India ranks pretty low in female participation in the workforce. In 2019, female labor participation stood at a meagre 27% and not surprisingly, we lag several developed and emerging economies. To illustrate my point, China’s female labor participation stood at 60% in 2019.
In India, over 60% of those who are employed are in agriculture, resulting effectively, in 11% female labor participation in services and manufacturing. It is well understood that if we are to go grow as a nation, then we need more women at the workplace. Prima facie, this should be easy, given our female to male ratio. Per the United Nations, women make up 48.04% of the population. However, in reality, getting women to participate in the formal workforce is far from easy. Especially since a large section of women are ill equipped with the basic skills and do not possess a high school degree. Why is that? This is so because a large number of girls simply drop out of school when they hit puberty, acerbated by unique socio-cultural stereotypes.
My guest today is Anusha Bharadwaj, Executive Director of Voice4Girls, a social enterprise working with marginalized adolescent girls in rural Telangana and Andhra with a vision to educate and empower girls against violence and inequality. Anusha is a recipient of several awards including the World Economic Forum “Exceptional Women of Excellence” in 2019, the Balika Bandhu Award in 2017 and is a Harvard-Dasra Fellow, Cordes Fellow and a graduate from IRMA, Anand.
In our free-wheeling conversation, we touch upon many topics and taboos that are entrenched in our society, gender inequality, stereotypes, violence, early marriage and how keeping adolescent girls in school through high school might just be the way to increasing their participation in the workforce of the future.
Listen to the conversation
Read a transcript of this interview