Skill-building and mentorship as catalysts for women's leadership - Hindustan Times
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Skill-building and mentorship as catalysts for women's leadership

ByRita Bahuguna Joshi
Mar 21, 2024 04:50 PM IST

This article is authored by Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha.

In the past decade, the global community has witnessed an increased commitment to achieving gender equality. India has emerged as a global leader in underlining the need to promote women in leadership. During its G20 presidency, India urged nations to recognise and leverage the potential of 'nari shakti' in driving global development. Setting an example for the world, Indian government’s dedication to women-led development is evident in the passing of historic Women Reservations Bill 2023 and the landmark judgement to grant Permanent Commission (PC) to women in the Army. Moreover, directives to states/UTs to bolster women's representation in police forces to at least 33% underscore India's steadfast dedication to empowering women to lead from the forefront. This commitment was vividly showcased in the stirring ‘nari shakti’ display at India’s 75th Republic Day Parade, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi's resolute commitment to prioritising women-led development resonated globally, aligning with the vision of ‘Vikasit Bharat’ (Developed India).

Women leadership(Photo by Pinterest) PREMIUM
Women leadership(Photo by Pinterest)

The economic potential that India stands to gain from enabling equal opportunities for women is substantial with projections indicating a potential addition of $770 billion to the economy. However, despite these opportunities, women face numerous challenges throughout their career, from entry-level hurdles to barriers hindering their advancement into leadership roles. To address these challenges and foster greater female participation in the workforce, it is crucial to recognise the role of skill-building and mentorship in empowering women economically and facilitating their holistic growth and development. Studies demonstrate that skill-building significantly impacts women's workforce participation and leadership trajectories. In addition to acquiring technical skills, women can develop crucial soft skills such as communication, negotiation, decision-making, and strategic thinking, which are indispensable for transitioning into leadership roles. According to Rajeev Chandrasekhar, minister of state for skill development and entrepreneurship and electronics and information technology, “Digitisation and re-skilling are key tools in not just empowering women to re-join the workforce in the post-pandemic era but also in creating new booming sectors in the economy”.

The Government of India is consistently working to redirect its skill-building initiatives and New Education Policy with emphasis on STEM to enable the participation of women in underserved domains. It has also further launched schemes with women as a core demographic. Initiatives, such as the National Skill Development Mission, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), and, Vocational Training for Women, that aim to equip women with the essential skills to enter the workforce. Worthy to note here that under PMKVY, approximately 46% of the 27.8 lakh youths trained are women and 30% of seats in Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) are reserved for women. At the grassroots, the government is enabling pathways to leadership for women through innovative schemes like Lakhpati Didi, a skill development programme catering to women in rural area.

These efforts have been complemented by substantial budget allocations dedicated to promoting women’s growth. The recent interim budget, released by the Government of India, stands at Rs. 3 lakh crores--a 40% increase over budget estimates from the previous year, which is the highest annual increase over the last decade. The gender budget, now constituting 6.5% of the total expenditure, reflects a concerted effort across 38 ministries to address gender disparities.

A recent study suggests that while 85% of women need navigational support to advance in their careers, they receive it less often than men. Mentorship, characterised by guidance, advice, and emotional support from experienced mentors, aids in directing career trajectories. In the workplace, mentors can facilitate career progression by offering guidance on routing organizational dynamics, expanding professional networks, identifying skill gaps, and sharing valuable insights conducive to leadership development.

India has been proactive in integrating mentorship into skill development schemes, recognising its synergistic relationship with skill-building. PMKVY, for instance, incorporates a mentorship program dedicated to supporting trainees in their career journey. Similarly, the Vigyan Jyoti Scheme addresses the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields by guiding female students in classes 9-12. Over 21,000 girls across 250 districts in 34 states/UTs have benefited from this programme.

The government’s emphasis on both skill building and mentorship as pathways to enable women to leadership has strengthened the resolve of organisations in the ecosystem. Several endeavours led by influential and industry bodies, such as, Women@Work by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII)--Centre for Women Leadership highlight a collaborative effort towards achieving women-led development. Additionally, initiatives like UdyamStree by EdelGive Foundation are paving the way for aspiring women leaders by highlighting the impact and pathways to the advancement of women in leadership positions.

India is paving the way for increased female representation in leadership positions placing it at the forefront of promoting women-led development. With an emphasis on skill building and mentorship as pathways to overcome challenges in their professional journey, women are forging ahead, with aspirations of becoming leaders and changemakers. India has not only influenced the global discourse on gender equality but has also positioned itself as a trailblazer. With a persistent commitment to women's empowerment, India is poised to harness nari shakti to build a more equitable and inclusive society and economy.

This article is authored by Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha.

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