Equipping women with 4IR skills is crucial for gender parity in India

12 August 2019 Consultancy.in 4 min. read

Exploring digital skills is crucial for women in India to occupy a larger portion of economic activity, according to a new report compiled collaboratively by Deloitte and the United Nations Global Compact Network – India (GCNI). The report details the social and economic benefits that stem from gender parity.

More female participation in the workplace is a currently a central objective for coutnries across the globe. The issue is among the broad range of activities that lie under the umbrella of ‘Gender Equality,’ which is among the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Gender Equality SDG calls for equal participation across all sectors and dimensions of the workplace, although a number of barriers exist to realising this goal, particularly in the developing world. In India, for instance, socio-economic conditions are a major obstacle to gender parity.

Education and employment gaps for girls and women

As of 2011, less than a quarter of India’s female population was engaged in the workplace, a figure that is half of the female participation numbers across the globe. A historically patriarchial and hierarchical social structure has denied women in India access to education and talent development opportunities.

As a result, when India’s current business environment is opening up to more female participation, a number of women are ill-equipped to take up roles due to a deficit in the skills required. Despite a gradual increase in female participation, the entire female population in India cannot access opportunities until education and training is made more equitable.

Deloitte has been working to improve this scenario, primarily through its WorldClass initiative. The Big Four accounting and advisory firm launched WorldClass earlier this year, declaring its intentions to provide skill-development opportunities to 10 million girls across India over the next decade.

Challenges for women entrepreneurs

Alongside a commitment to equality, those engaged in gender parity efforts are also aware of the economic benefit that it can produce. The addition of India’s female workforce to the current economy would take GDP growth in the country to double figures, according to Deloitte’s analysis.

However, this economic potential can only be realised if the skills being imparted are relevant in the contemporary economy. As a result, the report urges that women engage in the digital sphere during their skill training, familiarising themselves with components of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).

Deloitte and GCNI have drawn information from a number of stakeholders in the Indian economy, all of whom agree that a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields could be a crucial contributor to gender equality going forth.

Facilitators of women entrepreneurship

“This will build strong foundational skills and give career choices to girls,” states the report, although respondents to the survey believe that women should use these skills not only to find opportunities in the business world, but to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and carve out their own space in the economy.

Such a scenario has its own barriers in light of socio-economic conditions, including the fact that women in India are not primary owners of assets, and are coercively tied down within family constraints. Breaking these shackles is crucial for women to have an equal stand in the Indian work environment.

“The set of measures to support women entrepreneurs includes getting access to education; managerial and leadership abilities; soft skills, financial and digital literacy; influencing social settings and building support systems. Equally important is gaining access to resources – finance, technology, raw materials, and talent, and joining the right networks,” explains the report.