremitting efforts taken by the company in order to ensure sensitization of all gender related issues and a committee set up by the company to deal with issues like sexual harassment that rise up within the organisation. 

Jaitley compared the 1991 economic reform programme when the greatest impediment to doing business was the license raj. That was he says, a “political cost” involved in the reforms. With the changing business atmosphere, he reasoned there was change in how we approach business and business outcomes. Talking of women as a workforce, he said, “it is not merely those who have been privileged enough and who have benefitted from those processes but a layer of those who aspire is becoming a very powerful layer of the society.”

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He quoted BR Ambedkar in his speech, and his belief in women and equality. Ambedkar had said, “I measure the progress of a community by the progress which women have achieved.” Jaitley commented on the conventional challenge of recognising women achievers from isolated areas so that they could act as role models. But for it to emerge as a pattern and normalize in the society, he said that illustrative examples were not enough.

the inflow coming out of the university campuses of these ideas is going to be the bright young minds- Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley

“In the last few years I have seen a phenomena pick up that there is only one place where changes are really taking place and that is the universities across the country. It is almost without an exception that when top medals and awards are announced an overwhelmingly large number of recipients for the medals of excellence are women students,” said Jaitley.

He also talked about the changing nature of world economy and articulated that traditional businesses are also undergoing a transition based on ideas. Jaitley cited the examples of ecommerce. “Nobody had anticipated that the largest retailers across the world will have no stores and that is the nature in which ideas have contributed in the expansion of economy.”  He added, “If the inflow coming out of the university campuses of these ideas is going to be the bright young minds then the fact that you represent a particular family or a business itself may only be a marginal support.”

In his concluding remarks he said he was optimistic that that the Indian women entrepreneurs will have the strength to create new businesses and to generate more wealth.

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