If India Increases Momentum On Gender Parity, $700 Billion Can Be Added To GDP By 2025: Marina Walter, Country Director, UNDP
"There’s no doubt that women will be the protagonist in India’s growth story. Let’s make sure that our daughters worry less about fitting in the glass slipper, but shattering the glass ceiling above,” Marina Walter, Country Director, UNDP
At the inaugural session of the ThinkBig 2017 Conference organized by Thinkthrough Consulting and WEConnect International at Kingdom of Dreams, Gurgaon, various stakeholders from the business realm, government and civil society spoke about how important it is to empower women and ensure gender parity in the country. Sonjoy Chatterjee, Chairman, Goldman Sachs (India) Securities Pvt Ltd “I think in all facets, whether it’s creating jobs, strengthening the revenue potential of companies, women have a multiplier effect. We need to all intervene together to make sure it’s an equitable program.”
“I don’t believe that women are more capable entrepreneurs, men and women are equally capable, other things being equal. But other things aren’t equal. The unfairness is stacked again women, endemically, through social, cultural, religious norms, through the attitudes of family. So let us get out of the way of women, let us stop putting obstacles in their way and dismantle them”, said Gavin McGillivray, Head, Department for International Development, United Kingdom. McGillivray also added, “Let us stop taking girls out of school, let us let women work. Let women be paid decently. Women in India earn 52% of what men earn for doing exactly the same work. I’m proud that the UK government and my organization has several affirmative action programs for women entrepreneurs to succeed. I’m also proud of DFID’s working practices, we have extremely flexible working hours, we have substantial provisions for maternity, but we are not treating women as special, we are levelling out the playing field. This is a rational investment by DFID. We attract excellent women and we retain them”. He concluded by saying, “Let us think about taking barriers that stop women from succeeding, let us enable women to succeed.”
Marina Walter, Country Director, UNDP, said, “There’s a very broad consensus that women are the key stakeholders for development. Women are creating a virtuous cycle of development and lifting a wider spectrum up. India scored very low in health, education and economic participation for women. Investing for women in women is clearer than ever before”. She also added, “If India increases momentum on gender parity, India can add $700 billion to their GDP by 2025. The 17 goals put gender equality right at the centre, and they are changing the way we think. We will fall short of achieving SDGs if we leave women behind, we need a wholesome holistic approach. Most of the women remain at the margins of the formal economy. Our current initiative, Disha is working together to improve the lives of 1 million Indian women by helping them to learn marketable skills and connecting them to income opportunities and training and skilling them.” “Our efforts target underprivileged women, relying on a bottom-up approach, focused on women. There’s no doubt that women will be the protagonist in India’s growth story. Let’s make sure that our daughters worry less about fitting in the glass slipper, but shattering the glass ceiling above”, added Walter.
There was an address by Krish Iyer, CEO, Walmart India, who launched the Walmart Women Entrepreneurs Development Program (WEDP). He said, “When you look at market opportunities, ease of doing business, demographics, it really is India’s time. We at Walmart, take women’s economic empowerment very seriously. It is interwoven in our business strategy”. Iyer added, “We have found that the products manufactured by women-owned businesses are of higher quality or are perceived to be of higher quality. Focus on women economic empowerment is in several pillars, we at Walmart focus on women in factories program, women in farms program, and now women entrepreneurship program.” WEDP was then launched with the attendance of Jenny Grieser, Senior Director, Women Economic Empowerment. Walmart, Parul Soni, Global Managing Partner, Think through Consulting and Dr. Balvinder Shukla, Vice-Chancellor, Amity University.
Suresh Prabhu, Minister for Commerce & Industry, Government of India gave an address through a video message, saying that, “We are seeing that women are very successful in managing businesses, and we need more women in boardrooms, in bigger roles as CFOs and CEOs. And I wish this event all the success in making a change.” There was then a vote of thanks by Elizabeth Vasquez, Co-Founder & CEO, WEConnect International who said, “I am grateful for the leadership of the women business owners who are here. I am really grateful for your long-term commitment. Women business owners represent all types of industries, products and segments and it's an honour to see so many of you trying to reach your potential. Being conscious of how we spend our money, and making sure some of it gets into the hands of communities we care about, is how we can change the world.”
The event then broke off into panel discussions which revolved around education as an enabler for women entrepreneurs, creating an enabling ecosystem for entrepreneurship among females, access to finance, access to technology, engendering investments and so on, among others, focusing on theme of empowering women in business.