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Why India needs more women in leadership positions.

Nirmala Seetharaman an Indian economist and the current Finance and corporate affairs (as of end 2020) proves that women in India are not left behind in political leadership. However India Corporate doesn't as yet fulfill its obligations to promote women all the way to the top

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Why India needs more women in leadership positions.

Nirmala Seetharaman an Indian economist and the current Finance and corporate affairs (as of end 2020) proves that women in India are not left behind in political leadership. However India Corporate doesn't as yet fulfill its obligations to promote women all the way to the top

Why India needs more women in leadership positions.

Nirmala Seetharaman an Indian economist and the current Finance and corporate affairs (as of end 2020) proves that women in India are not left behind in political leadership. However India Corporate doesn't as yet fulfill its obligations to promote women all the way to the top

Why India needs more women in leadership positions.

Nirmala Seetharaman an Indian economist and the current Finance and corporate affairs (as of end 2020) proves that women in India are not left behind in political leadership. However India Corporate doesn't as yet fulfill its obligations to promote women all the way to the top

India has one of the biggest gender gaps in the world, and it is holding the country back.

Women make up around half of India’s population. Yet – despite the example of Indira Gandhi as the country’s first female Prime Minister more than half a century ago - they remain seriously underrepresented in positions of political leadership. In India today, only 9% of members of legislative assemblies (MLAs) are women.

The same is right in the economic sphere. Picture a board meeting at a bank, a development group, or an investment company. Look at the people sitting around the table: how many of them are women? If the picture in your mind is based on the reality of the corporate world in India today, probably none. Perhaps one or two female faces in a room full of men. In 2020’s Fortune India list of the five hundred most prominent companies in the country, only twenty-nine have women leaders.

This kind of inequality is a problem worldwide, but India performs particularly poorly. In the 2020 Global Gender Gap Index, India ranked 112th out of 153 countries overall. It was in the lowest ten when it comes to economic opportunities for women, along with countries such as Pakistan and Yemen. India has one of the lowest rates of women in the labour force and the majority work in the informal sector.

Change is happening – but far too slowly. Traditional mindsets are slow to change, and most would still prefer to trust their governance and economy to the hands of men. In the interests of the country, however, we need to learn to think differently.

More women in politics, more economic growth.

When women go into politics, they're often very good at their job. There is enough research to show that this is an unquestionable fact in India: the more female MLAs elected in a constituency, the more likely the area is to experience economic growth, concluded a 2018 study by the United Nations.

Elected women are half as likely to have criminal charges pending against them; they amass significantly less personal wealth while in power; they are less likely to be corrupt, and more inclined to see development projects through to completion. “These findings align with experimental evidence that women are fairer, more risk-averse, and less likely to engage in criminal and other risky behaviour than are men,” the researchers concluded.

This is a generalization, of course – there are probably several corrupt female politicians – but it is clear evidence against the common argument that women don’t make good leaders. In many cases, it seems, they make better ones.

Besides, women may bring a new and welcome approach to leadership. Women in government have long been expected to behave in a way associated with male authority. Still, today’s international female leaders are challenging this assumption and showing how power can be exercised differently. Take Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, who gave birth while in office and proved that motherhood and leadership are perfectly compatible. After a terrorist attack on a mosque in her country, her empathetic and compassionate response – something is rarely seen in male heads of state - proved to be what was needed. More recently, under her direction, New Zealand became a global example of how to control the spread of the coronavirus.

When we choose to sideline women in politics, we limit ourselves to an old-fashioned approach to governance that does not meet the needs of the twenty-first century.

The challenges for women in power.

Female MLAs in India face far more challenges than their male counterparts, reflecting the widespread discrimination against women at all levels of society. A recent report by Amnesty International showed that female politicians faced online abuse – including threats of death and rape – on an unprecedented scale.

Amnesty quotes Shazia Ilmi, from the Bharatiya Janata Party: “More women should be entering politics. But the price that I pay is too much for what I choose to do. The price includes incessant trolling, being the victim of online harassment, having a lot of remarks passed about what I look like, my marital status, why I have or don’t have children, etc. – all the filthiest things you can think of. If they don’t like my strong opinions, they do not remark on my work but call me a ‘whore’ in every language used in India”.

Yet again, another expression of gender-based violence, women are harassed online and on the streets – it has to change.

The roots of such abuse run deep, are intertwined with a traditional way of thinking about how women should behave and what role they should play. A girl should obey her father, then marry and obey her husband. She is the homemaker, the caregiver, the one who must put her family life before all else. Her career is unimportant. If he spends an evening busy with professional networking or working longer hours, no one blames him for missing out on time with his family; but for her, this will never be an option. When he behaves assertively at work he’s praised for being strong; when she does the same, she is criticized for being bossy.

Yet such narrow views benefit no one – men included. It’s exhausting to be stuck in the role of authority figure all the time. Some men enjoy taking a more active role in childcare, just as some women enjoy their careers. If both women and men are respected for who they are as individuals, whether or not that fits with the traditional gender model, then everyone becomes free to live a fuller life. And that includes respecting women who speak out, who aren’t afraid to occupy public space, and who have ambitions to become leaders.

Equality begins at home.

Kamala Harris – set to become vice-president of the United States – has said that she was strongly influenced by her Indian maternal grandfather, P. V. Gopalan, who held progressive views on women’s rights as well as believing firmly in justice and integrity. When gender equality is the message that both girls and boys grow up with at home, they take that perspective with them into their adult lives. And the world of politics and business begins to change too.

Our current system – overwhelmingly managed by men – is not working. Female politicians have proved to be less corrupt and more effective; countless studies show that diversity in leadership is good for business.

With an equal representation of women across the board, the future could look much brighter.

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