Let’s Talk About The Issue Of Missing Women In The Public Sphere

I opened an e-commerce site to search for toys. The search suggestions popped up with options like: toys for girls, toys for boys, toys for kids, and so on. I searched for both girls and boys to see if there was any contrast in the search results.

Among the top results in the girls’ section were: kitchen set, soft cushions, a teddy bear in shades of pink. Among the boys’ section, top results were: football, fighter robot toys, toy gun, soft toys of elephant and tigers with shades of blue and grey. You might not question such differences because you might not find it problematic. However, this “might not find it problematic” is a problem itself.

Women work at a brick kiln. (Photo: Well-Bred Kannan/Flickr)

If we start questioning these seemingly subtle things, we would get the answer to the question of missing women. Here missing women doesn’t mean the total absence, instead, it reflects the discrepancy we see between the population of women and their presence in public sphere.

According to the latest World Bank data, global female population is 49.5% while the proportion of female labour workforce accounts for just 38% in contrast to 74% male labour workforce. In India, the female labour workforce is 21% while male labour workforce accounts for 79%. We all know our first woman President, first woman Prime Minister, first woman chairman of SBI, first woman CEO of PepsiCo but we have ignored that these firsts are also the only women in the list.

Till date, we have had 47 Chief Justices of India but none are women. We have had 25 RBI Governors, but none are women. The Bhatnagar award has gone to only 18 women out of a total of 548 so far. The above data doesn’t mean that the women are less competent. There’s almost 50-50% share in terms of population ratio, but when it comes to the workforce, women go missing.

So, Where Are These Missing Women?

According to research, men are seen in particular fields like science, technology, engineering and research, more than women. Not just this, if we look at data, during 2000-2005, there was a rise in self-employed females in agriculture but that was a pull factor, i.e. to supplement the low income due to increased agricultural distress.

From 2005-2010, with the increase in agricultural productivity, there was a sharp rise in female attending to domestic work only and thus agricultural sector witnessed a decline in rural self-employed females. India’s largest employer Indian Railways has less than 7% of women employees.

Why Are We Still Facing This Issue?

Many women do not get the opportunity to receive proper education and exposure to pursue a career of their choice. Many women face a not so-conducive work environment, face gender biases and lower pay scale, thus lag behind men in recruitment and promotion. Many women opt to leave their jobs due to reasons like social stigma, the burden of responsibility for domestic work.

As mentioned in the very beginning, girls since early childhood are often associated with terms like tender, shy, delicate, care-giver. Such stereotypes in their upbringing give rise to the lack of self-efficacy among women. What do you think can be the reasons women dominate as pre and primary school teachers?

A lack of self-efficacy forces them to doubt their ability thus making them more modest and undersell in their career in contrast to the men who often engage in self-promotion and are boastful about career. No doubt that today, women are coming at the forefront in every field. However, this is not up to par. The above such reasons have all contributed to being the cause of missing women in the public sphere.

It’s time we appreciate, encourage and inspire women around us to pursue their dreams. It’s time, we start treating women as an asset and not a liability. This will bring inclusiveness which will not just take India but the world closer towards prosperity and progress.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Rasmus Lerfdorf/Flickr.
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