Women Leadership in Modern Times Calls for Holistic Women Empowerment

From the ancient times, women have been revered in the Indian culture. Ancient scriptures declare the feminine energy as the essence of the universe. Women play a wide range of roles, such as caring mothers and sisters, loving wives and daughters, and also capable colleagues.

Women comprise around 49% of our country’s population. But a bulk of them stay economically dependent without employment. Women encounter differentiation in most sectors like education, economic opportunities, health, and political participation, which demonstrates that there are substantial gaps between strategy advancements and real exercise at the community level. Not only that, I see the women citizen of our country in dichotomy! 

On one side we have women who are living in India- women who are more independent in every sense. They are well educated, skilled and competent enough to take care of themselves and their families. Unfortunately, these women professionals form only 5% of the organised work sector!

Interestingly, as per 2021 report by McKinsey & Company, Companies register 50% increase in profits, when women lead. But the fact is that women face drop-offs on every rung of the corporate ladder as per JobsForHer, IIM-Ahmedabad data. In the corporate world, only 37% of women participate at the Entry Level which reduces to 27% at Junior-Mid Management. According to LinkedIn Opportunity Index 2021 Report, 85% of Indian women say they have missed out on a raise, promotion or work offer because of their gender.

Source: What Women Want, Harappa Insights, 2022

And then there is the ‘Nari’ who lives in Bharat! They form 95% of the workforce in the unorganised sector. Historically discriminated against due to patriarchal ideology, traditional barriers on their roles in family and society; we rarely get to hear their stories of plight due to discrimination and oppression as they choose to remain mute anyone due to the fear of public shaming, society and family boycotting or disowning them.

It is, therefore, critical that when we work towards addressing the issues on women empowerment, we should not only focus on issues of gender inequality, right to work, equal pay for equal work; but we need to also work towards addressing this wide gap between the ‘Woman’ of India and ‘Nari’ of Bharat by bringing equal focus with practical approaches to reach out to both the sects in our country.


In my view, a women’s empowerment can be best described as the women’s ability to make her own strategic life decisions. While our society has moved forward manifold; it still remains largely patriarchal. India has taken some measures on human development, but its global standing on gender equality remains low. India’s ranking in the Global Gender Gap Report, commissioned by the World Economic Forum, declined from 108th in 2018 to 112th in 2020.

It is therefore critical to address the gender equity lacuna with practical approaches that can create a positive and holistic environment. Created in a collaboration between the UN Global Compact and UN Women, the Women’s Empowerment Principles can help us empower Indian women in the marketplace, workplace and community. The seven Principles are:

  • Create high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
  • Treat all people fairly at work, respecting and supporting non-discrimination and human rights
  • Ensure the health, wellbeing and safety of all workers, whether male or female
  • Promote education, training and professional development for women
  • Implement supply chain, marketing practices and enterprise development that empower women
  • Champion equality through community initiatives and advocacy
  • Measure and report publicly on progress to create gender equality


Today our laws are much more progressive and supportive of women. A lot of work at the grassroot level of our society has been done by the government and civil society organisations, such as setting up of the National Commission for Women by an act of parliament in 1990 to safeguard the rights and legal entitlements of women.

The government of India declared 2001 as the Year of Women’s Empowerment. The Narendra Modi government has launched flagship schemes to promote gender equality, including the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (a scheme to provide gas connections to women from below the poverty line households) and Mahila-E-Haat- an online marketing campaign, to support female entrepreneurs, self-help groups and NGOs. Beti Bachao Beti Padhao is another initiative to address the issue of a gender skewed ratio and generate greater welfare for the girl child.

In 2015, SEBI (Stock Exchange Board of India) made it compulsory for companies to have at least 1 woman as their board member and then in 2018 mandated that the top 1,000 listed companies must have a woman board member who is also an independent director. This mandate has helped to improve women’s numbers at the board level from 11% in 2015 to 17% in 2021.  Another initiative is by the United Nations (UN) India Business Forum which has partnered with the NITI Aayog to set up the UN-India NITI Aayog Investor Consortium for Women Entrepreneurs to strengthen female entrepreneurship and create an ecosystem for investments.

But, bringing awareness on the legal rights in our country needs reaching out to them in the language they understand, describing the laws in simpler ways and approaching them in an environment in which they feel trustworthy to open up.

What we need are concrete actions to transform the frameworks and institutions that reinforce and perpetuate gender discrimination and inequality. And it starts from our own home. Giving respect to women in the house while ensuring equal opportunities in education and skill development to boys and girls at home eliminates gender discrimination at its inception point itself! This will go a long way in achieving women’s holistic empowerment, leading to sustainable development for our country’s long-term growth.


(The author is Ms. Shweta Berry, Director- Marketing, Communications & CSR Manager, Aeris Communications, and the views expressed in this article are her own)

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