The Indian Economy Blog

September 26, 2005

Gender Equality: Progress, But Not Yet Nirvana

Filed under: Business,Human Capital,Miscellaneous — Prashant @ 6:57 pm

Business Week, in a column on the changing role of women in India says:

• Guilt-free materialism. Fifty-one percent of young single women in major metro areas say it’s necessary to have a big house and big car to be happy. In smaller cities, 86% agreed with this statement.

• Parental ties. Traditionally, parents regarded girls as somebody else’s future property. They arranged marriages for their daughters, and then the daughters would go away and take care of their in-laws, so parents needed and doted on sons.

But today’s young women are rebelling against that. Sixty-seven percent say they plan to take care of their parents into their old age — and that means they need money.

• Marital freedom. Now many women say they’ll marry when ready — not when their parents decide to marry them off. Sixty-five percent say dating is essential, and they also want to become financially independent before they marry. More than three-quarters — 76% — say they want to maintain that independence afterward. Sixty percent say they’ll decide how to spend their own salaries.

What’s more, 76% say they’ll decide when to have children.

• Careerism. A decade ago, most young women saw themselves as housewives. After that, most said they wanted to be teachers or doctors.

A surprising 45% of young single females say they would like to be journalists.

Another 39% say they would like to be managers, 38% are interested in design, and 20% think they want to be teachers. Interestingly, 13% say they would like to be in the military. The percentage of those saying they want to be a full-time housewife was minuscule.

The main point of the article — “the country’s younger generation is shedding submissive attitudes, wants careers, and longs for wealth” — has some truth to it. However, this is true only for a small section of the populace.

Similarly, while there’s been a huge change in the role of women in India over the last decade, let’s not get too carried away. I doubt that the aforementioned “findings” hold true for all younger Indian women.

The entire column is a rehash of a Grey Worldwide survey. Given the number of times their Director, Nisha Singhania is quoted makes my snarky self wonder if Ms Singhania wrote the BW article herself?

Until the late 1990s, the all-too-rare articles about India in Western newspapers & magazines were mostly about one of the following a) the caste system b) bride burning c) communal violence d) natural disasters e) India-Pakistan conflicts f) all of the above. Back then, India wasn’t exactly the land of doom and gloom that those articles represented. Likewise, it’s not (yet) a bastion of gender equality. Things are improving but there’s still a long way to go.


  1. I agree. Any results from a sample survey need to read carefully – I have not read their story but I see that they mention a size of 3400 unmarried women in 10 cities. No mention of their sampling errors or an explanation of how they came up with the sample size (assumed margin of error and the confidence level). Unless you have these, there is little sense to be made from any survey.

    Comment by Renuka Sane — September 27, 2005 @ 12:56 am

  2. While it is heartening to note that there are more positive stories in world media these days, I am not sure if the sample is adequately representative of the attitudes of women in India.

    Is the sample one that is appropriately random or is there a sampling from only elite academic institutions and the workplace.

    Comment by Huvishka — September 27, 2005 @ 10:50 am

  3. Women empowerment is good, of course, but the first statement convinces me that we (men and women) still haven’t grown up.

    Comment by Anirudh — September 27, 2005 @ 11:35 am

  4. [...] Sidebar: This isn’t the first time we’ve come across implausible market surveys.  And, we suspect it won’t be the last. [...]

    Pingback by The Indian Economy Blog » Irrational Exuberance — September 4, 2006 @ 9:25 pm

  5. Most women are career minded before marraige, and this is also tailored to the needs of the marraige market, depending on what eligible grooms are asking for. After marraige most women quit their jobs and stay at home. In my opinion the majority of working women comprise of women in the lower strata of society. The percentage of middle class and upper class families who are gainfully occupied in the workforce is still low.

    Comment by Tripti — May 7, 2007 @ 9:17 am

  6. The author equates India with urban populace. India lives in the villages, 600,000 of them. I don’t think the new generation is any different from the old one. Just to throw some stats in, only 5 % of the population actually pays the right income tax. Now I don’t know where this survey was conducted but most Indian women don’t get “enough” education to be a professional of any sort. Sure, urban women i.e. middle class and higher middle-class is progressing and becoming more liberal but by and large, Indian women are still regarded as home-makers and nothing more.

    Comment by Rohan Patil — April 24, 2009 @ 9:58 pm

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