It’s 8 March and it can only mean one thing, it is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, which also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. This year theme is ‘Choose to Challenge.’
International Women’s Day is well over a century with the first gathering held in 1911 and unfortunately we still have a long way to go to ensure equal endowments, participation, and voice for women.
The stakes are even higher, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and in times of crisis, women are often put on the front lines, and now is no exception. Especially, as women dominate in critical front-line roles such as nurses, social workers and caregivers. Including working as doctors and volunteers, and as political and community leaders, where they are making decisions about how to address the public health, social, and economic effects of the crisis. Therefore, women’s participation will be vital to humanity’s success against this shared global threat.
The Real Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic
However, data from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) shows that women are only earning 77 cents to every dollar earned by a man, and also bear disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care and domestic work; performing 76 percent of total hours of unpaid care work worldwide.
Staggeringly, if women’s unpaid work were assigned a monetary value, one ILO study, of six countries has suggested that it would constitute between 10 and 39 percent of GDP (gross domestic product). These pay gaps suggest that women are being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and in some instances unfairly.
Women make up a larger share of health and social care workers around the world and this notion is supported by a World Health Organisation 2019 report, Gender Equity in the Health Workforce: Analysis of 104 countries of healthcare, which shows women make up a larger share of health and social care workers globally: 70 percent in 104 countries. While a recent study from the World Bank indicates that those in caregiving roles may face an increased burden in the wake of school closures, with working mothers finding themselves even more stretched than usual in trying to juggle home-based work, home-schooling, childcare, and housework due to the pandemic. In fact, India’s temporary shutdown in 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 had significant impact; where the economic lockdown and school closures severely disrupted the system, with the burden falling on women.
In India, the majority of women are employed outside the formal economy. Where 60 percent of those in the age group of 15 to 59 are engaged in full-time domestic work, according to the Indian Government’s Economic Survey 2020. This deprives them of many social and legal protections that those in formal employment are entitled to, while mothers who have stopped working during the lockdown, do twice as much childcare and housework than their partners. In the reverse situation, in families where the father has stopped working, parents share childcare and housework equally, while the mother also does five hours of paid work a day. Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, shows that between March and April 2020, an estimated 17 million Indian women lost their jobs, in both the formal and informal sectors. This is in addition to the fact that they also earn 35 percent less on average than men; the global average is 16 percent.
PM Modi’s Ambitions
Prime Minister Modi wants to make India a US$5 trillion economy by 2025 and this won’t be an easy target to achieve, if the country fails to help women realize their economic potential. A report by McKinsey & Company on advancing of women’s equality in the Asia-Pacific region, reveals that women make up for only 25 percent of the total workforce in India; and yet if there was a ten percent increase with women in the workforce, India could add $770 billion to the country’s GDP in the next seven years – this would go towards helping Modi achieve his mission.
Companies in India are starting to actively make their workplaces more gender inclusive. Inclusiveness and diversity are key factors when it comes to hiring; and it is not limited to hiring, as human resource policies are being devised to make women more comfortable and safe at workplaces.
Moreover, India’s 2013 Companies Act, which made corporate social responsibility (CSR) mandatory, ensured that it became compulsory for all publicly listed firms to have at least one-woman director. The general consensus since, is that the Act has been successful in significantly enlarging the pool of women serving as directors.
In my new book, Corporate Social Responsibility Is Not Public Relations I discuss how diversity and inclusion are important parts of the CSR initiatives and activities for businesses. People want companies and organisations to do better, and want to see more women in senior-leadership roles.
From challenging, comes change. Let us all #ChooseToChallenge not just today, but every day.
SPECIAL E-BOOK OFFER OF CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IS NOT PUBLIC RELATIONS TO INDIA CSR NETWORK MEMBERS
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