A recent Deloitte report shows that the female labour force participation in India has fallen to 26% in 2018 from 36.7% in 2005. It further adds that 95% or 195 a million women are employed in the unorganised sector or are in unpaid work. India’s workforce is increasingly becoming more dominated by men over the years and this is an unsettling truth. This consistent decrease in the percentage of women in workforce despite the fact that literacy rates among girls are increasing tells us that while women are getting an education, they aren’t getting inducted in the workforce in the same pace.

Shrayana Bhattacharya, Senior Economist from World Bank shed light on this issue recently and said that in India unlike several other developing countries like China, Indonesia etc. is that as we have grown, women’s participation in the labour workforce has gone down. “Urban women’s labour force participation is at 16% and in rural areas it is at 18.2%. For men, their participation in the labour force is at 54-57% so there is a huge gap,” she said at the Women Startup Summit held in Kochi on August 1.

Panel discussion, Women Startup Summit

Also Read: Women In The Workplace: Be You And The World Will Adjust

She shared few broad theories on why the decline is becoming greater every year. “One of the insights that sociologists have pinned down for this decline is called an Income Effect. It essentially means that as households have earned money, women may not need to work. There was a survey done in Delhi which is the richest state in India in terms of per capita income which simplified that if you map female participation in the economy one can see a very sharp ‘U’ curve. This tells that it’s the poorest and the richest women only work. As you see the incomes are rising, there is a sharp drop,” Shrayana added.

Urban women’s labour force participation is at 16% and in rural areas it is at 18.2%. For men, their participation in the labour force is at 54-57% so there is a huge gap. – Shrayana Bhattacharya

Another insight draws from inclusion, flexibility and the design of the workforce. The domestic duties for women in India are unlike several other countries, she said quoting an Economist magazine article which read “If men don’t pick up the brooms, you cannot expect women to pick up paycheques”. There is a stark difference between how men and women are treated in terms of joining workforces. “A lot of our work shows that women are discouraged to be at the workplace and the design of the workplace is not conducive for women,” she added.

When a female founder pitches a start-up to an investor, the questions are mostly to show preventive-motivation. The questions are more on what can go wrong in your business? – Deepti Dutt

Spoke at a panel discussion where another panellist, Deepti Dutt, Head of Strategic Initiatives Public Sector, Amazon, also spoke about this issue in terms of how, even in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the bias remains at every level. She referred to a study and quoted, “When a female founder pitches a start-up to an investor, the questions are mostly to show preventive-motivation. The questions are more on what can go wrong in your business? Or what is it that you need to do to maintain the status quo. But for the same business idea when a male founder pitches it, the questions reflect promotional-motivation—how will he grow the business etc. It is very subconscious bias. The study also shares the insight that both men and women investors have the same subconscious bias.”

It is we who have to move the conversation to prevention to promotion, she suggested.

Also Read: Kerala Women Entrepreneurs Get A Jump Start With State Initiatives

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