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Marginal Representation of Women in Politics and Bureaucracy


Due to social factors like being assigned to distant cadres, patriarchal conditioning, and the need to balance family obligations, women frequently choose to leave the civil service.


GS Paper-1: Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

Mains Question

What social factors influence women’s decision to leave the civil service? Give suitable examples to help your explanation be more understandable. (150 words).

Key Points

  • The IMF expects India’s economy to grow at a rate of 6.8% this year, compared to 1.6% for the US, making it one of the fastest-growing in the world.
    • It is also predicted to become the third-largest economy in the world by 2030, behind only the US and China.
    • Women’s participation in India’s economy, politics, and society has not kept pace with the country’s economic growth.
  • Recent elections in India have shown a striking contrast. The female voter turnout has increased in the country. The number of female voters increased in seven out of the eight states where elections were held in 2022.
    • Despite the fact that this sounds encouraging, the rising percentage of women voters in local, state, and general elections has not led to an increase in the number of female candidates.

Women’s Political Participation

  • According to data compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), women make up 14.44% of the Lok Sabha in India.
    • According to data from the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) most recent report, as of October 2021, women made up 10.5% of all members of parliament.
    • For all the state assemblies, female MLAs’ representation stands at an average of 9 per cent.
  • In recent years, India’s position has slipped in this category. At the moment, it trails Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal.
    • According to data for May 2022, women made up 20% of the population in Pakistan, 21% in Bangladesh, and 34% in Nepal.
  • Since Independence, women’s representation in Lok Sabha has not even increased by 10 per cent.

Women’s Participation in Bureaucracy

  • Indian women are underrepresented in bureaucracy. Numerous positions in the public sector at the federal level and in states must now allow free applications from female candidates due to low female participation.
  • Despite this, as per Indian Administrative Services (IAS) data and the central government’s employment census of 2011, less than 11 per cent of its total employees were women.
  • In 2020, this reached 13 per cent. In actuality, only 1,527 of the 11,569 IAS officers who entered service between 1951 and 2020 were female.
    • In addition, only 14% of IAS Secretaries in 2022 were female. In all Indian states and union territories, there are only three female chief secretaries.
    • A female cabinet secretary has never existed in India. There haven’t ever been any female secretaries of the home, finances, defence, or personnel.

Amazing Contrast

  • In 2019, there were approximately 367,086 applications from women for the UPSC examination, but only 177,611 women actually took the exam, according to the most recent official data from the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC).
    • Only 1,534 women out of the total number of test takers qualified. In contrast, 768,175 male applicants submitted exam applications during the same time period, but only 390,671 of them actually took the test.
    • In addition, female candidates are more likely than male candidates to request a voluntary separation from the military.
  • These figures reveal a startling disparity between male and female participation. Furthermore, female candidates are more likely than male candidates to request a voluntary separation from the military.

Initial Challenges

  • The main obstacles to women’s empowerment are structural limitations that make it difficult for them to enlist in the armed forces.
  • These barriers include patriarchal conditioning, service requirements that require postings in rural areas, and juggling family obligations with the demands of the job.
  • These social factors frequently lead to women leaving the civil services. Furthermore, it is widely believed that women are more suitable for “soft” ministries like social welfare, culture, women’s issues, and child development.


  • It is clear from a cursory examination of other sectors that the situation is equally dire. Only 20.37 percent of MSME owners are women, and only 10 percent of startups are founded by women.
  • Only 23.3 percent of women are employed in the workforce, though it can be difficult to measure their participation.
    • The majority of data on India’s female labour force that is currently available do not take into account the unpaid work that women frequently perform.
  • In addition, women frequently fail to recognise their work as work. This topic emphasises the value of female financial and academic literacy.

December 2023