A group of professional women from academia, media, business and government have come together to launch The Foundation for Working Women (TFWW). TFWW’s mission is to create an eco-system where awareness, public policy and infrastructure come together to help educated women “live their choice to work”.
The launch began with a video address from T. V. Mohandas Pai, Chairman, Manipal Global Education, and a strong advocate of women in the workforce. “Education is the absolute base minimum for women. In India, we’ve made great strides there but clearly that is not enough. Society, government and corporates need to do more to make sure women can contribute meaningfully to our institutions, and their ambitions. Also, women should come together and lobby for their demands. Democracy is a system of competing lobbies and it’s important to get your voice heard,” said Pai.
TFWW founder, Anuradha Das Mathur, said, “We want to go beyond the narrative of women being seen only as victims. We’d like working women to be seen as valuable assets.” TFWW says it is committed to leaving the world for educated, working women better than they found it. The three prongs of TFWW’s strategy are:
Awareness: To expand the participation and impact of women in the workforce, TFWW seeks to gather, analyse and disseminate, among stakeholders, relevant information to inform choices and public policy.
Public policy: TFWW is committed to bringing the issue of ‘women as economic assets’ to the centre-stage of public policy. We will ensure that public policy begins to address factors that are critical for women to stay in the workforce including the provision of support and the framework to encourage their participation.
Infrastructure: We are committed to creating a network of local, reliable, hygienic and affordable care centres for children and elders that would transform the lives of women who work.
There was a panel discussion titled Change the Reality. Change Mindsets with Reva Nayyar, Former Secretary, Women & Child Development, Government of India; Prithvi Shergill, Group Chief Human Resource Officer, HCL Technologies; Nivedita Narain, Programme Director, Pradan, and senior lawyer Niti Dixit.
TFWW’s first dipstick survey of almost 400 women with college degrees provided the basis for these discussions. The research found that 97 per cent of the women surveyed, regardless of age, marital status and work history, believe that women should be encouraged to stay in the workforce. One in two women who have never had a full-time job wishes they had one. Even more significantly, 61 per cent of women who have at some point given up their jobs would have liked to have remained in full-time employment.
“We wanted to explore this phenomenon – why women with higher education were ‘choosing’ not to be in continuous full-time employment, and what influences this ‘choice’. For the first time last year, women enrolment in higher education exceeded that for men. But, their participation in the workforce has actually fallen! Why women weren’t staying in the workforce, and what they would need to do so is the answer we seek at TFWW,” says Anita Vasudeva, founder.