The coronavirus pandemic has hurt India’s economy, but it has also helped it address a long-standing problem of gender inequality in the labor market. According to CNN, there has been a significant increase in the number of women in leadership positions in the country.
JobsForHe, an online job search service, surveyed more than 300 Indian companies and found that in 2020, 43 percent of middle- and senior-level executives were women — up 20 percentage points from 2019. Also in 2021, the number of women actively seeking employment opportunities increased 89 percent from 2020. “Despite the slowdown in labor, we found that companies across all sectors hired 20 percent more women than a year earlier,” confirmed Aditya Mishra, founder of recruiting agency Ciel HR Services.
The trend is attributed to a massive shift to telecommuting amid the spread of COVID-19. However, according to some experts, this situation may not last long: more and more companies around the world began to return employees to offices, at least part-time. Even though India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, women in the country make up just over 20 percent of the total workforce. By comparison, in the U.S. the figure is closer to 50 percent.
The shortage of women in the labor market is due to many factors, from limiting cultural traditions to the prevalence of workplace harassment. Over the past decade, however, the government and corporations have made efforts to change this situation. According to the Harvard Business School Review, India was one of the first developing countries to impose gender quotas, requiring all public companies to appoint at least one woman to their boards. The country also introduced a 26-week paid maternity leave. Before the pandemic, however, women’s unemployment rates continued to be extremely high, and it wasn’t until 2020 that the labor market began to change.
Nevertheless, the WHO reported that it was women who were most affected by the coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath. “In relative terms, employment losses were higher among women than among men,” said Tedros Adanom Gebreyesus, head of the organization.