Here are the most common fields where women predominate

5 Professions dominated by women

Various studies have shown the uphill struggle women face in India’s workplace. Catalyst, a US-based women-focused nonprofit, says that while Indian women have made great strides in education, their participation in the country’s labour force in 2017 was one of the lowest in the world: 28.5%. For Indian men, the figure was 82%. 

The July 2018 report also argued that the problem began at the hiring stage and continued right up to the top: “the pipeline for women starts small and continues to shrink”. As a result, there were only 104 women on Indian company boards in 2017, accounting for a mere 12.4% of board seats, and just 3.2% of board chairs.

Further narrowing the focus on corporate diversity, a study conducted by leading HR service provider Randstad India found that out of a total of 1039 key management persons in the BSE 100 companies in 2017, only 76 were women, representing 7%.

Yet, despite the bleak picture, women have for long been a strong force in a few select sectors of India’s workforce – dominating some of these, and holding their own in others. Some of these sectors are nursing, primary school teaching, public relations, human resources, and social work. 

Let us look at the situation in these five sectors one by one.


Nursing has to be one of the most low-profile professions in India, despite the fact that it is a vital cog in healthcare – and dominated by women. In the West, a nursing career is known as a ‘pink collar job’, a profession typically associated with women. A review of hospitals in the US says 9 out of 10 nurses (90%) in the country are female; the scenario is no different in India. 

Though a concrete male-female ratio in India’s nursing community is hard to come by, an idea of women’s domination in this area can be had from a June 2016 report in the Indian Express: out of the 1125 total nursing posts at Mumbai’s JJ Hospital, there were only 32 male nurses. And this is at one of India’s more reputable hospitals, given to hiring male nurses; not all hospital and nursing homes are known for that.

And every year, says another report, 3123 institutions across the country churn out 125,764 nurses, adding to the huge number of women joining a profession that constitutes two-thirds of India’s healthcare system.

Primary school teaching

Like nursing, another job that is crucial to building a strong nation, but which seldom gets its due, is that of a primary school teacher. And once again, it is a profession that has seen women holding their own against men. 

This seems to be the trend for several years, and according to ‘Teachers of India’, a platform for teachers funded by the Azim Premji Foundation, this is mainly due to societal values and government policies. It quotes from official data from 2012-13 to show that about 50% of all regular primary school teachers (as opposed to those on contract) were women. The figure tallies with World Bank data, which says the percentage of female teachers in the primary education segment in 2016 stood at 50.74 %, slightly higher than men. 

‘Teachers of India’ also uses data to explain why women are concentrated in primary school teaching; according to it, this is because they are “better able to care for and nurture young children, given their ‘natural’ mothering instinct”. Moreover, the teachers’ group says, teaching young children requires “specialised knowledge and skills”, which women have. 

Public Relations (PR)

Unlike nursing and primary teaching, India’s public relations sector is far from being below-the-radar. In fact, being a part of the communications sector, it is right there in the media glare. Here too, women form a dominant force in terms of numbers. PR is a job that requires communication, multitasking, and nurturing social and corporate relationships, and women are believed to execute these with diligence.

On the flip side, the top management at most PR agencies is usually male, but then, this is true for the rest of the world as well. In a signed article; Jennifer Risi of Ogilvy PR says that worldwide, 70% of PR firms are run by men. In North America, she reckons PR firms have anything between 61% to 85% female professionals.

Human Resources (HR)

Human Resources, or simply ‘HR’, is one managerial job that women are slowly making their own across the globe. In the US, over 60% of managerial posts in HR are held by women, says Business Insider magazine, quoting official data. It’s the general trend globally as well. 

In India, according to the woman-specific website ‘Smart Indian Women’, the sector has been witnessing an influx of women over the years; it reckons that today over 50% of HR jobs in India could be held by women. Unlike in the PR sector, here women enjoy extensive leadership roles, holding “nearly 50% of all HR heads and Vice President’s positions”, the portal says.

So what is that makes women shine in the field of HR? It is generally believed that women have better communication skills than men and adopt a more empathetic approach. “It can be said that women with their sensitive, polite, cooperative, and nurturing attitude justify HR roles to perfection,” writes the admin of Smart Indian Women. “And when it comes to dealing with people, these characteristics make them perfect for the HR industry.”

Social work

Statistics show that women outnumber men in social work, typically regarded as a woman-dominated field and frequently clubbed with other ‘pink collar’ jobs such as nursing and teaching. More than 80% of social workers in the US are now female, reveals data, and the trend is seen in India too.

Of course, men have played leading roles in social work in India and many have reached superstardom status; who can forget Anna Hazare, Baba Amte, or Sundarlal Bahuguna? But then so have women: Aruna Roy, Irom Sharmila, Arundhati Roy, Medha Patkar, Teesta Setalvad, Vandana Shiva – and they are among the better-known activists. But there are others, carrying out their work in different fields, and different lists throw up new names. And by no means are these lists final.  

A big problem in India is the misconception of social work as a profession; many people assume it merely involves working with NGOs as a passion or part-time activity. However, today social work has established itself as a full-fledged career option in India, with job opportunities in the CSR activities of various government and private organisations. 

India’s first management school, IISWBM in Kolkata, which earlier taught corporate responsibility, now offers a two-year full-time degree programme in social welfare, while others such as the Tata Institute of Social Sciences offer Bachelor’s degrees. Girls constitute the bulk of students opting for these courses.

Final words

Despite the findings of the workplace-focused Catalyst that highlight the gender gap in India’s labour force in favour of men, the good news is that more and more women are now in professional careers. According to Archana Bhaskar, HR Directot Shell, “companies have set targets to achieve on women numbers” (hiring).

“There is certainly a positive change for women in India in the workplace,” Bhaskar told the HR Magazine of the Society of Human Resource Management. “There is a gap in the Indian talent market, with significantly more jobs than talented people. Today, women are thought of as great managers, often pursued strongly by search firms.” Given this, one can perhaps safely expect to see more women in more sectors in the not-too-distant future.