The country’s first all-women 'Bharatiya Mahila Bank', headed by a woman - Usha Ananthasubramanian, came into existence on 19th November, coinciding with the 96th birthday of former Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi.
Inaugurating the first of its seven branches at a glittering function in Mumbai - the commercial capital of India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stressed the point that much more was needed to be done for women empowerment and also for ensuring their safety. He said, ‘It is an acknowledged fact that access to finance and banking not only helps to empower women, but also broadens the social base of development'.
It is interesting to note that ‘Bharatiya Mahila Bank' is the first public sector bank which has been created. As we know, all other public sector banks of the country have been founded first by individuals and nationalized afterwards by the central government. This is a unique bank which will predominantly cater to the needs and requirements of women. With headquarters in Delhi, the bank plans to have 25 branches in different parts of the country by the end of this financial year and 75 branches each year thereafter.
Undoubtedly, it is a novel and pioneering initiative in Indian banking space which has been witness to variety of changes during the long intervening period since nationalisation of banks in 1969 to date.
So far as women representation in Indian banks is concerned, although it registered improvement to some extent during last few years, yet the gender mismatch is still noticeably high, particularly in Govt. run banks. As per a report, the percentage of female workforce in PSU banks is as low as 17% even after 44 long years of nationalisation of 14 major banks with an aim to make this most important financial sector an agent of social change in the country. If we see this figure of 17% in the light of government policies and pronouncements regarding women empowerment vis-à-vis availability of large number of well-educated woman population across the country, the real issue can be analysed and accordingly addressed on priority.
Nonetheless, it is encouraging to see women occupying top positions both in public as well as private sector banks in growing numbers. Presently, we have as many as four women career bankers as the head of four state-run banks namely, State Bank of India, Bank of India, United Bank of India, and Allahabad Bank. Many women are also working in very senior positions such as executive directors and general managers in PSU banks. Yes, the number of woman work force in private banks are much higher- it's more than 30% of total employees in ICICI Bank with Chanda Kochhar as its Managing Director and CEO.
It is hoped that more number of woman will make their way to occupy positions at all levels not only in banking sector but also in other financial sectors in coming days.
Milan K. Sinha has worked in senior positions in financial sector for three decades following three years of active writing in various newspapers and magazines. A post graduate in Chemistry from Patna University and also a graduate with Economics. Presently, besides being a freelance writer/a regular contributor to newspapers and magazines, also engaged as a Stress Management, Lifestyle Management and Wellness consultant, Motivational Speaker and Awareness campaigner.