Facts first. The female economy is poised to outpace the economy of some of the biggest nations in the next five years. With more women entering the workforce, there will be a significant shift in financial and economic power toward women—both in the household and in professional environments.
When it comes to numbers, there will be 100 million more women in the global labour force by 2030. And by that time, women will change the workforce landscape with a more than 40 per cent average participation rate. That’s not all. The global female income is expected to reach $24 trillion annually in 2020, up from $20 trillion in 2018. At least that’s what Frost & Sullivan’s latest research, Global Mega Trends to 2030, suggests.
While that certainly is an encouraging fact, there are more not-so-encouraging facts than one. Consider this, for one. With longer work hours and a work from home set-up during the COVID-19 pandemic, women bore the maximum brunt by performing a dual role as a working professional as well as a caregiver. Over 80 per cent of working women in India have been negatively impacted in some form or the other during COVID-19 with the work-life balance becoming worse, a report on the effects of COVID-19 on the women workforce in the formal sector in India revealed. According to the report, ‘Women@Work’, which was launched by Aspire for Her and Sustainable Advancements today, 38.5 per cent of working women surveyed said they were adversely affected by the burden of added housework, childcare and eldercare while 43.7 per cent stated that work-life balance has become worse.
The most common response received from the participants was having to work longer and harder during the pandemic. Thus, leading to a worsened work-life balance. 50.4 per cent of mid-career women (16-20 years work experience) cited the reason as ‘added burden of housework, childcare, and eldercare’, more than any other demographic.
As high as 61.1 per cent of women who lost their job due to COVID-19 felt women be worse off than men, followed by women who took a break (46.7 per cent), closely followed by working women (42.3 per cent), students at 35.6 per cent and self-employed women at 30.3 per cent.
All these will have to be seen in the light of a number of credible studies that suggest that the early 30s are a common age group for women to leave full-time jobs. While this could be a result of life events, the exodus can be stemmed by giving their careers proper direction prior to the break.
Interestingly, supervisors/mentors have a crucial role to play here. A professional is more likely to come back to work when he/she knows what is expected of him/her and what growth trajectory he/she can expect in the future. In the absence of a clearly-defined career path, an employee coming back after a break would clutch at straws trying to fit roles, and employers will potentially have a low employee engagement issue on their hands.
Ironically, we’re nowhere near the global gender diversity trends. Globally, the gender diversity discussion has moved forward to creating specific roles for women and discussing the roles of coloured women at the workplace, discerning a deeper understanding of the issue. In India, on the other hand, we are still content with celebrating the relatively few women in leadership roles and not doing enough to foster more of them. Mind you that India clearly does not have a problem with the lack of talent. Some organizations’ Human Resources divisions have clear mandates to seek both genders for available openings. In fact, some go out of their way to hire women employees, preferring them over men.
Going back to the encouraging facts and figures, we started with, if Frost & Sullivan’s study is to be believed, women are expected to control $43 trillion of global consumer spending through voluntary private consumption or an exchange of money for goods and services in near future. Women-owned companies will represent over 40 per cent of registered businesses worldwide. And when finally 100 million more working women are added to the global economy, that would bring down the gender gap in labour participation rates by 25 per cent by 2025.
Women are not asking for exclusivity, they are looking for inclusivity—gender-neutral experiences that, unfortunately, are still lacking in many user experiences.