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Women @ Work

The Path to Emancipation Is Through Financial Independence First

January, 2019

A  20-something girl in office recently put in her papers and happily announced the reason – she was getting married and moving to the USA. When I asked her about whether she had found a job overseas, she nonchalantly said, “Not yet, I have to set up our home, our new life there first and I will only then think about my career”. 

While millennials today have the insouciance to casually chuck up careers in the assured belief that they will find their pot of gold at the end of every road they traverse on, and don’t necessarily have to struggle to find the sporadic rainbow;  it irked me to think that even today, women believe homemaking is their primary responsibility and it’s okay to let their careers take a backseat. 

Government and organizations are going the extra mile to make working environments more diverse and inclusive of women; nonetheless, there is a steady decline in the number of women as we go up the hierarchical ladder. Women drop out of the workforce to fulfill their traditional roles and responsibilities of being a homemaker, either by choice or due to societal pressure. In their mind even now they believe that it is an ‘either-or’ situation and not an ‘and ‘ situation!

The feminist movement is proof of the long-standing struggle for freedom from traditional societal norms . I absolutely propagate the movement myself, but it is important for women to understand that freedom is not just about saying  “ I will not change my surname”  or  “I will go on holidays without my spouse”. The truth is that financial independence is the path to real emancipation. When women take complete control of their lives, especially their financial decisions, that is when they will be able to dictate the terms of the game in this supposed ‘man’s world’. 

A project called ‘Nanhi Kali’ by Naandi foundation conducted a cross country survey of 74,000 teenage girls in 28 states and seven cities which revealed that 70% Indian girls said they would like to do at least graduation or study for a job entrance examination. Although it makes me ecstatic to know that more and more young girls are striving to educate themselves and are aspirational about academics, their ambitions shouldn’t be limited to holding a degree alone. They must go beyond the textbooks and exploit their potential in practice, in business and the corporate world too. 

According to a report by the Indian Ministry of Labour and Employment in 2015, the percentage of women in the workforce accounted for 23.7%, ranking India 136 among 145 countries in female labour force participation rate. According to Annette Dixon, Vice President of World Bank South Asia, at 17% of GDP, the economic contribution of Indian women is less than half the global average. But India could boost its growth by 1.5 percentage points to 9 percent per year if around 50% of women could join the work force.

Imagine the upside a country, a family, or a woman as an individual will achieve the moment she is financially independent, bringing in the second income at home, and truly becoming an economically value adding entity in her own right!

I recently read a beautiful quote on Artidote, a popular social media page,

“My freedom comes from me. Not you. Or else it isn’t freedom at all. It’s permission.”

The only way you can truly enjoy freedom is when you have the choice to make all your decisions independently; and financially independent women with great potential, a searing passion for their work and the determination to succeed will not just end the struggle for real emancipation, but also bring about a revolution – both, socially and economically.