Even as women break barriers, there remain a few top jobs where the glass ceiling has never been broken in India. Most of these jobs are in the government.
India is ahead of some advanced countries in a sense that it has had a female head of state, head of government and chief justice of the Supreme Court. Yet, many of the top jobs in India have remained exclusive to men. Here are 10 of these:
1. Chief of the Indian Army:
Since the country’s independence, there have been 29 generals—all men. This is mainly because it was only in 1992 that the army opened its doors to women. Nearly a quarter of a century on, the Indian Army still has only 4% women. While a woman-contingent marching at the Republic Day parade is a sign of the strides women are making, will the Army ever be an equal place for women?
2. Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro)
When the space agency of India rocketed to fame with its first Mars Mission in 2014, the pictures splashed across the pages of newspapers were of women scientists in saris and mallipoo (jasmine flowers) in their hair, hugging each other. But there ends the rosy picture. According to a Quartz report, women count for 20% of Isro’s total workforce of 14,246. Since being set up in 1963, Isro has had nine chairmen. Women have not landed on the moon, nor have they landed the top job at Isro yet.
3. Directors of the premier educational trio of institutions:
The hallowed halls of the 16 Indian Institutes of Technology set up in the 1950s, 19 Indian Institutes of Management set up in the 1960s and the Indian Institute of Science, set up back in 1909, are grounds where some of the best minds of India have been groomed. These higher education schools have been run by men for decades (a century in case of IISC). According to a 2013 report by education assessment firm Aspiring Minds, the number of women in the IITs across India ranges 7-10%. At the IIMs, the numbers are better as women count for 20% to 40% of the class.
Nothing like a change of guard at the top to improve the gender ratio on these campuses.
4. Chairman of Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi)
The regulator for the securities market in India was set up in 1988 and has been pushing reforms aggressively. It has been credited with improving the extent and quantity of disclosures made by Indian corporate promoters. May be after a string of eight chairmen, with the nomination of State Bank of India (SBI) chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya, it may herald reforms of a new kind?
5. Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)
Set up in 1935, it regulates the banking system and beyond just supervising the financial institutions, it maintains price stability and public confidence in the system. All of its 23 governors have been men. Its present governor Raghuram Rajan wrote to his employees: “The imagery that comes to mind for critics is of a traditional unimaginative organization rather than a dynamic intelligent one,” and not having had a woman governor, is suggestive of that traditional mindset. While there have been women deputy RBI governors who have risen up the ranks, it is still up to the government of India to appoint the governor.
6. CBI, IB and RAW:
India’s national secret agency has had 25 men heading a team of sleuths. Same with the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the foreign intelligence agency. “Till 1972, the Indian intelligence community had some women serving in administrative posts such as stenographers and ministerial assistants, but no officers serving as either analysts or operatives,” wrote B .Raman, in his book The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane. He headed R&AW’s counter-terrorism unit. Information isn’t available on the number of women in these agencies. The agencies should investigate the following: why don’t they many more women in their force and why has a woman never headed the agencies?
7. Cabinet secretary
There have been 31 cabinet secretaries so far. Being the senior-most civil servant in the government of India, the men so far have been the head of all civil services since 1950. According to a Scroll article, for every 20 male IAS officers, there are only three female officers. Even though India had Anna Rajam Malhotra as its first IAS officer back in 1951, it has been over 60 years and the women are yet to get this elite post.
8. Ministers of defence, home and finance
Some of the most important portfolios in the government of India have never been occupied by women. Not counting Indira Gandhi, who as Prime Minister was also in charge of these ministries, no woman has ever held these ministerial posts.
9. Chief ministers
There have only been 15 women chief ministers of 12 states in India. That means 60% of the states have never had a woman leading them. States like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra could do well to remember this when they speak of jobs for women as part of their election sops.
10. Labour minister
There have been 14 labour ministers, all men, who have all tried to introduce policies to make India’s work environment amenable to higher production and productivity. Here’s something they’ve missed: According to McKinsey Global Institute, India’s gross domestic product (GDP) could rise to $4.83 trillion by 2025 if women are allowed equal participation with men in the economy. Surely, having a woman labour minister could help India get a head start.