Why there are Fewer Women in the Workforce and what can be done to rectify this

The Benefits of Having More Women in the Workforce

As most organisational and business experts agree, there is a business case to be made for Diversity and Inclusivity in terms of the enrichment of organisations where there are greater number of women and gender and racial minorities.

Right from the variety of opinions that diversity engenders to the very real aspect of broadening the talent pool from which corporates and other business entities can recruit employees, including the rich experience and skills that they bring, as well as the increase in the revenues of firms owing to such benefits.

Indeed, as more women enter the workforce, the GDP or the Gross Domestic Product, which is a measure of a country’s economic progress and wellbeing increases due to higher numbers of women in the workforce?

This is the reason why many multilateral entities such as the United Nations often advocate for and make a strong pitch in favour of increasing the number of women in the workforce.

This is also the reason why many Western countries often encourage women to enter the workforce, mainly to tap into the latent talents as well as to benefit from broadening of the labour pool.

Why There are Fewer Women in the Workforce When Compared to Men

Having said that, statistics now indicate that despite such obvious advantages of having more women in the workforce, the ratio of women to men participation in the workforce is abysmally low.

While there are many factors to this, the key among them is the very real cultural barriers that women face when they want to take up jobs, either part time or full time.

This is more the case in the Third World or the Developing countries where patriarchy driven mindsets keep women confined to the home and the hearth and discourage them from taking up work outside the work.

Moreover, women, more so the educated among them, find it difficult to juggle work and family commitments, especially when they have kids and young children.

In addition, the logistical issues such as lack of adequate transport as well as the general tendency of societies to look down on working women are other barriers.

Any discussion on why there are fewer women than men in the workforce is incomplete without referring to the safety and security dimension.

While one might argue otherwise, it is indeed the case that women working late or even until evening in many countries often find it difficult to commute in a risk free manner.

Therefore, the barriers that women face are often many and varied and this is the reason why we have less female participation in the workforce.

Glass Ceilings and Archaic Mindsets Hold Back Women from Progressing

Moreover, it is not only in the home and the other external realms that women face barriers. Inside the workplaces, there is much derided and criticised Glass Ceiling or the visible and invisible barriers that prevent women from progressing in their careers.

Indeed, apart from overt and covert sexual and other forms of harassment, the lack of career progression, even for the most talented and skilled as well as educated women means that this acts as a deterrent to their participation in the workforce.

In addition, women who give birth often find it hard to get back their Mojo on resuming work after the Maternity Break and the gap in their continued work due to this and other factors often pushes them behind in the corporate ladder.

Apart from this, women also find it hard to get along in what is essentially a Male Dominated environment, especially at the higher levels as can be seen from the recent travails of the Murugappa group in India where the heirs of one of the families are finding it hard to get themselves a seat on the Board.

Therefore, these are some of the barriers that women face from within the corporates and business entities as they seek to progress in their careers.

What Can Be Done To Rectify the Gender Imbalance?

On the other hand, there are concrete measures that governments and corporates and other business entities can take to increase the participation of women in the workforce.

These measures can address each of the external and internal challenges that have been listed in the previous sections.

Indeed, already on paper at least, some of the measures do exist, though it is doubtful as to how much they are practiced in the real world.

So, Walking the Talk as far as encouraging women to work is needed and as any expert, and that too if it is a woman, would tell you, the real challenge is the mindset that places obstacles to women in their careers as well as homes.

Therefore, more than anything, there must be a holistic approach that includes changing some of the archaic and historical and legacy mindsets that prevent women from getting ahead.

Concluding Thoughts

Last, in recent years, there has been a positive movement as far as women (the more educated of them) participating in the workforce is concerned.

While this is driven by more assertive among them as well as a shift in perceptions, much work needs to be done to bring lower income and less privileged women into the formal and organised sectors.

In other words, while the informal sector does see more of the less privileged women working, there are no safety nets and no special allowances like in the organised sectors and hence, the next challenge for all stakeholders is to bring more women into formal employment.

To conclude, not having more women in the workforce hinders nations’ progress and hence, it is the need of the hour to not only recognise this, but to take steps to rectify the same.

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