India Economic Summit | “Women are the lowest hanging fruit”

India Economic Summit | “Women are the lowest hanging fruit”

New Delhi: Today, the WEF released its India Gender Gap Report at the Delhi based India Economic Summit. While the WEF released its global gender report last month, the India specific report — created in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry—offers an in-depth look at how India is faring.

India ranks near the bottom, at 114 out of 134 countries, ahead of Pakistan (132) but well behind China (60) and Bangladesh (94).

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The report states that even if women receive health and education, their ability to participate in the work force is severely hampered by barriers to entry and growth in the work-force, particularly the lack of a work-life policy.

“Women, as half the human capital of India, will need to be more efficiently integrated into the economy in order to boost India’s long-term competitive potential. The World Economic Forum’s survey of some of the biggest companies in India shows that, to achieve this integration, Indian companies will need to set targets, improve policies to close salary gaps and promote work-life balance," said Saadia Zahidi, Co-author of the report and head of the Forum’s Women Leaders and Gender Parity Program.

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The ranking is based on four equally weighted indices: health, education, political participation and economic participation. India ranks 134th, 121st, 24th and 127th respectively on these. Zahidi emphasizes that while India’s ranking on political participation is high up, the world overall is doing badly on this variable.

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“These four criteria are critically important with respect to development. They don’t live in silos by themselves but are very integrated in moving a country forward," said Melanee S. Verveer, US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.

“Investments in women and girls co-relate positively with poverty alleviation, economic growth, a country’s greater prosperity and decreases even I corruption. These are critically important investments to make."

Verveer also alluded to issues like regulations, tax policies, and a lack of property rights, and stated that those barriers must be reduced. She emphasized that there is a need for business to collaborate with government and NGOs for maximum impact, and that businesses who want maximize their profit, cannot ignore women who form 50% of the world’s population.

“Women are the lowest hanging fruit. It is a no brainer that corporations have to invest in them if they want GDP," she said.