Janet is the owner of Federal Concrete, Inc., a union concrete construction company that is signatory to the New England Carpenters, Laborers and Ironworkers. Janet represented union contractors on the trip (and in many other venues in Massachusetts!). Below are her thoughts on the Delegation and our time in India.
India was an amazing and dynamic place! The food, scenery, culture, and people were a sensory overload of sights, sounds and tastes. The hospitality we received from the Indian people was some of the kindest, generous and genuine I’ve ever encountered. Our hosts added rich narratives of Indian history and explained cultural norms and political positions. The time spent discussing gender equality and public policy issues amongst the delegation and with our hosts was an enlightening experience.
Governments tend to pass policies and regulations with honorable intentions, but often fall short in implementation. Some in government continue the practice of discrimination for expediency or other reasons which have a chilling effect on those who have the courage to speak in opposition. The similarities between our two countries in terms of persistent and ongoing discrimination is profound.
India is reminiscent of the pre-unionized era when workers were exploited with low wages and poor and unsafe conditions. Indian women experience the same type of wage inequality for equal work as many of their American female counterparts. Sexism is a barrier to entry, skills and opportunity. Upward mobility for Indian women is limited. Leadership opportunities are not possible due to male dominance in the industry. Passing laws without implementation or enforcement is a futile endeavor. Cultural norms need to be changed. Attitudes towards female aptitudes need to be reconstructed. The situation in India, and American, reinforces the need for both workforce goals and subcontracting requirements to provide increased opportunities for females.
Women should celebrate each other and embrace our similarities and differences. We need to champion others to increase the numbers of women in leadership positions. A collective voice is stronger in unison. Marching together at the Taj Mahal during the Women’s March in solidarity with ourselves and our sisters globally was a meaningful experience. Reading the newspapers the following day and hearing the number of women who participated was encouraging. Together we can make a change.
I departed Indian with a new-found appreciation for what it means to be privileged and have been changed by the experience. With knowledge and power comes the ability to spark change and provide opportunity for others. I am honored to have had the opportunity to spend time in India to learn and listen with such a talented group of people.