Flip side of Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017

How far can new initiatives take women workforce in India?

Business & Politics

November 30, 2017

/ By / New Delhi



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Trump and Modi at GES 2017 in Hyderabad

With a theme focusing on women empowerment, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017, which was being held in India for the first time, failed to address the declining number of women in the workforce and shined a light on how Ivanka Trump’s statements are a contradiction to her actions.

The Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) kicked off in the south Indian city of Hyderabad on November 28, 2017. With a focus on women entrepreneurs and Make in India campaign, the three-day event aimed to draw world leaders to the country.

Themed  ‘Women First, Prosperity for All’, the event was inaugurated by Ivanka Trump, the daughter of United States of America’s (US) President Donald Trump along with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“To my entrepreneur friends from across the globe, I would like to say: Come, Make in India, Invest in India – for India, and for the world. I invite each one of you to become a partner in India’s growth story. And once again assure you of our whole-hearted support,” Modi said while inaugurating GES 2017.

For the first time a South-Asian nation was hosting the summit.  India was given the opportunity to host it during Modi’s recent visit to the US. In 2016, Silicon Valley had hosted the GES. In fact this year, GES was being co-hosted by India and the US; but are the two nations really working on what they hope to achieve in terms of women participation in the work sphere?

Participation of women in GES and women workforce in India

The GES was attended by 1,500 entrepreneurs, investors and eco-system supporters from 159 countries. Of them women were representing 52.5 pc, the highest in GES’ history. Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Israel are among 10 countries that were represented by all-female delegations.

But while the numbers are soaring for female leaders at events like the GES, the figures have been starkly declining for women workforce elsewhere in India.

According to media reports from earlier this year, nearly 20 million Indian women quit working between 2004-05 to 2011-12. It was for the first time in the country’s history that there was a stark decline in the number of women labour participation rate and also a fall in the total number of women in the workforce.

In rural areas particularly, the women labour force participation rate dropped — from 49 pc  to 37.8 pc between 2004-05 and 2009-10. While more than 24 million men joined the work force between 2004-5 to 2009-10, the number of women in the work force dropped by 21.7 million.

Picked from the National Sample Survey Organisation and census, the data indicated the reasons for the drop, most plausible of which were said to be social norms like marriage, motherhood, vexed gender relations and biases, and patriarchy, but also more women attaining higher education and thus not settling for a labourer’s job.

The GES 2017 focused on women empowerment, and aimed to pay attention on four innovative, high-growth industries — healthcare and life sciences; digital economy and financial technology; energy and infrastructure; and media and entertainment.  Though what it did not talk about was the role of women in micro-sectors.

Ivanka Trump, who inaugurated the event and said that much remains to be done with regard to equitable laws for women in many developing as well as developed countries, is also being questioned for the discrepancies between her words and actions.

An entrepreneur herself, and an advocate of women empowerment at GES, Ivanka Trump has been previously accused for paying merely a few dollars to female workers, from countries like Bangladesh, China, India and Indonesia, where her apparel brand manufactures clothes.

At GES 2017, the focus was women empowerment, and not much light was thrown on the micro-sectors, and women in villages.

“My government understands that an environment of transparent policies and a rule of law providing a level-playing field are necessary for entrepreneurship to flourish,” Modi said.

With the event being inaugurated by someone whose own politics regarding women empowerment is questionable and India regressing in certain sectors for the same, what role will GES ultimately play in empowering women is left to be seen.

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