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HARDBOUND

Half a billion rising
A extract from Anirudha Dutta's book on the rise of women in the workforce

Sectors like IT and financial services have generated hundreds of thousands of jobs over the last decade or two. Today 30% of the employees in the software industry are women. The millions of jobs created by the IT, telecom and financial services sectors have opened up opportunities for girls and women like no other sector previously did. Between 2001 and 2011, the percentage of women employees in Infosys went up from 17.2% to 34.4%. This even as the number of employees increased from a mere 9,831 to a whopping 160,405. Between 2011 and 2014, at the entry level the percentage of female applicants has gone up from 41% to 45% in Infosys. In TCS, India’s largest IT services company, out of 263,637 employees, 32% of the workforce was women as of December 31, 2012. The percentage had increased marginally to 32.4% by March 31, 2013; 20-25% employees in banks and financial institutions were also women. Similarly in the organised and modern format of retailing, 60% of the employees on the shop floor are women. Organised or modern format retail along with the hospitality industry and services like beauticians, e-commerce will be among the biggest employment creators over the medium term.

Parents are also comfortable with their children working in these sectors and this is especially true for girls. Zaheeruddin of Siasat informed me that 18-22% of the workforce in BPOs in Hyderabad was Muslim and a significant percentage of the workforce was girls. Job opportunities that arose due to the mushrooming of call centres or BPOs, according to one research, led to an increase in the number of children enrolled in schools by 5.7% in India and all the change was accounted for by English medium schools.

Technology has helped in creating job and employment opportunities. But this revolution is not over yet. Only 25% women aged 15 and 20% women at the age of 30 have a mobile phone while the comparable numbers for men are 70% and 80% respectively. During my research I also found that a majority of girls coming from low income or lower middle income strata that I spoke to did not have mobile phones.

As I end this chapter on change drivers, I return to the city of Hyderabad. In the old city of Hyderabad known for its conservative ways, child brides and religious riots, a huge social change is underway which is not always very visible to an outsider. This change that I witnessed in Hyderabad is happening all over the country. As Tina and I took a quick round of the Siasat office after a long day of very interesting conversations, the image that stuck with me was that of a young girl conducting computer classes. Why was this image so unusual? It was unsual because the girl was wearing a hijab with her eyes barely visible, 98% of the students in the class were young boys, possibly of her own age, and in front of her was a PC with a mobile phone near her fingertips. While the young boys turned to gawk at the visitors, their young lecturer didn’t.

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