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It’s 2020, And As A Woman, Shouldn’t I Get To Choose What I Want To Pursue As My Career?

Posted: November 17, 2020

Despite all the progress we have made as a country, career choices for women still stay the same. Isn’t it time we changed that?

Several strides have been made in women empowerment in India, with India having its first woman President, Prime Minister and even the first IAS officer. Indian women rose through the ranks and got employment in a lot of fields. Right from being an astronaut to civil service officers to CEOs of companies, women are doing it all!

One would feel with such development trends, career choices for women would have changed. However, that is not the case.

Even today, most women tend to have jobs in fields that are related to caring and nurturing children, the elderly and the sick. According to the World Bank report of 2019, female labour force participation has been 23.5 percent. One wonders why such gender disparities are present in jobs and career choices.

We start deciding our career at 14 or 15

The career choices begin between the ages of 14 or 15 when the students decide what they want to pursue in class 11. This will help them map out their streams in India which are Science, Commerce or Humanities (Arts). 

Students are constantly pressurised to make a decision that will shape their lives. Sometimes their parents make the decisions for them. Often it is also seen that parents shape their children’s perception to pursue a certain career. 

A recent survey showed that most children don’t even know any other career than seven careers. The most common considerations for a preferred career were Engineering (23.53 percent), Accounts and Finance (11.81 percent), Computer and IT (9.56 percent), Medicine (8.08 percent), Management (6.71 percent), Designing (6.06 percent) and Law 94.03 percent).

Is there a gender disparity in how we choose our careers?

In Indian society, certain careers are perceived to be as more feminine ones. These often include options like teaching, fashion designing or even nursing. It is difficult to see women in different career fields or even to see men pursuing any of these. 

You may definitely have heard statements like, ‘Girls will do medicine and boys will do engineering.’ Or even ‘All women in our family have done Arts, and you will do the same too!’ Another common thing women hear is that they should look for jobs that don’t require them to work at night or travel a lot due to safety issues. 

These stereotypes are present in our society even today. Thus, according to an NSSO report of 2012, the job with the highest female participation is farming (68.5 percent). It is followed by tobacco and cloth manufacturing (10.8 percent), construction work (5.1 percent), schools (3.8 percent), grocery shopkeeping (2.1 percent). Around 1.6 percent of the women work as domestic workers, while 1.5 percent provide personal services like beauty, etc and 1.1 percent are in the health sector while only 1 percent work in the Indian bureaucracy. 

Women are studying more but what about jobs?

According to the All India Survey of Higher Education, in the year 2018-19, 17.4 million women enrolled in institutions for higher studies. However, if compared to women participation, only 29 percent of the Indian workforce are women, according to the World Bank. 

While more women have enrolled in MPhil courses, as compared to men, the nature of courses women pursue hasn’t changed much. There still are fewer women in business administration, computer and engineering. Ninety-seven percent women are babysitters. Though both men and women have similar chances becoming pilots, only seven percent women do so. The careers that seemingly favour women, pay them 20 percent less than men doing the same job!

Additionally, the concern from parents and in-laws in regards to safety and security issues also might hamper women’s career choices. It may prevent them from taking up jobs that involve late-night work or lots of travel. With the rising number of gender-based crimes against women, people are scared. But women, too, should have the freedom to choose what she wants to do and, believe me, she will think of her safety too!

Why is career still looked at as a hobby?

Society has shaped our minds from our conception. Perceptions like women becoming IAS officers was considered unsuitable since it would require her to put her life at risk. However, if a man got it, it was looked at with pride.

The sad thing is that it isn’t just a historical struggle that women faced but something that women still face. It is still considered a better idea for women to be librarians or open boutiques or garment businesses. Women still hear statements like, ‘ You are a woman in a man’s world,’ especially when they have excelled in something. This just goes on to show we need a lot of development. 

In several families, career is not seen as mandatory for women, even amongst the rich educated class. A career acts a hobby until one settles down in matrimony. It can also act as a plus point in matrimonial ads where people often want highly educated brides but that is usually the last time some of these women work. 

The Economic Survey of 2020 shows that 60 percent of Indian women between ages 15-59 are homemakers. One of the reasons behind this could be that women pursuing higher education led them to enter the career market late. Or that the rural pay of men increasing, not leading women to engage in work. Additionally, having to care for the elderly and children without help could be another reason. Also, often Indian families don’t allow or support women and their career, choosing to focus on their marriages, instead. 

What can we do to fix these disparities?

We need more parents who will invest in female education and actually give priority to their daughter’s jobs. The most important thing that everyone regardless of gender should have is the power to make choice for themselves. Forced choices or societal choices have lead to lots of problems.

People are working in jobs they don’t like. They are forced to do things they don’t enjoy. And they are made dependent on their spouses which leads to whole lot of problems. Career choices are hence very important. An informed decision needs to be made and students especially girls need to be given this choice.

Also, career counselling needs to be done for both students and parents as there are so many careers which one pursue instead of limiting ourselves to the few we know. This has only lead to unemployment as there are lots of people in the field but not enough jobs. Thus, proper awareness and freedom of choice of careers needs to be made available to all.

Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Chalk And Duster

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Radhika Srivastava is an 19 year old writer from Varanasi, India. She believes that writing

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