India to realise full potential when efforts made to bridge gender gap: Cherie Blair
New Delhi, Mar 15 : India should make concerted efforts to draw its "amazing" women into the mainstream if it wants to realise its full potential, British lawyer and human rights campaigner Cherie Blair has said.
India, she said, ranked below many other nations in the region when it came to women's presence in the job market.
"And that is astonishing given the talent of Indian women and also the size of the Indian economy as compared to that of its neighbours," Blair told PTI in an interview.
She said it was a lost opportunity for India if it could not utilise the potential of women dropping out at the higher education level and from well established careers.
"One of the sad things about India is that you have amazing women and you have women who are educated. If you look at the number of women who go on to use that education and participate in the economy, India is performing badly compared with countries like Bangladesh," said Blair, who was in India to take part in a conference on 'Elevated Aspirations for Investment into India' hosted by the Global Dialogue Review magazine.
Women's participation in India's labour market was "disappointingly low" and many women who were well qualified did not go on to become economically active, she said, describing it as a "tremendous loss" for the country.
For India to realise its full potential, there has to be a concerted effort to draw women into the mainstream, she said.
"What I would like to see is a concerted effort to bring more women to the mainstream and analyse why women, particularly qualified women who are well educated, are not economically active," Blair, the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said.
India slipped 21 places on the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Gender Gap index to 108 last year, behind neighbours China and Bangladesh, primarily due to the lower participation of women in the economy and low wages.
The latest ranking is 10 notches lower than that in 2006 when the WEF started measuring the gender gap.
According to the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2017, India has closed 67 per cent of its gender gap, which is wider than that in many countries, including Bangladesh, which ranked 47th, and China, which was at the 100th spot.
Blair blamed the traditional view of society for the existing gender disparity in India, and said men were considered to be the breadwinners of a family and women seen more as carers.
"But what the people are not realising is that by this mindset they are cutting half the talent in the world," she said.
She also referred to how women were often encouraged to pursue only "safe jobs".
Some families consider jobs in sectors such as education and accountancy safer than other professions. This restricts women from pursuing the career of their choice, she added.
"I have seen that entrepreneurship is particularly something that becomes quite difficult for women to pursue due to family pressures. Entrepreneurship is in fact a very good way to help her organise work-life balance," the 63-year-old rights campaigner said.
She, however, also noted that the mindset of the younger generation was changing and now women were more independent in taking decisions about their careers.