Pallavi is an Entrepreneur, Ex-RJ, Author, Inspirational Speaker, Blogger, Podcaster, who is working towards making her podcast a robust community of fellow travellers.
Empowering women has been a topic of discussion in the field of development and economics for quite some time now, and there has definitely been a significant rise of opportunities, thanks to the numerous movements that support the cause of women in the corporate world eventually propelling the overall economy at various interjections.
My introduction to businesses has been a mix of passion for sarees and all things handloom, along with a desire to help sustain the Indian culture and tradition in that sector. This love had been nurtured since childhood. The pleats of sarees when adorned, the craftsmanship of handloom artisans and the soulful colours of garments were the highlights of my early years. I grew up in a household where my sisters and I spoke about our mother’s sarees and handloom processes for hours without end. It was not what I talked about; it was who I was, a young girl in love with her Indian roots. So, by default, this had to slip out in my career choices one way or the other.
When I got the chance to do something in a field I have so dearly cherished, I plunged into it without a second thought. But the reason I share this story is to highlight the simplicity of my decision. It wasn’t an active fight against society holding biases against women; it was my love for sarees that bled into my business decision. If so, does me entering the world of handlooms as a business leader make me an empowered woman? Maybe. Maybe not.
Women empowerment maybe a heavily loaded term for most of us, but it does not have to be. It’s not only about massive protests and changing the world at large; it is about making decisions that you want in life and the option to do so without focusing on gender. I have been, of course, privileged to grow up in a household and live through a career that did not discriminate against me in any sense. I was loved by my parents and cherished by my colleagues, which led me to pursue my dreams freely.
While gender biases still prevail in many cultures, and some still fight to see the light of the day, even literally, I also believe that each of us can empower others in ways that can help those in need. For eg, when I started my business, it gave me an opportunity to make weavers financially independent. This has helped them to find a source of livelihood; while the Indian economy grows simultaneously.
It makes me wonder if I was capable of providing livelihood to so many people around, what would the other women out there do, if only they got a chance. But you may be wondering why you should be a pioneer of a movement that might not affect you? Think again! Does it not? Women biases have been prevalent since ancient times in every aspect of life, and it is only when we stick with each other can we bring about a change.
Empowering women to become business leaders and enabling them to enter strongly male-dominated fields will pave the path to women-friendly workspaces and equal access to opportunities. Companies are today actively creating work cultures to support women, but the problem arises when these regulations are designed by a room full of men. Having more female voice will help nip the issues right at the bud.
Most of the studies show that women’s economic independence is conducive to reducing poverty as women actively invest more massive amounts in child growth and communities at large. While the solution to get more women in the workforce is stated as empowering women to join the force; we see a considerable dropout rate of women employees after marriage and childbirth. Here’s where we learn, the problem is more profound than we anticipate.
Before we get our women to join the workforce, we need to be more accepting in challenging social norms around marriage, profession and household chores to enable equality. It’s only when women are free of the societal shackles can they freely open their wings and fly, taking along everyone around them. We have seen examples of this in our women who have taken the corporate world (both nationally & internationally) by storm; right from Schauna Chauhan, CEO of Parle Agro to Anshula Kant, CFO & Managing Director of World Bank.
The change in our systems needs to be led by acknowledging the difference between equality and equity. While both promote justice, equality accomplishes this by treating everyone the same despite needs, while equity achieves this by approaching people differently depending on requirements. Equity is undoubtedly the need of the hour. It is no secret that men and women are biologically different, and this needs to be acknowledged by workplaces by striving for equity rather than equality.
Enabling women to fight in the frontline opens new doors to opportunities. We need to bring about a shift in our perspectives before we try and bring about a change in our economy. A country that is free of gender biases, if not entirely at least partly, has more potential to flourish socio-economically than one that is not.