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Global Women Leaders

Breaking Boundaries

Regina Wentzel Wolfe and Patricia H. Werhane

Global Women Leaders showcases narratives of women in business, nonprofit organizations and the public sector who have achieved leadership positions despite cultural obstacles and gender bias. Featuring leaders from India, Japan, Jordan and the United Kingdom, the book examines how these women have overcome challenges and served as role models in their professions.
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Introduction: The Indian context

Breaking Boundaries

Regina Wentzel Wolfe and Patricia H. Werhane


The complexity of the Indian context places many obstacles in the path of women seeking employment in general, much less those aspiring to senior management and leadership positions. Participation of women in the workforce is among the lowest in the world. Women’s ‘labour-force participation rate is just 21 percent in urban areas and 36 percent in rural areas’ according to the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) (Dobbs et al., 2015, 7). Not only is there a gender imbalance; there is also gender segregation. Seventy-five percent of ‘women are employed in the informal sector and they constitute 23% of the share of total informal sector employment’ (Bakshi, 2011, 11). This sector not only includes ‘non-regular workers, temporary or part-time workers, piece rate workers, seasonal workers, [and] home-based production workers’ (Bakshi, 2011, 12), it also includes self-employed individuals, a category that includes unpaid household workers (Bakshi, 2011, 12).

Indian women’s opportunities for education are restricted by social and cultural attitudes and gender bias (Collins and Abichandani, 2016, 13). Even those women who manage to find support and encouragement to pursue educational aspirations that lead to being hired into managerial positions, can find themselves unable to continue in those positions because of social and cultural pressures. This is particularly true for married women, who are impacted by the joint family system, which expects them ‘to care for and tend to the in-laws, cook, and clean, in addition to sometimes having a job outside the home’ (Collins and Abichandani,...

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