It’s International Women’s Day today, and as with every year, this year too, conversations centre around women's empowerment and their financial inclusion.
But what can really make this a reality?
While the government, corporates, and the society at large are looking at various initiatives and means to make this happen, the real game changers could be women themselves.
In an exclusive interview with YourStory, Chanda Kochhar, MD and CEO of ICICI, one of the largest private banks in India, shares her thoughts on the key factors contributing to women empowerment in the corporate world.
ICICI Bank has always been at the forefront of innovation, marrying technology with consumer -friendliness to change the face of banking in India.
In her interview, Chanda talks about some of the pioneering initiatives that have not only increased the number of women in the workforce but also brought to the fore many firsts for women, thereby making women’s empowerment a reality.
This also goes to show that more and more women in leadership positions or involved in the decision-making process could be a key enabler to women empowerment.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Empowering women at home and at workplaces
“I think in order to empower our women we need 3Es. Encourage them, educate them and empower them economically. What I mean by this is first of all, in society, we have to inspire all our girls and women to aspire to do well. Aspire to dream big and aspire to back it up with hard work. Secondly, we must ensure education for all women because it is normally believed when you educate a man, you educate a person but when you educate a woman, you educate the entire generation.
Therefore ensuring education for all women is very important. The third one is that we have to empower them economically, by providing them the right skills, by providing them access to jobs, by providing them access to markets - basically all opportunities and requisites to enable them to participate in the economic growth.
ICICI Bank at the forefront to make women empowerment a reality
At ICICI Bank, we are contributing to empowering women in two very different ways. One is what we do, at the workplace with the ICICI Group itself, and second is what we do at the ICICI Foundation.
So talking about the ICICI Group we have large percentage about 30 percent of our workforce is women, not just that we have many women at very senior level, and not just that we had many women at a senior management level, running either businesses or organisations in the group, what we have done at ICICI Group is to really create a truly merit-based gender-neutral organisation. This gives women the confidence that they can progress in their career on the basis of their capability, hard work, and potential and they will not be discriminated against just because they are women.
Besides creating this comfortable environment, which is highly gender-neutral and merit-based, we also specifically focus on the life-stage requirement of a woman, especially when they have young children. We were the first to start the maternity leave of six months before it was made a mandatory requirement.
We also have an initiative called the ' I work from home' this enables women to continue on their career and to continue working with the bank, and operate from home - because we create a full work-like environment at home'.
This enables women not just to continue with life but also not to lose out in their career path. Just because they are working from home, we also have a unique policy called the travel accompaniment, means that when women have children, up to the age of three, if a woman employee has to travel outstation for work, we also pay for the travel of the child and the travel of the caretaker, so that the woman can take the child and care taker along if she travels overnight. We also pay special attention to the safety and security of women when they are at work and when they travel for work.
The other way we really contribute to women empowerment is through our is foundation. There we focus on training the women on vocations and training women from economically weaker sections of the society. We train them in various vocations in urban areas as well as in rural areas.
So far we have trained 1.2 lakh women from economically weaker section and this number will become 1.3 lakh very soon by the end of this month.
On this International Women's day we are very happy to announce that this number will further be scaled up to 3 lakh women in the next two years. We not only train the women but we also empower them by giving them access to jobs; we not only train the women, we also empower them by giving them access to jobs and markets, and also give credit facilities which will empower them to start a sustainable livelihood.
Steps we need to take as a nation
I am very happy to say that the country has been taking a lot of steps, to economically empower women and make them more and more inclusive, in the economic growth. First of all, the various policies and the rules the government has framed around the work place environment, around sexual harassment laws, the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padao Andolan’ campaign, everything to do around micro-loans, towards women, I think, all this shows empowerment of women.
Besides these, a lot of corporates are now focusing on attracting more and more women in their workplace and creating a more gender-neutral merit-based organisation. Also, I think India is a country where self-help groups are largest amongst the world. And through this India has empowered a large number of women not just economically, but also give them the confidence to participate more and more in various decision-making processes, in the villages, in the local areas, and where they live.
And finally, I have seen that India is one country where women are doing well across various fields, it’s not just about the corporate sector, it’s not just about the self-help group movement but it’s about the fact that Indian sportswomen are doing well in various sports, it’s about the fact that India has the largest number of pilots in the Indian Air Force, and various other initiatives, I think women are shining, as we go along.
Also, watch the video interview below.