Motherhood+Public Power in India


How many of the 160 most powerful jobs in India are held by women with children?

Just seven (4%) according to the Motherhood + Public Power Index, the world’s only measure of the proportion of women with children among the most powerful leaders across government, business, and universities, and among billionaires.

This is in stark contrast to the number of top jobs that are held by fathers in India – 146 (91%).

Of the four sectors measured by the Motherhood+Public Power Index, government and universities score highest in promoting women with children into the top jobs in India, but the rates are still extremely low.

Women with children account for just two (5%) of the top 40 government jobs and run two (5%) of the top 40 universities. The business sector scores the lowest, with just one mother among the top 40 CEOs. Women with children account for just two (5%) of the top 40 billionaires in India.

Fathers do much better. Men with children hold 85% of the top government jobs, run 93% of the most powerful companies, and lead 93% of the highest ranked universities. 90% of the richest billionaires in India are men with children.

The conclusion could not be clearer – mothers are dramatically underrepresented in the halls of power in India, while fathers are overrepresented. Having children is clearly a barrier to public power and influence for only one gender.

In fact, if India had the same proportion of mothers leading the most powerful institutions as they do in the population (40%), we would expect to see women with children in 64 positions rather than seven.

Where are the missing 57 female leaders and why does this matter?

There are two big reasons to care about the lack of mothers among India’s most powerful leaders. First, the quality of leadership in the second largest nation and the largest democracy in the world matters.

India needs its very best talent at the helm to tackle a raft of economic and social challenges, not just at home, but also in the region and the rest of world, especially now that we have an ambitious new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to achieve by 2030, including ending poverty, child deaths, and gender inequality, among many others.

Evidence suggests that more women in decision making roles can accelerate the achievement of the SDGs, delivering a boost to both economic and social development. This is especially true in India, where women are severely underrepresented in the public sphere. For example, just 24% of women in India are in the labor force according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), one of the lowest proportions of any country and well below the male rate of 79% and the global average of 48%.

But there is another reason, which is much more personal to the 120 million Indian women who are currently in the labor force and to the 380 million who are not. With more mothers in power shaping government, company, and university policies, India can accelerate the transformation of workplaces that is so desperately needed to trigger the next wave of productivity gains and reductions in inequality.

Greater workplace flexibility will not only broaden the talent pool by attracting more women into the workforce but it will also blur the barriers between work and home unleashing efficiencies that will enable India to be more productive.

With more mothers in power, expect to see the next wave of innovations – from artificial intelligence to driverless cars to virtual reality – transforming our homes, workplaces, schools, and cities so that all of us can move more seamlessly between work, home, and school and lead more fulfilling and productive lives.

The 7 most powerful mothers in India: Know Their Names


1. Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of Finance and Minister of Corporate Affairs, Member Rajya Sabha
2. Snehlata Shrivastava, Secretary General Lok Sabha


3. Alice Vaidyan, Chairman-Managing Director, General Insurance Corporation of India


4. Najma Akhtar, Vice Chancellor of the Jamia Millia Islamia
5. Mini Shaji Thomas, Director, National Institute of Technology, Tiruchurappalli


6. Savitri Jindal, Chairperson Emiritus, Jindal Steel & Power Limited
7. Vinod Rai Gupta, Havells India

The Motherhood+Public Power Index is in support of the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, and the UN Secretary-General’s Every Woman, Every Child movement. The Index uses the latest source data from official Government of India websites, the Forbes Global 2000, the World University Rankings 2019, and Forbes Billionaires 2019.

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