On Wednesday, 4th of March 2020, our CEO Johanna Beresford hosted a panel and networking event in Mumbai, India in celebration of International Women’s Day. What came to life was an open, honest and fantastic conversation about the state of gender equality in India and how men can be a part of the solution. We have provided below some key insights that came from the conversation.
What does gender equality mean to you?
– It means the freedom of choice and being free from restrictions by family or society. It also means equal access to resources to pursue what one wants to.
– The emancipation of women is important but equally important is the existence of harmony between all genders.
– It is crucial to acknowledge the existence of more than two genders.
– Equality needs to be sought by interventions which are sensible, sensitive and sustainable.
What are the challenges to including women in the workforce?
– It’s a common mistake to think that Labour force participation rate of women in the country is higher in the urban areas than rural, but it’s actually the opposite. Event in the most metropolitan city such as Mumbai, the LFPR of women is only 16%.
– This comes in great shock especially as educational gap in India is closed. A peculiar instance of the Indian space is that once the husband starts earning enough money for the household, not just the man but the woman as well considers that it is not needed for her to continue working anymore.
– Even then, it’s often the case that it’s not the woman who doesn’t want to work, it’s not even the husband, it’s the extended family who wants to restrict women from working.
– The existence of rampant sexual harassment cases, as well as the burden of home chores completely falling on the women, are some of the other reasons why women are disappearing from the workforce.
What can we do to include women in workforce?
– Conditioning at a young age is a big factor in gender inequality – both by the way parents and teachers treat their children (boys and girls) differently, but also socially through misogynistic and sexist movies, songs and other pop culture.
– One of the most fundamental way to overcome this conditioning is by focusing on all stakeholders. Especially, engage boys and men as they need to be given space to be vulnerable as well. We should understand and be aware that the topic of gender doesn’t only include women!
– Organisations should also conduct sessions with the men on how they should behave in a workplace – because sometimes they don’t know what could be offensive to women. More than telling women what they should not be doing, tell the men that.
The existence of intersections
– There are always intersections involved, and women of different abilities, caste and class are affected differently.
– There came across two opposing but strong views around how to deal with intersectionality – one, that we should understand specific needs of these specific groups and address them accordingly and two, to proceed with caution and if the issue is broken down even further, it will just make reaching the goal more difficult and complex.
– We are all human beings, and therefore we should be thinking that every person is different – their requirements, their aspirations are different – and therefore as soon as we start thinking that instead of categorising people into certain group, we are much more likely to create a place where everyone is included. Sometimes, compartmentalising makes the issue more dangerous and futile.
– Importance of being aware of the words that we use; our language and the subtleties behind how we use it differently for different genders
– Importance of data; we should use it to help start the conversation, by presenting facts etc, but also to show progress
– Importance of the role of men; we should integrate them in the agenda
– Importance of being aware of the conditioning, especially since an early age
– Importance of acknowledging the responsibility of the people in power; CEOs of organisations, but equally each one of us should take the responsibility of small things we can do – with our friends and family
If you have any additional comments or feedback do let us know, at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be in touch with information on future sessions.