There are some things in India which foreigners like me simply wonder why. One of them is that there are very few women working in the local shops we go daily.
I get startled when I step into saree shops, women's-wear fabric shops, women's underwear shops, or cute ice cream parlours, and find only uncles and boys serving the customers. Hmmm, Uncle, your rugged face doesn't really match the pastel coloured decoration and the ice creams, I'm afraid... Why do I need to discuss my boobs with you, bhaiya? Where are women??
In a stand-up comedy by Ms. Aditi Mittal whom I admire so much, there is a line about seeing only guys in the bra shops:
I see female shop staff in supposedly-fancy cafes, McDonald's, pizza shops, or shopping malls. So then is it the matter of coolness/fanciness?
Oh, wait. To wish for smiling women behind the counter is sexism. Women are gentle and affable and attentive, so they are good at serving customers in the shops... stereotyping like this. It's dangerous!
But the situation with the gender ratio very far from half-half looks very unnatural.
This situation exists not only in the shops. In the skilled jobs as well. I have visited so many tailors for my brand and my saree blouses, and it's only twice that I saw a female tailor. It can be half-half, right?
There are some exceptional places. For example, banks. I see a lot of women behind the counters. Probably the percentage of women would decrease at upper positions, but that's 'normal' in all industries, to our disgust.
I imagine that most of our female readers who work are doing career-building jobs.
For so-called 'career women', it seems that there is the same issue as we have in Japan - They work a lot while they're single. It is usually women who quit jobs for child-raising, and once kids grow, women can't find good jobs like they had before, or work for their convenience.
But this cannot be the sole reason for seeing few women working in the shops.
It seems that the assumption "When more women get a higher education, more women work (outside)" doesn't work in India, both in urban areas and rural areas.
In the urban areas, the education for women 'till the appropriate level' (read 'not too much') is vastly considered not for getting good jobs but for getting a good husband. Having an education, a woman can get a 'good husband' with a good education, and she is likely to quit her job at marriage since the husband earns pretty well. Do you think it's true, in many families?
In the rural areas, the employment rate is higher since many women work in the field etc. to make ends meet. Most of these women haven't had higher education.
I have seen a few women who are doing her own business or managing a family business, operating mostly at home, like selling things in Whatsapp or being the salesperson for a family-run factory.
I am interested in the background why these women started to do the current business. They wanted to work outside but couldn't find good jobs, or they found good jobs but their qualification was not enough, or their family was against it, or the current business is the best-earning and convenient for them? And what's the difference between the 'saleswife' for a family-run factory and the wife of a guy who's running a family-run saree shop?
On the other hand, are the women who don't earn money 'not working'? Of course No. Housework and child-raising are the labour which is not considered as work, and hence unpaid. When a woman works a money-earning labour, the chance she would get financial independence and decision-making power in the family would be very high. But if a woman works housework the whole day, these things are not likely to come.
But this is also a bit separate issue (though the root should be common), the gender inequality which remains all over the world.
In India, unlike in homogeneous countries like Japan, there are huuuuuge gaps among people in EVERYTHING - financial status, social status, education status, religious restrictions, etc. Hence the issues vary, and the causes and solutions are multiple, naturally.
I'm a foreigner and have never made academic researches, so I don't have enough data nor knowledge to discuss them. The purpose of my blog posts is to share the simple questions in my daily life and discuss with you.
Actually, I'd love to ask the uncles in the ice cream parlours and saree shops, "do you let your wife/daughters/sisters do this job? Why/why not?". Oh, I might be able to ask such questions to the tailors whom I always order. I'm sure they would first say "oh they are busy with things at home", but if I ask different questions, I might find some points. I need to improve my Hindi a lot, though...
Have you ever thought about this before? What is your analysis of "why there are very few women working in the shops"?