Some recommendations made by a parliamentary panel on the working conditions of women in public sector banks make eminent sense. They have been made with the aim of improving women’s representation in banking jobs, making the working environment more friendly to women and ensuring that there are ample opportunities for career advancement for them. Public sector banks have a staff strength of over nine lakh and women account for about 24 per cent of the workforce. The Khandelwal committee appointed by the government in 2009 had found that women had 17 per cent representation then. The strength has gone up now. It is a sector where women like to work but it also offers many challenges to them.
One important recommendation of the committee is to make at least 15 per cent of public sector bank branches all-women offices. It can provide a more congenial atmosphere for work. Interaction with the public is important for banks and it has been noted that women’s banks offer better customer service. They may also attract more women as customers to banks. This is important because women are a very underbanked section of the population. The committee has also recommended flexible working hours for women so that they can better balance their professional and personal lives. It has sought a lenient transfers and postings policy for women which will take their family responsibilities into consideration. The Khandelwal committee had noted that many women staff gave up their careers at the time of routine transfers or on transfers on promotion. This is one reason for many women not rising in their careers.
Some public sector banks have recently had women as their chief executives. They continue to do excellent work. Some of them have said that it is not easy for women to go up in the profession and break the glass ceiling and have to work much more than men to be considered their equals. The committee’s recommendations are meant to address this situation of disadvantage for women. The government should give them serious consideration so that more women are attracted to the sector. While it will mean financial empowerment of more women, the banking sector will also benefit. A target of 50 per cent representation for women can be set. The proposals made by the committee are specific to the banking sector but a few of them are relevant to others too. So they may be extended with benefit to other sectors, perhaps with appropriate modifications. That makes them more important.