#BalanceforBetter: Have we made a difference in gender balance?

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The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day 2019 was #BalanceforBetter to drive gender balance across the world. At a time when political parties are raising a cacophony of noises ahead of general election in India, Tehelka decided to do a cover story “Perils of being a single woman in India” to highlight that women have come a long way but still a lot needs to be done for women empowerment. Recently when a million women from various walks of life participated in 620-km-long shoulder-to-shoulder parade called Women’s Wall in Kerala for gender equality and renaissance values, they scripted a history for the India.

Sadly, India continues at poor third rank in business leadership roles held by women as per the recent findings of the global survey by Grant Thornton-Women in Business: New Perspectives. Women in India hold only 17 per cent of senior roles, while 41 per cent of the Indian businesses surveyed have no women in leadership roles. The survey also reveals that women in India held only 7 per cent of the senior management roles. The low representation of women in senior management roles in India indicates a need to fix the leaking pipeline and changing the mindset of all stakeholders — business, community, and government. Similarly, when it comes to political power, women account for less than 7 per cent of the world’s leaders and only 24 per cent of lawmakers.

According to the latest statistics of the United Nations, the per centage of female elected heads of state dropped from 7.2 per cent to 6.6 from 2017 to 2018. The per centage of female heads of government dropped from 5.7 per cent to 5.2 in the same period. Time has come for women to become change-makers. The realization that sustainable development is not possible without equality between men and women, calls for gender justice and equality. Gender equality is the fifth Sustainable Development Goal of the UN. She needs to be given equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making as well as equal rights to economic resources, inheritance, access to ownership and control over land, enabling technology to promote empowerment of women and equality based on respect and recognition of their role in society. Their contribution is indispensable to a sustainable society and we cannot imagine sustainable development without the participation of women. Parents need to educate sons and daughters so that they respect each other without using expressions such as “this is a woman’s work” by denigrating certain activities. What noted playwright William Shakespeare wrote in the sixteenth century that “frailty thy name is women” is no more relevant today as women don’t need men to conquer the world.