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Women in public sector: Why is there a decline in number of PSU women employees?

The two PSE survey released in 2019-20 and 2018-19 have highlighted that the number of women employees on the payrolls of PSUs shrunk by 20 percent in two years

Women in public sector: Why is there a decline in number of PSU women employees?
Women in public sector: Why is there a decline in number of PSU women employees?
  • The total number of women employees in the public sector went down from 1.15 lakh in 2017 to 96,605 in 2018 and 87,667 in 2019

  • If there’s a male candidate and a female candidate for a job, several considerations are at play why women are not chosen over men, said WIPS President Sanchita Banerjee

New Delhi: The two public sector enterprises survey released for 2019-20 and 2018-19 highlighted a disturbing trend when it comes to women employees in the public sector — the number of women employees on the payrolls of PSUs shrunk by 20 percent in two years at more than twice the rate of the reduction in the overall staff strength. The total number of women employees in the public sector went down from 1.15 lakh in 2017 to 96,605 in 2018 and 87,667 in 2019. 

It is imperative to bring the numbers up on the occasion of the International Women’s Day because they offer a telling commentary on the work culture that exists in the public sector and how it fares on the scale of inclusivity and diversity.

Why are number of women employees in PSUs declining?

Speaking to PSU Watch, Sanchita Banerjee, Executive Director at state-run Oil India Ltd (OIL) and President of Forum of Women in Public Sector (WIPS), pointed out that one of the major reasons behind the decline is that women are not the first preference for recruiters when it comes to hiring for field jobs. “If there’s a male candidate and a female candidate for a job, several considerations are at play why women are not chosen over men. Some of these reasons are that the company will have to spend on ensuring the safety and security of women; for job roles that require employees to be in the field, the company will have to erect toilets for women and many offices do not have toilets for women till today. Moreover, women are entitled to maternity leave and child care leave. So, whenever an opportunity arises when you have to pick an employee for an important assignment, the decision-makers overlook women because they feel this person may go on maternity/child care leave.” 

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“Most of the public sector companies do not have flexible timings and work from home and if this comes with the absence of crèche facility, then it becomes impossible for women to discharge their professional duties,” she added.

Where are women in leadership positions?

Speaking about the absence of women in Director-level positions, Kirti Tiwari, another president of Forum of Women in Public Sector (WIPS), said “When we look at the Board-level positions in PSUs, the number of women occupying these positions is sparse. It’s only recent that Soma Mondal became the first woman CMD of a Maharatna company. It hadn’t happened for so long. HK Joshi, who is SCI’s first woman CMD, is another name that comes to mind. Barring these names, it’s extremely rare to find women ascend the ranks within PSUs and occupy top-notch positions. Women need to do much more than their male counterparts to make themselves visible and prove that they are just as capable.”

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