RAINBOW
Empowering Women Worldwide

Academics as a career choice amongst Women in India

By: Shweta Lalwani, Sir Padampat Singhania University, Udaipur, India
Shubham Goswami, Sir Padampat Singhania University, Udaipur, India
Candela Valcárcel Fonseca, INCOMA, Spain

Recently, women in India have transitioned from being a homemaker to an equally important member of households in terms of income contribution. Cultural bias, conventional approaches to workingand stereotyping have proved as hurdles to pursue careers by women in India since ages. But this perceptionhas gradually smoothened enabling women to prove their potential, passion and creativity in variouscareer avenues. The Indian economy has also progressed and is providing ample job opportunities to women in India in all the industries. These career options range from jobs in the areas of Teaching, Hospitality, Medicine & Nursing, law, fashion, freelancing, journalism, Banking & insurance, career counseling, customer service, Government etc.Teaching remains the first career choice of women in India. This profession is associated with a lot of respect in the society. Women being expected to play their dual roles dedicatedly areable to pursue theircareers in academia very conveniently along with balancing theirfamily responsibilities very efficiently. Thus, teaching as a career option provides work-life balance opportunities to women in India.

A pilot survey was conducted with the women working inuniversities in India to understand which factors governed their career choice, what are their career enablers and what are the career barriers for them. The respondents hold a Postgraduate degree and 60% of them have earned a Ph.D. degree. 60% of the respondents are married, 13% are unmarried and 27% with any other status. Out of the total respondents,67% have children and13% have parents andgrandparents who are financially dependent on them.The teaching experience ranges from 0-48 years. These women from academia were asked to name the reason for opting academia as a career option. The response can be seen in Figure 1.The dominant reasons were passion for teaching and work-life balance issues.

These women were asked to prioritize various career factors i.e. which factors hold importance for them and which are least important. Figure 2 describes that learning i.e. constantly improving and updating their knowledge is very important in their academic career. These women are keen to seek knowledge and believe in continuous loop of learning.

Amongst several other factors as shown in figure 3,work-life balance and monetary benefits are the factors which are very important for these women pursuing their careers in academics.Thisalso correlates with the reason which was indicatedfor opting academia as their field of career.

Further, the respondents were asked to identify the most important achievements they aim for within their careers i.e. what should be the outcome/motive of their working. The motives as shared are:

  • To establish an identity of their own- 60 % of the respondents
  • Economic freedom- 40% of the respondents
  • To prove their credentials and talent-40% of the respondents
  • To have some ‘Me Time’- 7% of the respondents
  • To be socially active- 13% of the respondents
  • To utilize education in a better way-40% of the respondents

Most of the women yearn to establish an identity of their own besides they also look for economic freedom and better utilization of their education. This reflects the realization and need of women to get empowered.Figure4 shows the most important career enablers for them, whose consistent support encourages them to pursue their career goals easily. The topmost amongst them are the support systems to manage home and support of the Parents.

Other responses of these women were:

  • 40% of the respondents believed that women prefer a balanced life more than gaining highly paid careers-which is true in the Indian context as teaching as an occupation in India is not amongst one of the highly paid jobs.
  • 67% of the respondents believe that marriage, motherhood and other life roles demand much more time from women than men, thus they pursue their careers in academics.
  • 60 % of these women believe that they are unable to focus much on research activities due to their multiple roles and that research is a very important aspect to be focused in academics.

Conclusion

Academics remains a first career choice for women in India as it provides flexibility in carrying on their dual responsibilities well but there are difficulties and challengesthey face while pursuing their career goals. The career barriers for women in academics vary and depend upon a person and its family background individually as well as on the organization they are working with. In the survey conducted the career barriers in academics as well as in general as highlightened were:

  • A traditional mindset of society on women specific roles
  • Lack of self confidence amongst women poses a challenge for themto work in an external environment
  • Women tend not to self-promote themselves as much as men
  • Inadequate support at home
  • Women tend to be judged more severely by their students
  • Lack of opportunity for networking with others (men and women)could also have an impact on women’s fewer progress
  • Women are more emotional they give more priority to their family. Therefore, family responsibilities sometimes become a career barrier
  • Glass ceiling i.e. discrimination at workplace while assigning jobs on senior positions and fewer opportunities are given to women for career advancement
  • The social and family pressures also detain women and reduce their chances to indulge more in research activities or off-the-job engagements like participation in conferences, etc.
  • Dual responsibilities of managing the home front, taking care of children along with job duties can have great impact on the working of female employees. Thus, Social roles and social conditioning create the biggest hindrance in a woman’s career path. Lack of support systems at home and childcare facilities also affect the mobility of women
  • Women at higher positions do not get easy acceptability and their efficiency is questioned on a regular basis
  • Women are judged by different parameters and the emotional strength of women is taken as a weakness
  • Lack of flexibility in terms of travel, longer working hours etc due to the unsupportive families could be another cause. Many careers fall short due to above factors
  • Stress acts as a career barrier for women

Thus, if these barriers are perceived, awareness can be increased and measures changes in the social structure, themindset of the society, organizations and government the women can be empowered which would allow women to participate equally and enthusiastically in the development of the society and the nation at large.