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Most Indians believe a woman’s sole purpose in life is to be a good wife and mother

indian woman wife mother
AP Photo/Anupam Nath
“We pretend we can have it all.”
  • Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Familial duties are holding back India’s working women.

Some 64% of Indians think that the main job of women is to be good mothers and wives, according to an Ipsos Global Trends Survey 2017 that polled 18,180 adults across 22 countries. The country ranks third in having traditional views about women’s roles after Indonesia and Russia.

More Indian women are seeking careers and work outside the home, “but society sees them more as accomplished mothers and wives in a primary role, relegating other roles to secondary positions,” says Parijat Chakraborty, the executive director at Ipsos Public Affairs, a public opinion research firm. “Indian women cannot be seen shirking from domestic duties and winning accolades at work—at the cost of neglecting the primary role that society has deemed on them.”

Most Indian working women, 76.7%, are married. That’s mainly because of a culture that has long encouraged early marriage, often arranged by families; on average, men and women in India get married at 22.8 years of age, among the world’s lowest. Asia’s third-largest economy also has the world’s highest number of child brides.

Working is regarded as a tradeoff from home duties, even for women who are high achievers. PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi recently told the Atlantic, ”We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all. But if you ask our daughters, I’m not sure they will say that I’ve been a good mom. I’m not sure. And I try all kinds of coping mechanisms.”

Nooyi uses her home and office network to manage her family life. When her daughter called her office to ask for permission to play Nintendo when she was traveling abroad, her secretary asked the daughter a series of questions in order to grant permission. “It’s seamless parenting,” Nooyi says. “But if you don’t do that, I’m serious, if you don’t develop mechanisms with your secretaries, with the extended office, with everybody around you, it cannot work.”

Men have been taking on more domestic chores. Globally, 69% of people think that men take greater responsibility for the home and children than ever before and India leads in that transition, with 81% believing that men and women are now sharing more home duties.

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