CSR begins at home

Vishala Ramswami | Updated on January 24, 2018

Why corporates must help working women

There has been an increasing focus on women’s empowerment in India, especially on how to economically empower women through education and work. However, we seldom discuss the fact that a working woman isn’t truly empowered until there is a more equitable sharing of the domestic workload at home. Are we merely encumbering her with both the bread-winning and the home-making responsibilities in the name of empowerment?

According to an OECD report on gender and employment in 2014, there has been a rapid increase in working women across the world in the past decades, but stereotypes of the woman as the sole homemaker are slower to dissipate. Women now spend more time working than men in most countries, when both paid (professional) and unpaid (domestic) work are taken into account.

Work-life burden

The gender gap is by far the widest in India amongst all the countries surveyed, where women work one-and-a-half hours more than men every day on an average. The reason for this is clear; it is also in India that men do the least housework. Indian men spend an average of 19 minutes a day on domestic chores, whereas Indian women devote 289 minutes a day to their homes, one of the highest.

In comparison, French men spend 113 minutes a day engaged in household chores, and American men spend 101 minutes.

The necessity of having to single-handedly balance home and work is taking its toll on working women in our country, and a Neilsen 2011 survey showed that Indian women are the most stressed in the world. Researchers at the Center for Work-Life Policy found that such pressure was most acute amongst career women, who are expected to continue being traditional wives and daughters-in-law, even while working outside.

While women in the upper and middle classes in India are fortunate enough to have household help, the fate of women engaged in manual and agricultural labour is particularly dire — and it is these two sectors that employ the vast majority of working Indian women. Thus, it is essential to ensure that men play their part in housework. However, this is a glacial process that involves changing deeply ingrained gender norms and it will take several decades to be truly effective.

Support her

A quicker way is through appropriate social and corporate policy. The Tamil Nadu government’s free mixies and grinders for women needs to be seen in this light. These schemes, criticised as populist, have contributed significantly to female emancipation by reducing the time and effort needed for cooking. A study conducted at Loyal Textiles Mills showed that married women employed full-time at the factory spent an average of 5 additional hours every day working at home, leaving them no time for leisure, relaxation or personal development.

However, women who had benefitted from the free mixie and grinder scheme were able to reduce their daily workload by 45 minutes. There was also a clear co-relation between the efficiency and output of women workers and the number of household gadgets used by them.

Thus, it is in the interest of employers to help their female workers attain a better balance between the home and the workplace. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including providing women with financial assistance to buy additional gadgets and by implementing HR initiatives that bring the female workers’ husbands to the factories in order to see how hard their wives work and to understand why it is crucial to support them at home.

The writer is a management trainee at Loyal Textiles

Published on August 23, 2015

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