More women in India?s banking sector ? What does it mean for gender equality?

A recent report in The Wall Street Journal has revealed that despite India’s issues with women’s rights, more women are rising to top positions in the banking industry. The revelation came after the recent appointment of Zarin Daruwala as chief executive to Standard Charter’s Indian division.

Banking news from Money Bhaskar and other publications reveals that this is an increasingly common occurrence. Other prominent women in the sector include Shikha Sharma, the managing director and CEO of Axis Bank, Chanda Kochhar, the CEO of ICICI Bank, and Arundhati Bhattacharya, the first ever chairwoman of the State Bank of India. More industries are seeing increasing numbers of female board members, including the technology, media, and telecommunications industries.

How has gender equality in India changed?

India has been taking many measures in recent years to introduce gender equality to the workplace, but some could argue that a few women in top positions isn’t enough to bring true equality to a traditionally male dominated industry. Women still make up only seven percent of board positions for publically traded companies while only eleven percent of Indian firms have women participating in ownership. By comparison, Norway, the world leader in workplace gender equality, requires at least 40 percent female board members for publically listed companies. All Nordic countries also have close to 100 percent female literacy. In India, it is 65 percent for women and 82 percent for men, according to the latest census.

Positive and negative effects

The impact of increasing women’s positions in the workplace could have affects in other areas, such as ending violence against women and allowing more girls to get an education.

It is not only women who benefit from these trends. A report by Forbes says that companies which have more female board members perform better financially and it increases a country’s GDP. Even ‘gross domestic happiness’ increases in countries with a smaller gender wage gap.

However, sexual harassment in the workplace is still a problem, even in western countries, and some argue that allowing women to work puts them in a position to be abused. The same Forbes article says that more women working also means that more children are left home alone, family dynamics are changed, women become stressed, and childcare costs increase.

The trend of women rising to high positions in the banking sector and other industries is a boost for female equality in India with many benefits to be felt down the line. It is yet to be seen how it will affect daily life and society in India and how the country will adjust and change old attitudes.

Feminists understand that gender equality isn’t a quick fix and it is impossible to change an entirely male driven society overnight. The fact that banks are making opportunities available for women and making them want to stay in their jobs, not just in India but around the world, is seen as a positive step forward that other industries can learn from.

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