I see two challenges in India in for girls and women: lack of good quality primary education and girls and women dropping out of colleges and workplaces. We have a plethora of options like vocational training centers, engineering colleges, medical colleges, and yet the women in workforce is declining in India.

As per World Bank, labor force participation rate for India declined to 31% in 2011-12 and 27% in 2014 while US & China has it greater than 50%. Even Nepal and Bangladesh have higher participation compared to India. Even though girls have higher success rate in class X board examination, a trend true for almost a decade now, only 40% sign up for PhDs and post graduation.

When the girls should be getting good basic education, they are busy working at homes in lower classes or playing with pink dolls in upper classes (the stereotype continues to grow with consumerism) and when they should aspire for Executive MBAs, MDs, PhDs or C suite roles they decide to get married or relocate with their husbands. Societal pressure and lack of support system for women to return to work makes it harder for even the highly educated and experienced ones.

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I love being in Mumbai for the large women workforce in the city that makes it safer for all other women, but unfortunately, I am still the only woman in my boardroom and there are many such organisations, colleges, Institutions with very few women at the top. In India, the glass ceiling is actually a steel ceiling for women.

We ought to lay the foundation of analytical thinking, navigating school politics, and aspiring for bigger dreams in early childhood but we deprive our girls of this, we limit their exposure to a life of a dependent wife or a daughter. Another opportunity to really push one’s personal & professional growth comes when we work and learn from people who are smarter than us in the right environment. Women dropping out of workforce due to marriage, motherhood or family responsibilities has to be addressed by making it easier for them to transition between these two very important roles at home and work. Many more companies need to have diversity and an inclusion mandate that pushes them to hire more women.

Higher education and leadership positions does two things: Firstly it brings the professionals up to date with the present day challenges, and secondly it equips with tools and strategies to tap on those opportunities and achieve the unthinkable.

So the true empowerment of women will happen if they do not drop out!

We need to create a women-friendly ecosystem but that will happen only if women themselves take more charge and irrespective of the hardships, they do not dropout. Such persistence will definitely pay off in few decades when we have women crushing the glass ceiling and being the top CXOs, MDs, Architects etc.

‘She’ has to take the overdue first step of not dropping out.

‘She’ has to dream big and continue to work till those dreams are fulfilled.


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