|HER WORLD||Sunday, March 16, 2003, Chandigarh, India|
Slice of life
Sprit of enterprise
Chanda Kochhar has risen from being a management trainee to an executive director of the ICICI Bank, one of the fastest growing financial institutions in India, says Vimla Patil.
"EVEN though I have worked for one institution for the nineteen years of my career, I feel that I worked for several companies," says Chanda Kochhar, executive director of the ICICI Bank in Mumbai. After graduating from Mumbai’s Bajaj Institute of Management in business management and completing her cost accountancy course, she joined ICICI as a management trainee in 1984."But in the 19 years since then, the ICICI has evolved so much and so many new activities and endeavours have been initiated, that I feel I have worked for several companies," says Chanda.
Firstly, every two years, she was promoted regularly so that her job profile changed, often dramatically. New things happened at ICICI almost every day and Chanda was head of commercial banking, then she was in charge of major client servicing followed by infrastructure investments. And finally, in retail banking. For 14 years, Chanda was a corporate banker. For the last three years she has been a retail banker. "I work in tandem with ICICI Mutual Fund and ICICI Insurance, though they are separate companies. My present job includes building a strong network of branches of the ICICI bank, creating as many ATMs as possible, building a call-centre network, credit cards and other functions of a retail banking system. Today, within a short span, ICICI has become the largest retail finance bank, thanks to the effort of our dedicated teams," says Chanda.
Though Chanda’s phenomenal success in a financial institution is unique, she says that women have made unprecedented forays in the world of finance and banking. To name just a few luminaries, she mentions the names of Tarjani Vakil who is the former chairperson and managing director of the Exim Bank; Lalita Gupte, joint managing director of ICICI; Naina Lal Kidwai of Morgan Stanley; Sonal Dave of HSBC Securities; Shikha Sharma who heads ICICI’s insurance activities and Renuka Ramnath who heads ICICI’s venture finance division. There are many women at the executive director or general manager level in the Reserve Bank of India and State Bank of India.
"This is not surprising," says Chanda, "I believe that women have a great capability to flourish in any job they choose. Earlier, India had a manufacturing economy. The finance and banking sector was comparatively small. The mindset of society was that women could not work on the shop floor in manufacturing industries. But things have changed now. The old mindset is not relevant to finance. Secondly, banking needs a correct and deep understanding of money and the minds of people. It is a multi-faceted business. One has to be in the shoes of a customer to look at money and investment or saving from his/her point of view. Because women themselves are passionate and multi-faceted by nature, they fit this business very well. That is why so many women have done exceedingly well in this sector.
"On the other side of coin," Chanda continues, "Urban or rural educated women are participating in financial-decision making within the family. They are aware partners in a marriage and together with their husbands they decide on the ratio between safe instruments and risk factor investments. They decide the priorities of their families — a house, a car, holidays, children’s education and savings for later years — and apportion money accordingly, in consultation with their husbands. In educated families, men no longer take financial decisions by themselves. Moreover, a huge number of women are in business or jobs themselves. India has the largest number of women entrepreneurs and they are doing exceedingly well. At our bank, we advise them about seeking funding or equity to make their projects cost efficient and quick profit making. We help them to check out the best methods of getting funding for their ventures. The reasons why Indian women can venture into entrepreneurship on such a large scale are:
First, whatever may be the retro features of our society, Indians generally hold courageous women in esteem. When a woman shows fortitude and asserts her point of view, they quite often listen. Secondly, the joint family culture offers a choice for modern women. They can depend upon the infrastructure offered by parents, in-laws or other relatives and friends if they care to build and nurture these relationships. The comfort of a joint family is not available to women anywhere else in the world. Thirdly, there is household help available in Indian cities until now."
Chanda believes that women can deal with any issue of life on the basis of equality and need no special privileges. They can perform whatever task given to them with efficiency and responsibility. "This has been proved in projects undertaken by our rural branches. ICICI has almost 100 rural branches in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. In Tamil Nadu, we have helped to set up self-help groups in villages. These 8500 groups, comprising of 20 people each, make up almost 1.5 lakh people, of whom 95 per cent are women. These women are pro-active to change and progress. We encourage them to save, to learn how to deal with money, to pool money to gives loans to each other and impress upon them the absolute need to repay all loans on time. We hope to replicate this project in other states."
Chanda is married to a
businessman and has a 14-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son.
"I have not faced major problems in my career because my husband
is understanding and co-operative. My in-laws live in the neighbouring
building and help whenever I need them. My parents come and take
charge of the children when I am away for long periods. We spend a
good deal of time with the children and each other. Yes, I have heard
the argument that children of women who work as hard as I do can
become dysfunctional. Paediatricians and social scientists have
expressed this opinion. Children of non-working mothers are
dysfunctional too. The answer is a rich and value-based family life,
which has to be built by all concerned. Women must learn the value of
building relationships within the family and among friends so that
children too can have several people to look up to rather than just
their parents. "I was fond of dramatics and elocution in my college
days. I sometimes play badminton on weekends. But I have no hesitation
in saying that I absolutely love my work. It is my passion as well as
Slice of life
It is easy to brush off any such arguments in absence of relevant statistics relating to work participation, income generation, spending habits of women and, above all, the ownership of resources. ESO statistics on wages paid to agricultural and skilled labourers in Haryana categorises only men, as if female labourers do not exist there, says Yogesh Snehi
FOR the last one month I have been frequenting the offices of Haryana government in search of some gender statistics, which are the part of a project undertaken by National Commission for Women (NCW). When I last visited Delhi in December for the purpose of a research grant, Sudha Malaiya, member NCW, gave me the task of collecting the statistics on women entrepreneurs in Haryana. I had to report back after one week with the relevant information. I was also told that I would get this statistics from the Department of Industries of the state.
When I reached the Big Bay building in Sector-17, Chandigarh, which houses many important Haryana government offices, I did not know that I have landed myself in trouble. I started from the clerk level thinking that they would know the details about the data collection at the ground level. I was in the Department of Industries then. The very inquiry about 'women entrepreneurs' sounded strange there. The first thing that I was asked was which state did I belong to. When I told them that I was from Punjab, they responded by saying that such a thing (women entrepreneurs) may exist in Punjab but is unknown in Haryana.
When I contacted the Economic and Statistical Organisation (ESO), I had to wrestle with myself to explain the meaning of the term 'women entrepreneurs'. I translated it into kam dhanda karne wali mahilayen and could sense the air of suspicion around there. Actually, they thought that I had come to collect statistics on 'whores in Haryana'. Such is the level of ignorance and insensitivity about gender issues in the various government departments of Haryana. The scene is all the same in others states also. I thought that probably the labour department would be able to help me. There, I was told that they do not collect data on the basis of gender.
Out of desperation, I went to the Director, Department of Industries, where I was directed to his deputy. He told me that such a survey had never been undertaken in the history of Haryana and according to his oral knowledge there are hardly any women entrepreneurs in Haryana, who actually own and run business enterprises. Even if there are some, they are among rich and influential who, in order to save tax, float women as sleeping partners. This was not abnormal for me because poor condition of women is well documented in national and international reports.
The ESO was good enough to gift me a copy statistical abstracts of Haryana 2000-01. When I looked into it, I found that except for some selected social indicators like literacy rate, school enrolment ratio and sex ratio etc., the whole lot of information was in totals. Interestingly, the hue and cry which has recently been raised about the plight of women in Haryana is closely related to the question of power. It is easy to brush off any such arguments in absence of relevant statistics relating to work participation, income generation, spending habits of women and above all the ownership of resources. Interestingly, ESO statistics on wages paid to agricultural and skilled labourers in Haryana categorises only men, as if female labourers do not exist there!
The issue has gained significance since the evolution of Human Development Index (HDI). Human Development Report, which has been published yearly by UNDP since 1990 has drawn more attention towards social indicators to substantiate the indicators of development. This is significant because any strategy towards improving the standing of women would incline on the development indicators of that region. One would wonder at the level of development planning in the absence of these statistics in Haryana. I can visualise Amartya Sen's views on the 'missing women' in development.
agencies like UNFPA have dwelled upon the mortality rates of the state
and found the incidence of female foeticide in Haryana. It shows that
the state has the worst trends in the world. Census 2001 is doing a
commendable job in this respect and has recently come out with
statistics on female labour force. It has included women workers in
the informal sector in it’s comprehensive surveys. State governments
have to learn important lessons from Census 2001 and other
international agencies to improve statistical documentation for
effective planning of 'real development'.
UP until today, a carefully designed set of indicators to measure and assess the extent of gender sensitivity within the system of governance in India have not been developed. In the absence of any suitable index to measure such efforts, it has been difficult to understand adequately whether or not gender inequalities in governance have been addressed.
Thanks to the indicators developed by the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS), gender sensitivity in governance can be assessed to determine whether or not there has been any qualitative change in this critical aspect.
The New Delhi-based CWDS felt the need to develop a set of measurable indicators — in response to a UNDP initiative — because of the continued marginalisation of women’s concerns, despite claims that women had been given greater participatory opportunities in governance. A draft country paper on gender and governance was prepared in consultation with a cross-section of government departments, research institutions, women activists, NGOs and others by the CWDS. According to it, that governments have shown a predilection towards the creation of ad hoc institutions with inadequately articulated mandates, resources and autonomy.
"There has been a lack of political will to translate policies into concrete action. This has negated the basic principles of equality enshrined in the Constitution," says Kumud Sharma of CWDS, and one of the four academicians to have authored the report. The others are CWDS director Vina Mazumdar, Nirmala Buch and C P Sujaya.
In order to judge gender sensitivity, CWDS says it is necessary to assess how men and women fare with respect to seven basic indicators.
The first indicator is an assessment of the survival of women.
According to CWDS, women’s survival is dependent on mortality rates, which in turn, are good indicators of the levels of development. All things being equal, lower mortality usually corresponds to higher development.
CWDS says that the crude death rate, the under-five years mortality rate, infant mortality rate, still birth rate, the maternal mortality rate, and sex ratio at birth should be used to monitor gender sensitivity. For example, if statistics of female mortality in the 1-4 age group is studied, it will indicate the extent of gender bias against the girl child.
The second indicator is a means to assess the quality of survival.
In this context, it is necessary to analyse life expectancy at birth, whether a child has been given the complete course of immunisation, her nutritional status, age at marriage and her first pregnancy. "Immunisation and nutritional status have never been given the importance they deserve in assessing policy interventions required to balance gender inequalities. We feel it should be used, in conjunction with other factors, to measure whether or not the government has been sensitive to the health of women," avers Sharma.
The third and fourth indicators are skill acquisition and workforce participation.
They are linked says CWDS. Literacy, enrolment, the dropout rate at the primary level of school, the completion of primary education, the dropout rate at the secondary level, and the completion of secondary and higher education, determine workforce participation. Women who do acquire these educational skills may still be idle or if they work, may not be equitably employed. To assess their development in this sector, parameters like workforce participation rates, patterns of workforce participation, wage disparity, paid and unpaid work, workplace conditions, patterns of migration and women-headed households have to be analysed and monitored.
While a high female workforce participation rates indicate an improvement in the general status of women.
The fifth indicator is control over resources.
It is this indicator that tells the real story. According to CWDS, women’s participation in surplus generating activity, their control over resources and the means of production, land ownership and property rights need to be studied to assess whether or not women have really been empowered.
"Women are usually allowed to engage in subsistence-level income generation. However, their ability to exercise control over the means of production, whether capital or land, gets restricted. This is the basis of gender inequalities. There has to be a greater effort by governments to sensitising policies to address these concerns."
Participation in the public sphere is the sixth indicator to determine gender sensitivity in governance.
According to CWDS, the exposure to the external (public) sphere; participation in it, and decision-making abilities are determinants of the real status of women’s empowerment. While the sex ratio of women vis-à-vis the sex ratio of the above-18 population, can measure the exposure of women to the public sphere, the sex ratio of the population exercising their franchise can gauge participation.
According to CWDS, the stability of tenure of the elected representative in local bodies can be an indicator of the degree of freedom in decision-making enjoyed by women. CWDS points out that in order to assess gender sensitivity, indicators to assess women’s participation in the public sphere should not be limited to positions dependent on the ballot but should also include self-help groups and trade unions, in which women could hold positions of power and decision-making.
However, women’s participation in the public sphere is largely dependent on the law and order environment.
Security — the last CWDS indicator — encompasses the incidence of rape and molestation, abduction, dowry and marriage-related violence and murder, and the unnatural death of women below and above the age of 20 years.
And because there are several loopholes in law and the attitude of the judiciary has been, in many cases, ambivalent and inconsistent, CWDS contends that a closer look has to be taken into the dependence on legislation. Greater gender sensitisation, supplemented by implementation of the law, will boost the confidence of women, encouraging them to participate in the public sphere.
Often, the Central or a state government claims that it has raised gender sensitivity considerably by giving women reservations in local bodies through the panchayati raj institutions. But they have consistently failed to give a satisfactory explanation for the continually declining female sex ratio.
This paradox indicates
not just conflicts in social values, but huge gaps - gender
inequalities that the systems of governance have been unable to
address. Unless there is a rethinking on the basic premises of
governance and its participatory approach to development, indices to
measure gender sensitivity in governance will continue to indicate
failure. And, that as far as women’s empowerment is concerned,
governments do not practice what they preach.