Drawing upon the Forbes list of most influential individuals, one article in the latest Economic & Political Weekly questions the merits and sphere of influence of these individuals. While raising a valid point that such lists primarily serve the purpose of liasoning individuals from an already established hierarchical structure, the author takes it to extreme in demeriting the influence that such a list has on the society. The article argues that the influence one exerts should be de-linked from the organization that he/she is associated with and that personal influences per se should be measured instead. While this is true to a certain extent, the author seems to seriously downplay the profound influence, both direct and indirect, that iconic symbols such as Indira Nooyi, in her capacity as CEO of Pepsi, if not as an individual, exert in the country's social space.

In a country where women have been facing increasingly violent forms of gender bias, there have been continual attempts to restructure the balance of power between the sexes not just at workplace or at home but in society and in politics. While feminist moments, which have been termed by a leading Indian magazine as one of the 60 revolutions that has shaped India, have had profound influence in making voices of women strong and loud, even symbolism such as an Indian woman making it to the top of business world has done its wee bit in bringing men and women on equal footing.

When we look at the magnitude of the gap between men and women in four critical areas - economic participation and opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment, health and survival - it is disheartening to know that as per the latest World Economic Forum report, India poorly ranks at 114 in a list of 128 countries. Looking at statistics that claim that proportion of self-employed women as percentage of total workforce is little more than 60%, one might mistakingly associate this to entrepreneurial zeal of women, when the truth of the matter is that regular employment opportunities  for women remain next to negligible. It is startling to know that only 18% of people employed in the organized sector are women. 

In a country that lags astronomically far behind with respect to achieving Millennium Developmental Goal  of Gender parity, even such small feats as Indira Nooyi and Sonia Gandhi being ranked as 4th and 13th most powerful women in the world, is a really big deal! Is it worthy to crib if Nooyi has not proactively done much to empower women?

~ Santosh



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02/24/2013 23:56

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