Gender inequalities in India’s new service economy: a case study of the banking sector
This study explores women’s experiences of work and employment in the banking sector in India, addressing the paucity of research in this area. The research assesses how the assumptions of theories on gender, work and employment, primarily based on empirical experiences from the Global North can be interpreted in the Indian context. It argues that experiences of gender inequalities are geographically reconfigured in the Indian banking sector through the interplay between gendered organisational practices, local cultural discourses on femininity, institutional factors, particularly government laws and organisational structures. The research draws upon a case study of the banking sector in the National Capital Region (NCR), one of India’s largest consumer financial centres, combining a questionnaire survey of 156 female bank employees with 74 qualitative interviews with female and male bank employees in three types of banks. The study uncovers how gender discrimination, albeit covertly, is widespread in Indian banks. Gendered organisational practices create universal constraints for Indian women’s career development. This study, however, reveals how local cultural discourses on femininity, emphasising respectability and family values lead to distinctively Indian patterns of gender inequalities in the banking sector serving to highlight the intersection of gender with class identities. Crucially, the comparison of government-owned, foreign-owned and Indian private banks demonstrates that local cultural norms and gendered organisational practices are mediated through different organisational structures to create varied experiences of gender discrimination for women in the different banks. Finally, the study provides new conceptual perspectives for addressing the limitations of existing theorisations on gender, work and employment. It develops the concept of ‘family-based femininity’ highlighting the influence of the family in shaping the nature of gender inequalities in the workplace. Where previous typologies focused on resistance in the workplace, this research introduces the notion of ‘compliance in the workplace’, whereby women passively conform to gendered organisational practices, with little intention to create change.
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