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Women Beyond The White Collar Spectrum


When we discuss success stories of women, we tend to only consider corporate executives, celebrities, sports and other such celebrated professions. Other occupations led by substantial number of women tend to be ignored and rendered thankless.

While it is important to recognise extraordinary feats, there is a need to ensure they are considered in all sectors and not only glamorous ones. Sectors like agriculture, nursing, teaching, weaving, handicrafts and MSMEs among many others are an integral part of our lives. These sectors are either dominated or have a sizeable number of women. Our dependency on them has increased over time. However, neither efforts of women here are recognised nor do they earn remuneration at par with other industries.

As per Census 2011, the workforce participation rate for females is 25.51% against 53.26% for males. Rural sector has a better female workforce participation rate of 30.02% compared with 53.03% for males whereas for urban sector the participation rate of females trails at 15.44% against 53.76% for males. 41.1% of female main and marginal workers are agricultural labourers, 24.0% are cultivators and 5.7% are household. Majority of female workforce in India is unskilled and is acquired with only basic education.

Female participation in labour force has remained lower than male participation as women account for most of the unpaid work. When women are employed in paid work, they are over-represented in the informal sector and amongst the poor. They also face significant wage differentials vis-à-vis their male counterparts.

Recognition of success in today’s era often comes if you are from specific professions. Many efforts in the fields of agriculture, teaching, nursing are left unacknowledged leading to lesser turnout in such fields.

There is a high demand of teachers and nurses in many foreign countries. Scores of women have been choosing the option to go abroad and pursue these careers for better recognition and financial gains. “This Women’s Day, we came up with a programme for women led occupations of teaching and nursing. The idea is to give girls an educational loan for these sectors which they will have to repay by sponsoring studies of other such children. This ripple effect will help both- young students in need and also promote the important roles in India,” Narayan Iyer, Indian Development Foundation.

Agriculture is far and away the biggest employer for women. According to a report, in 2012, an estimated number 68.5% of women work in farming, or around 77 million women.

Rural women from several parts of India are known for their traditional handicraft work. Pashmina shawls in North India, Manipuri handicrafts, intricate thread work from Gujarat and Rajasthan among several other such small scale industries are managed extensively by women. The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) industry is flooded with them taking up numerous entrepreneurship and service ventures. But brilliant brains behind these industries go unrecognised.

“There are many jobs women do better. It is sad that corporate and other few chosen professions are considered to measure the success of women. All of us do not have to be in the corporate world to prove our worth,” said Sminu Jindal, Founder and Chairperson, Svayam Foundation & Managing Director of Jindal Saw Ltd.

“We do not know of a popular female stock investor or handicrafts artists. We cannot even imagine our lives without our domestic helpers who mostly tend to be women. We need to start acknowledging their efforts and recognise them as it is impossible to have these sectors without women,” she further added.

Read more stories from the #OfficiallyShe series.

Part I- Women Orbiting Change

Part II- Not Without My Medal

Part III- Are You Ready For 50-50?

Part V- Skills, Not Sex Is The Determinant of Success

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The CSR Journal Team