Diversity and inclusion (D&I) experts believe that the proposals in the Union Budget 2021-22 to let women work in all sector and also in the night shifts have a huge potential to boost gender diversity in workplaces.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech on February 1 had announced that women would be allowed to work in all sectors and in night shifts, with adequate safety measures.
She had also announced the proposal to set up seven textile parks. Textile industry is a major source of employment for women in India.
"Gender equality and parity in workplaces is a priority for discerning organisations in the corporate sector. Attracting, retaining, and developing women talent towards bridging the gender gap requires not just organisation-wide changes, but a paradigm shift in mind sets. The Union Budget 2021-22 is a significant step in this direction allowing women to work in night shifts in all sectors," said Saundarya Rajesh, Founder – President, Avtar Group.
Schemes announced by the government in the Budget were inclusive and our Finance Minister has paved the way for increasing women’s participation in workforce by a landmark announcement of building seven textile parks, an industry that is a huge employer of women, she added.
"Besides some of these direct measures, the Budget also recognises the fact that women will increasingly be ready to be upskilled for future of work which is more likely to be in digital platforms. Investments in the skilling curricula – post-education apprenticeship for graduates will further increase the employability of women from even the non-traditional livelihoods," she said.
Traditionally, we have seen the representation of women fairing low in sectors such as manufacturing and engineering, this announcement is bound to give a big boost to women’s workforce participation in this sector. As per the 100 Best Companies for Women in India study, by Avtar, women’s representation in sectors like manufacturing, pharma and FMCG is under 20 percent, with manufacturing at 10 percent, pharma at 19 percent and FMCG at 15 percent. This announcement will definitely encourage organisations to create workplace policies that are gender inclusive by structure and design, as parity in access to workplace opportunities becomes a given, noted Rajesh.
"Our estimates tell us that this can lead to a collective of over three lakh blue-collar jobs becoming accessible to women in the short term. This will not only help improve women’s labour force participation in the country, but also have a larger socio-economic impact with more women becoming contributors to the economy," Rajesh added.
Avtar is a diversity and inclusions solutions firm.
Surovi Dey Dhupar, a diversity, equity and inclusion leader and influencer said, "The major announcement that women will be allowed to work in all sectors and in night shifts, with adequate safety, was received with much cheer. Corporate India has already been focused on women’s safety for the last few years, but these extra provisions will also ensure that women in other sectors/industries are provided with safe, healthy and conducive work places."
"The safety norms have also been clearly defined and leads to more employability and therefore increase gender diversity ratios," Dhupar noted.
Dhupar, further opined, "One area that had a lot of expectations was the childcare sector. Although Anganwaadi is governed by Central and State-driven regulations and provided with necessary financial aids, the Creches’ in urban India suffered a massive setback last year. This also impacted working mothers adversely as well, with many women opting out of the workforce due to lack of childcare support. This could have been one area of focus and any financial aid to this sector would have helped women in ways more than one."
"Lack of support to childcare facilities can negatively impact the gender diversity ratios," Dhupar noted.