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Women: India’s untapped potential

New Delhi: In the past decade, India has seen a staggering growth in the number of women earning postgraduate degrees.  However, the rate of participation of women in the Indian workforce has shockingly declined from 33.7% in 1991 to 27% in 2012.

Recently released Indian Census figures show that the decade between 2001-2011 has seen a 116% increase in women graduates, compared with a 65% increase for men. The number of women with teachers’ training graduate degrees increased by 122%, and the rise of those with degrees in nursing/medicine was a staggering 157%. Despite high levels of educational attainment, women seem to be missing from the formal economy.

India ranks the second lowest in the Group of 20 (G20) economies when it comes to women’s participation in the workforce, above only Saudi Arabia, a country that does not allow its women to drive. Globally, this statistic is even more dire, with India ranked 124 out of 136 nations by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

This begs the question - Where have all our educated women gone? Family duties and demands, unsupportive workplaces, and social expectations have taken an enormous chunk of trained human resource out of the economy. But one thing is clear - It’s not that women don’t want to work. India’s latest labor survey reveals that over a third of women engaged primarily in housework say they would like a job. The biggest hurdle that these women face is the sheer lack of appropriate employment opportunities which both fully utilize their abilities and allows them the flexibility to fulfil their other roles.

Women: India’s untapped potential

Prof.. Rohini Pande from Harvard University tells us why this “missing women” problem in the workforce matters: “Working, and the control of assets it allows, lowers rates of domestic violence and increases women’s decision-making in the household. An economy where all the most able citizens can enter the labor force is more efficient and grows faster.” As a rapidly growing economy, India would be well-served to include women in our formal workforce. Booz and Co. estimates that the India’s GDP can increase by more 25% if it can match male and female employment rates.

At Cuemath, we see the sheer magnitude of this untapped potential every day. We exclusively recruit accomplished and well-educated women to teach our specially-designed math curriculum. All of our teachers are women who stepped out of the workforce after starting a family, but now are eager to put their education and expertise to use in a highly skilled profession. With backgrounds in engineering, finance, and management, they are not only well-equipped as educators, but also as mentors and entrepreneurs. After rigorous training and certification, they get an alternate career with Cuemath, and the students get the best math teachers available.

India’s incomplete workforce problem is NOT due to a lack of capable talent. It is systemic institutional inadequacy. Our companies have failed to attract, retain, and cultivate millions of educated women. On this women’s day we should rethink the way the modern workforce is designed to not just accommodate, but to actively include and celebrate women.

We at Cuemath are unapologetic feminists. We believe that this untapped fire resting in the women of our country will drive the educational and economic revolution our country so desperately needs. And trust us, it’s time you did, too.