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Banking on equality women, work and employment in the banking sector in india


Banking on Equality

It may well be surprising to say that the world should look to India as a model
of gender equality. India’s banking sector proves the exception, with several
women reaching the highest positions in India’s top banks, including the
country’s largest bank.
Based on interviews and surveys of bank employees in India’s National Capital
Region, this book looks at what lies behind the media rhetoric and provides
a systematic analysis of patterns of, and responses to, gender inequality in the
banking sector in India. The book uncovers how gender discrimination still
persists in the banking sector, albeit in covert forms. Through a comparison
of nationalized, Indian private and foreign banks, the book demonstrates how
the impact of laws, local cultural norms and gendered workplace practices are
mediated through different organizational forms in these different types of banks
to create varied experiences of gender inequality.
The book is one of the first books to provide a thorough, in-depth analysis
of women’s employment in the Indian banking sector, currently an underresearched area.
Supriti Bezbaruah is an independent researcher based in Singapore. She has
a PhD in Geography from Queen Mary, University of London; a BA (Hons)
degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) from the University of

Oxford; and an MSc in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). She has previously worked with the United
Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in India, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in the United Kingdom and the Institute of Southeast Asian
Studies (ISEAS) in Singapore. Her research interests are centred on gender and
development issues, with a particular focus on South Asia.


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104

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121

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135

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141

Banking on Equality
Women, work and
employment in the banking
sector in India
Supriti Bezbaruah


Banking on Equality
Women, work and employment
in the banking sector in India
Supriti Bezbaruah


First published 2015
by Routledge
2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN
and by Routledge
711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017
Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group,
an informa business
© 2015 Supriti Bezbaruah
The right of Supriti Bezbaruah to be identified as author of this
work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright,
Designs and Patent Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or
reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical,
or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including
photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or
retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.
Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks
or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and
explanation without intent to infringe.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Bezbaruah, Supriti.
Banking on equality : women, work and employment in the
banking sector in India / Supriti Bezbaruah.
pages cm. — (Routledge studies in the modern world
economy; 139)
1. Women bank employees—India. 2. Banks and banking—
India. 3. Discrimination in employment—India. 4. Sex
discrimination—India. I. Title.
HD6073.B272I434 2015
331.4′8133210954—dc23
2014041630
ISBN: 978-1-138-77833-7 (hbk)
ISBN: 978-1-315-71354-0 (ebk)
Typeset in Galliard
by Apex CoVantage, LLC


To Ila and Ava


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Contents

List of figures
List of tables
Acknowledgements
List of abbreviations

xvi
xvii
xviii
xxi

1

Introduction

2

Gender at work: theorizing gender inequality
in the workplace

16

Women’s employment in the banking sector:
an overview

32

Encouraging equality or denying discrimination?
Gendered patterns of work and employment in
the banking sector in India

51

The importance of being respectable: the
impact of local cultural norms on patterns
of gender equality

83

3
4

5

6
7
8

1

Explaining gender inequalities in the Indian
banking sector: the role of institutional factors

108

Challenging or coping? Women’s responses to
gender inequalities in the Indian banking sector

123

Conclusion

150

Appendix
Bibliography
Index

159
162
189


Figures

3.1

3.2
3.3

3.4
3.5
4.1
4.2
4.3
4.4
4.5
4.6
5.1
5.2

Female LFPR (percent ages 15 and older), 2012,
South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC),
BRIC and MINT economies
Trends in female LFPRs, 1993–1994 to 2011–2012
Trends in women’s employment in financing, insurance,
real estate and business services in the organized sector,
1991–2010
Major phases in the evolution of commercial banking in India
Structure of scheduled commercial banks in India
Representation of women employees in banks by staff
category, 2013
Changes in the share of female employees in the banking
sector, by staff category, all India, 1996–2013
Gender distribution of employees by status in a
nationalized bank, 2008
Gender distribution of employees by status in a
foreign bank, 2009
Daily working hours reported by women employees,
by bank category
Incidence of sexual harassment reported by women
employees, by type
Association of banking with respectability
Percentage of women employees prioritizing family over career

33
34

38
42
45
52
53
55
55
67
79
88
93


Tables

3.1
3.2 (a)
3.2 (b)
4.1
7.1
7.2

LFPR and WFPR (per 1,000), all ages, 2011–2012
Percentage of women as a share of total employees
by bank type, all India, 1996
Percentage of women as a share of total employees
by bank type, all India, 2013
Job profiling by gender
Reasons provided for not using laws, in order of importance
Classification of women’s responses to gender inequalities
in work and employment in the banking sector in India

34
39
40
56
130
146


Acknowledgements

This book is the result of research conducted for my PhD from Queen Mary,
University of London. First of all, therefore, a special thanks goes to my PhD
supervisor, Dr Cathy McIlwaine, for her tremendous encouragement, support
and patience throughout the PhD. She went out of her way to help me through
difficult personal circumstances, without which I would not have been able
to complete my PhD. After the PhD, without Cathy’s guidance through the
process of submitting a book proposal, this book would not have been written. Many thanks also go to my second supervisor, Dr Al James, for patiently
reading numerous drafts of my thesis and providing clear, insightful comments.
I am most grateful to my thesis examiners, Professor Diane Perrons and Dr
Glyn Williams, for their incisive comments on my thesis. Their suggestion that
I should publish my findings gave me the inspiration to write this book.
In India, I am thankful to all the participants in this research study. Although
they must remain anonymous, I thank them for generously sparing time in their
busy lives to share their thoughts and insights and disclosing personal and sensitive information. I have thoroughly enjoyed my interactions with them and have
learnt a lot from them. I am also very grateful to all the people, both working
in banks and in general, who helped me with gaining access to my research
participants. Without their help, the research would have been impossible.
I acknowledge the support of the following organizations for allowing me
access to their documents and library facilities: the Confederation of Indian
Industry (CII); the Council for Social Development; the Centre for Women’s
Development Studies (CWDS); the Indian Banks Association (IBA); the National
Commission for Women (NCW); the National University of Singapore (NUS);
Queen Mary, University of London; and the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), New Delhi. The Asia Research Institute (ARI) deserves
a special mention for accepting me as a visiting affiliate, providing me with the
necessary research environment when I was writing my thesis. Also, I thank the
members of the Department of Geography at the NUS for opening their doors
to me and making me feel like a part of their research community.
I would like to especially acknowledge Dr Tracey Skelton, Dr Lee Poh Onn
and Dr Lata Narayanaswamy for their friendship and support. My discussions
about gender equality over numerous dinners with Tracey helped shape many


Acknowledgements xix
aspects of this book. Poh Onn patiently read through several drafts of my
thesis and helped me prepare for my viva, while Lata was my sounding board
throughout, never failing to be a source of encouragement and advice, not to
mention useful research articles. I am also grateful for the advice provided by
Menusha, Kanchan and Kamal.
The University of London Central Research Fund provided assistance for this
study by financing part of the costs of the fieldwork, for which I am very grateful.
At Routledge, I would like to thank Barry Clarke and Yongling Lam for
believing in my proposal and giving me the opportunity to write this book.
Like the women in this book, I too relied on a combination of domestic help
and support from family to complete this book. Thanks to Daisy, Doris, Yalin,
Clara and Masropah, for taking over the cleaning, cooking and babysitting so
I could concentrate on my research and writing.
I wish to thank my family and friends for their support and encouragement.
Thank you to Pitu da, for all your help and for putting up with my endless
queries. Juri and Ashok provided a base for me to stay while in Delhi. Going
back to listen to my nephew Shiv’s endless chatter provided a welcome respite
from the rigours of fieldwork. Thanks to Nagitha, for being the uncle helping
out when I was alone with Ila in London, and to Sara for cupcakes and support
to help me get past those difficult early months after Ava was born.
I also want to acknowledge my friends who have had to listen to my endless
stressing and cheered me along every step of the way: Albane, Andrea, Eugenie,
Priya, Lia, Jessica, Uroosa, Sonal, Jake and Lisa. Thanks to my mother’s group –
Mirjana, Sue – Ann, Georgia, Angela, Cecila, Nicola and Leisha for providing
much needed adult company and conversation. In London, I want to thank
Andrew, Chui-Lyn, Mamon, Vivek and Melissa for opening up their homes for
me to stay. Fabian, Fuchu, Tumpi, Abhi, and Melanie were my extended family
in London, from airport pick-ups to doing the groceries; thank you especially
for being there during that difficult time of Ila’s illness.
Thank you to Shannen Oh for your quiet and efficient support, without
which writing this book would have been much harder. Thanks also to Vanessa
for helping with all the tabulations and formatting, and Angie for sorting out
print-outs and photocopies whenever I needed them.
A special thanks to my parents, Madan and Anuradha Bezbaruah, for always
being there for me. My father, through his constant support for my education
and career, is an example to us all that men can be feminists too (even though
he may not realize he is). He has been part of this book every step of the way.
My mother stayed up nights – first, to look after both my babies, and then, to
read my drafts – so that I could focus on the book without any worries. My
journey to the PhD and this book would never have started if she hadn’t been
there to teach me the first steps of reading and writing.
I am also fortunate to have wonderful in-laws, Gamini and Sepalika Kumarasinghe. They have welcomed me into their lives and helped in every way
possible, from babysitting, making photocopies, and driving me to libraries, to
cooking meals in order that I could finish this book on time.


xx

Acknowledgements

To my husband, Chanaka, without whom none of this would have happened.
Thank you for pushing me to write this book in the first place and for not
letting me give up when things got tough. As you know, in many ways, you
have been an example for this book.
Finally, to my daughters, Ila and Ava. Without them, this book would have
been written in much shorter time, and with far less stress, but would not have
been so meaningful. I hope by the time they grow up, gender equality at work
will no longer be a topic that will be relevant.


Abbreviations

AIBEA
AIBOA
AIBOC
AITUC
BMS
BPO
BRIC
CEO
CII
CITU
CR
CV
EEOC
EU
FIR
FTSE
GDP
HDFC
HMS
HR
HSBC
IBA
ICFTU
ICP
ICT
IDFC
ILO
INTUC
ISCO
ISIC
IT
LFPR
MBA

All India Bank Employees Association
All India Bank Officers’ Association
All India Bank Officers’ Confederation
All India Trade Union Congress
Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh
Business Process Outsourcing
Brazil, Russia, India and China
Chief Executive Officer
Confederation of Indian Industry
Centre of Indian Trade Unions
Confidential Report
Curriculum Vitae
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
European Union
First Information Report
Financial Times Stock Exchange
Gross Domestic Product
Housing Development Finance Corporation Limited
Hind Mazdoor Sabha
Human Resources
Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited
Indian Banks Association
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions
International Comparison Program
Information and Communications Technology
Infrastructure Development Finance Company
International Labour Organization
Indian National Trade Union Congress
International Standard Classification of Occupations
International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic
Activities
Information Technology
Labour Force Participation Rate
Master of Business Administration


xxii

Abbreviations

MINT
MNC
NASSCOM
NCBE
NCR
NCW
NSS
PPP
RBI
SAARC
UFBU
UK
UP
UPS
UPSS
US
VRS
WFPR
WPR

Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey
Multinational Corporation
National Association of Software and Services Companies
National Confederation of Bank Employees
National Capital Region
National Commission for Women
National Sample Survey
Purchasing Power Parity
Reserve Bank of India
South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
United Forum of Bank Unions
United Kingdom
Uttar Pradesh
Usual Principal Status
Usual Principal and Subsidiary Status
United States
Voluntary Retirement Scheme
Workforce Participation Rate
Worker Population Ratio


1

Introduction

In New York and London, women remain scarce among top bankers despite
decades of struggle to climb the corporate ladder. But in India’s relatively young
financial industry, women not only are some of the top deal makers, they are often
running the show.
(Timmons, 2010: 11)
In some ways, 2013 was a grim year for women in India as a spate of gang rapes
and sexual assaults tarnished the country’s reputation. But in one area it actually
extended its position as an improbable world leader for gender equality: banking. . . . The country has enjoyed a remarkable success in becoming, by some
measures, the best place in the world to be a senior female banker.
(Crabtree, 2014)
. . . few women still break through the glass ceiling in India. The women professionals who have succeeded are still the exceptions. For every one of them, there
are many who were pushed out, pushed down or voluntarily gave up because they
could not be super women.
(Sharma, 2013)
. . . India’s profusion of senior female bankers disguises a much less rosy picture in
lower levels of management. Roughly half of the annual intake of trainee bankers
at institutions like SBI are women, but only a tiny fraction make it to the executive
suite. Some in the industry worry that the shattering of India’s banking glass ceiling is more a trick of the light than a permanent breakthrough.
(Crabtree, 2014)

Hardly a day goes by without a story in the news about women leaders in the
banking sector in India. Images of these successful, confident Indian women, a
far cry from the usual stereotypical image of Indian women as poor, oppressed
victims of male subordination, first sparked my interest in the banking sector
in India. I began my research into the experiences of women working in the
Indian banking sector to properly understand the reality behind the various,
and at times contradictory, reports on what the experiences of these women are.


2

Introduction

In the broader context, what made my research more compelling was its
global backdrop. The growth of women’s employment, especially in services,
has been a worldwide phenomenon: in 2008, women accounted for 40 percent
of all employed people worldwide, of whom almost half (46.9 percent) were
employed in services (ILO, 2010: 3–5).1 The increase in women’s employment is
tied to structural shifts in the world economy away from manufacturing towards
services and knowledge-based production, as well as the emergence of the new
economy2 underpinned by advances in information and communications technologies (ICTs) (Castells, 1996; Coyle, 1997; Perrons, 2004). Scholars argue
that women have benefited from the accompanying expansion of employment
opportunities in the services sector, including financial services such as banking, as supposedly feminine attributes such as teamwork, caring, serving and
communication are increasingly valued (Bradley et al., 2000; McDowell, 1997;
Reich, 2001). The Economist (2009) in a news article chronicling the rise of
women’s employment in the last 50 years stated, ‘When brute strength mattered more than brains, men had an inherent advantage. Now that brainpower
has triumphed the two sexes are more evenly matched.’
Despite the consequent narrowing of the gender gap in labour force participation rates (LFPRs), studies find that the ‘gender revolution’ remains incomplete
(Perrons, 2009: 2). Wage disparities between men and women persist – in the
European Union, in 2007, women still earned an average of 15 percent less
than men for every hour worked (ILO, 2009: 17). In the United States (US),
even after the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was passed, in 2010, women earned on
average, 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. That this pay gap has remained
largely stagnant for this century, narrowing by less than half a cent every year,
is a matter of concern (National Committee on Pay Equity, 2014). Women’s
employment worldwide may have increased, but they remain over-represented
in part-time and informal sector work (McDowell, 1997; Perrons et al., 2006),
as seen in the United Kingdom (UK) where 40 percent of women work parttime (Perrons, 2009: 3).
As more and more women obtain higher educational qualifications, they have
entered previously male-dominated professional occupations, such as banking,
law and medicine, in unprecedented numbers (McDowell, 1999; Perrons, 2009).
In the UK, for example, females now comprise just over half of the workforce in
the financial services sector (Ogden, McTavish and McKean, 2006: 40). Despite
attaining educational levels similar to men, progress towards equal representation
at the senior most positions has been slow. A study published in 2001 found
that women’s share of positions at the top worldwide was between 2 and 3
percent (Wirth, 2001: 25). Almost a decade later, there has been little change –
the World Economic Forum’s Corporate Gender Gap Report in 2010 found
from their survey of more than 600 companies that the number of women
chief executive officers (CEOs) was slightly less than 5 percent (WEF, 2010: 5).
In 1994, at the current levels of vertical segregation, it was estimated that ‘it
will be 475 years before women reach equality in the executive suite’ (Izraeli
and Adler, 1994: 7). More recently, a report from the World Economic Forum


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