VP Naidu and FLO delegates

Unlock gender dividend to break the divide – Naidu

Educate, Enlighten and Empower- should be the mantra

“The glass-ceiling stretches to the very top”, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu said and observed that there are only around 35 women CEOs even in the Fortune 500 companies.

HYDERABAD, Apr 30 (The CONNECT) - Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu today called upon the industry to unlock ‘gender dividend’ to put India on a rapid growth path

Virtually addressing an event of the FICCI Ladies Organisation (FICCI FLO) Hyderabad Chapter, the Vice President said “We often gloss over the fact that we have an important demographic dividend we can unlock” and emphasized that women-led industrial workforce can drive growth at a rapid pace. He pointed out that the country’s female la bour force is around 30%. “We need to draw the best out of this talent pool to power our economy forward. “Women are our growth leaders of the future”, he added.

The Vice President also stressed the need to look into issues that hinder women from realizing their full potential at workplaces. Observing that the pandemic has further deepened employment inequalities between genders, Naidu advised the industry to look at the issues of ‘representation, remuneration and roles’ to empower women.

Referring to the issue of pay disparity, he noted that equal pay for equal work continues to be a basic demand that is still unfulfilled even in most developed countries and in the highest strata of the corporate world. He observed that the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 points to a pay disparity of around 15% even in advanced economies and that that no country has achieved gender parity in wages yet.

In this regard, the Vice President said India should lead way in bridging the divide. Lauding the progressive Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, he said it showed the way to even developed countries by increasing paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. The law will help mitigate the gender pay gap that is found in working women who go through motherhood and child care, he added.

Noting the issue of under-representation of women in the formal sector, Naidu remarked that the issue of breaking barriers doesn’t stop at the lowest rungs. “The glass-ceiling stretches to the very top”, he said, observing that there are only around 35 women CEOs even in the Fortune 500 companies.

In this context, Naidu expressed his happiness that in India, every year, many women from all over the country are making a mark with their accomplishments in diverse fields. He cited the report ‘Women in Business 2021’ by Grant Thornton, according to which India ranks third in the world for women working in senior management positions. He suggested that this signals a changing outlook of Indian businesses towards working women and positive tidings for the Indian economy. Companies now know the long-term benefits of an inclusive work culture, Shri Naidu remarked.

Underscoring the importance of providing quality education to the girl child, Naidu said that girls in school are performing better than boys, but there is a gap in their enrolment in higher education. He also observed that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on girl child’s education. “We need to correct these disparities in a mission mode”, he stressed.

The Vice President reflected on the importance of empowering women politically, economically and socially. “Politically, we need to introduce adequate reservations for women in state legislatures and the Parliament. Economically, we have to enable women to start businesses and cooperatives through schemes like Stand Up India. Socially, we need to ensure that women do not face any kind of discrimination and stringent action should be taken against those committing atrocities against women”, he advised.

“Educate, Enlighten and Empower”- this should be the mantra for us to let women lead our country to its rightful place, the Vice President noted.

On this occasion, Naidu also lauded women who have been in the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19 - doctors, nurses, para-medical staff, sanitary workers, ASHA workers and police women, among others.

Voicing his concern about the second wave of COVID-19, the Vice President expressed confidence that India will emerge stronger from this difficult phase of COVID. Further, he suggested that fighting the pandemic is not just about waiting for the curve to get flattened, but also about inculcating the behaviors of ‘new normal’, to invest in health infrastructure, to practice healthy habits and be ever-prepared and ever-vigilant to combat any major health crisis.

Naidu also commended the industry for coming forward and contributing in the fight against COVID-19. With the opening up of vaccination, he advised the companies to utilize the opportunity to organise vaccination for their employees and their families. They must ensure no one is left behind, he stressed.

Ujjwala Singhania, National President, FICCI Ladies Organisation, Uma Chigurupati, Chairperson, FLO Hyderabad Chapter, Asha Vashist, Wing Commander, Indian Air Force, Vartika Joshi, Lt Commander, Indian Navy and Shalini Singh, Retd. Captain, Indian Army were among those who participated in the virtual event.

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