International Women’s Day is a celebration of women and their social, political, and economic achievements. It is time for us to halt, take stock, and reflect on what women have achieved so far and how we can continue on the journey towards empowerment and equality. The 2020 report by the World Economic Forum indicates that just 25% of women formally engage in India's labour market, making it one of the world's lowest workforce participation rates, ranking India 145th out of 153 countries. Gender parity is not solely a woman’s issue, but it’s an economic issue at large. According to the IMF, reaching gender parity would boost India’s GDP by as much as 27%. Furthermore, according to a World Bank report, India's GDP growth rate can increase by 9% if women had an equitable share of jobs.
So, what is the solution? Many strategic and grassroots solutions need urgent attention, and governments, schools, institutions and organisations will continue to focus on these priorities. However, celebrating and nurturing women can start at a micro and on a very personal level. I believe that progress happens when we look at our circle of influence and focus on the simple things each of us can change.
Role models are around you
I sometimes wonder why most of us have grown up with strong role models, but very few of us have had the golden opportunity to meet them? Why are role models positioned as ideal or perfect? The idea of having a role model and being one is, to be inspired and develop the confidence that everyone can achieve greater things regardless of limitations. Young girls should be given the space and freedom to identify with multiple role models or be one. As rightly said by Mother Teresa, ‘charity begins at home’. A role model can be a working mother who balances work and life with ease, an entrepreneurial sister, a best friend who codes, the girl next door who loves to game, a grandma who is extremely passionate about equality and a teacher who tells you that you will conquer the world. Real women with imperfections and yet trying to be the best version of themselves are where we should be looking for inspiration. After all, we are all work in progress—men and women.
A community of allies
Among many definitions of an ally, the easiest to comprehend is from Merriam-Webster, who defines it as someone 'joined with another for a common purpose'. One person can make a difference in someone’s life so one can only imagine the impact a community of allies can have in pushing women forward. And women need allies not just at work but at home too. For instance, having a strong support system of parents or in-laws at home or a partner who is willing to take on equal household responsibilities means women will be able to focus on their professional aspirations. Similarly, having strong allies at work through sponsorship or mentorship programmes and employee resource groups will increase productivity and engagement. It can positively impact the company's overall energy and work environment.
Don’t underestimate the power of networks
Workspaces that promote collaboration and networking are extremely important in creating a conducive ecosystem for women to thrive and succeed. Collaborative workspaces provide opportunities for women to learn from each other. There is a greater chance of meeting inspiring women from different walks of life and connecting with peers from various organisations. Working out of flexible workspaces will help women become a part of a diverse community that will help expand their vision, give them access to the right tools and resources to succeed and invest in their personal and professional growth.
Superheroes need rest too!
Women need to prioritize their wellbeing. Women tend to set a high bar for themselves—to deliver and succeed - both at home, in their relationships and at work. In the process of achieving this tremendous goal, they tend to put their health and wellness on the backburner. Women need to focus on themselves guilt-free, take a break when needed to avoid burnout, find support at home, and work to share responsibilities and confide in. And when the going gets tough, sometimes one just needs to have a sense of humour and see the funny side in the most challenging situations! It helps not to overthink, let go and just go with the flow. Lastly, don’t shy away from asking for help if you need it. Remember, you need to refuel and enjoy the well-deserved 'me' time! Superheroes (or rather superheroines) need some rest too!
To champion the cause of IWD in its true form, start with “I”.
Views are personal. The author is Head of People, WeWork India.