Understanding Inclusivity: How Equitable Work Environments Empower Women in India

Women’s labor force participation in India has been a concern for the past two decades. Data from Azim Premji University highlights this issues, showing a decline in employment rates from 35% in 2004 to 25% in 2022.

However, there are positive signs. Recent data from the World Economic Forum suggests that women’s labor force participation has skyrocketed. Today, WEF data shows that a record 33% of Indian women participate in the workforce. This significant increase is good news for the Indian economy empowering many women who were previously excluded.

However, employers that do employ more women may need to adapt their policies and procedures. By fostering more inclusive, and equitable workplaces companies can further support women re-entering the workforce and ensure all workers feel valued in their roles.

Why Were Women Leaving?

Despite widespread economic growth in the past two decades, Indian women were leaving the workforce en mass until 2023. While this trend is clearly alarming, economists weren’t entirely certain why women are leaving their jobs. Instead, they posit six reasons why Indian women may leave employment, including:

  • Prosperity and Single-Income Households: Economic growth has increased household income, making it possible for some families to function on a single income. This removes the financial pressure on some women to work, but are still expected to care for their families and homes.
  • Education and Delayed Entry: Increased educational attainment among women, particularly with more young women attending university, can lead to a temporary dip in labor force participation during their studies.
  • Gender Bias: Stereotypes and societal expectations that women should prioritize domestic work over careers can prevent them from pursuing or remaining in the workforce. Often women take on significant unpaid labor within the household.
  • Safety: Public perceptions about women’s safety in the workplace, fueled by media reports of violence and unreliable public transportation, can be a significant deterrent to employment for many women.
  • Accessibility: Labor laws push people out of employment in India. Many jobs do not provide a living wage and laws do not govern overtime adequately. This means that many women are forced to juggle jobs while having to care for a family, too.

These factors combined can push women out of employment and make it difficult for them to progress in their chosen fields. However, India does intend to resolve some of the major issues related to labor, like providing a national minimum living wage, and is on course to hit many of it’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the next decade.

Inclusive Leadership

Employers who want to harness the vast potential of a growing female workforce need to rethink their strategies to remain competitive. Even minor changes, like eliminating gender-biased language in the workplace, can significantly impact employee well-being and productivity.

For companies offering remote work options, fostering an inclusive leadership style is crucial. Women working remotely can quickly feel isolated. Leaders can adopt inclusive policies for digital workplaces by:

  • Foregrounding the profit-boosting potential of new inclusive initiatives. Put simply, folks are more productive when they feel at home in their place of work.
  • Creating a supportive environment by strengthening communication channels and developing strategies to discuss sensitive topics
  • Advocating for women in the workplace by rethinking how parents’ shifts work. This is particularly important in India, where economists cite unfair expectations for mothers in the workplace.
  • Supporting professional growth opportunities for women in the workplace to overcome preexisting gender bias

These steps can help firms become more equitable and inclusive. They’re particularly useful for businesses experiencing a surge in female talent acquisition and aiming to solidify their appeal to this growing workforce. By cultivating an inclusive, progressive space for work, firms can enhance their recruitment efforts and better support the growth of women who choose to build their careers within the companies.

Fostering Buy-In

Employees are most engaged and productive when they believe in the company’s mission and care about its success. However, this is often hindered when women face sexual harassment in the workplace. While the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act (2013,) is a positive step, much needs to be done to ensure that women are able to work in safe, and supportive workplaces.

Leaders can foster buy-in at their businesses by adding empowerment and security policies. Thereby improving representation at the leadership level and minimizing the risk of gender violence. This improves the employer’s reputation in the labor market and attracts top talent who value diversity and inclusion.

Improving buy-in by creating a safe, empowering workplace isn’t just the right thing to do. Additional benefits of bolstering buy-in within the team include:

  • Increases ownership within the team, thus empowering women workers and enhancing their productivity.
  • Balances the strengths and weakness of new hires, putting more women in a position to succeed.
  • Promotes creativity by ensuring the women feel secure enough to take risks, push their limits, and grow in their roles.

These changes can make a world of difference for women who have previously felt excluded or undervalued in the workplace. This is particularly important today, as millions of women are re-entering the workforce and deserve to feel safe, supported, and valued at work.


Fostering inclusivity at work is crucial at a time when women are re-entering the workforce en mass. Employers who wish to take advantage of the growing labor force will need to revise their policies to create more equitable, empowering workplaces for women. This will bolster productivity, improve retention, and ensure women are in a position to succeed while at work.

About The Author

Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys writing about the ways technology, education, and wellness intersect and impact our everyday lives. She is frequently lost in a good book.

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