The Confederation of India Industry (CII) works closely on issues related to society and the community, including healthcare, education, livelihoods, and skill development, among many others. A central focus of CII’s agenda is promoting women empowerment and gender parity through its various initiatives.
India has experienced a continuous decline in its Female Labour Force Participation (FLFPR) rate, despite positive growth and development parameters over the last 20-25 years. The FLFPR stood at only 27.4% in 2015-16 according to the Fifth Employment Unemployment Survey (2015-16) published by the Labour Bureau. Further, India secured a poor rank of 108 out of 144 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum while the International Labour Organization (ILO) ranked India’s FLFPR at 121 out of 130 countries, one of the lowest in the world. Thus, in the current situation, promoting gender parity and boosting women participation in the labour force is imperative for achieving overall social and inclusive development of the country.
At the policy level, CII has been working continuously with the Government towards creating an inclusive environment and building the participation of women in the workplace. Many recommendations on important national policies such as the Maternity Act, the draft National Policy for Women and safety at the workspace were shared with respective ministries. Presently, CII is also working with NITI Aayog to promote women entrepreneurship as a means to livelihood generation for women.
Beyond various policy advocacy efforts, CII took the initiative of creating a platform of professional women – the CII Indian Women Network (IWN). Established in 2013, the IWN engages with professional career women, women entrepreneurs, students in educational institutions with a vision of enabling these women to become achievers in their respective fields. Presently, the IWN is spread across 14 states, 1 union territory and 5 zones nationally. The network provides capacity building, mentoring and networking opportunities to its members and hopes to support more women to further their professional lives.
An important agenda for 2018 for IWN is to launch across different states in India to reach out to many more women at work. Further, IWN has proposed a two part programme on the theme of “Helping women reach the C-suite or the boardroom” with the objectives of enabling participants to obtain a deeper understanding of board responsibilities, structure and strategies, and preparing them to reach and excel at the highest level of corporate governance.
The Woman Exemplar program has been a source of constant inspiration for all at CII. Since its inception in 2005, the program has recognized and felicitated the courage, conviction and compassion of exemplary women who have overcome grave personal challenges to bring transformative change to their communities in the fields of education, health and micro-enterprise. The program goes beyond recognition, and mentors the winners and the finalists to achieve greater scale and impact through their programs.
CII in March 2018 brought out a research paper titled “Declining Female Labour Force Participation in India: Concerns, Causes and Policy Options” which looks at the declining female labour force participation in India and suggests a sectoral approach for boosting women participation in the labour force. Analysing sectoral trends for women based on data from various National Sample Survey rounds, the report identified sectors such as manufacturing and certain services as major employment providers for women along with some other upcoming sectors such as construction, communications etc. CII will be working with some of these sectors (manufacturing sub-sectors such as textiles and food processing) to develop specific policy recommendations that would enable greater inclusion of women, while also providing skill and technology inputs.
In an effort to promote women engagement in the workspace, CII is launching an Equal Opportunity Pledge for its members on 8th March. CII through its various verticals will work closely with the members to help them adopt some of the guidelines laid out in the pledge.
India has been fortunate to have some very progressive policies at the national level. However, often these policies result in women being picked up from their usual household chores and put into the spotlight to be effective leaders of villages, boards, or establish their standing in what still remains a largely patriarchal society. To deal with this challenge, CII is looking at developing an Institute for Women in Leadership, where the focus will be to work with women in politics, women in work and women in science. Through this institute, CII hopes to reach out to students, social change agents, women entrepreneurs and women in work. The Institute will be developing courses and training modules, strengthening the existing mentoring programs and including them in the CII IWN, while encouraging them to excel in their area and be advocates for inclusion.
CII believes that women are the architects of society and endeavors to give wings to the indomitable spirit of strong women who can change the world.