On March 21, 2013, India’s normally slow-moving Parliament passed a bill on crimes against women—this just three months after the horrific gang rape death that re-energized the women’s rights movement in the country.
Abuse against women is nothing new in India, but what made this case different is it entered the public conversation as deeper forces of change where afoot lead by the Millennial generation. In our Athena study, 61% of Millennial Indians said that, on the whole, they were dissatisfied with the conduct of men in my country today, compared to 41% of men and 50% of all adults. In a country where 50% of the population is under 25 years old, these double digit gaps in opinion could be the harbinger of hopeful change in the attitudes towards women.
These attitudinal changes aren’t found in statistics alone. We spent time on the ground interviewing some of the new social and economic leaders of India. We spoke with Anand Shah, who in the mid-2000’s launched a program to bring non-resident Indians to India to volunteer, modeled on Americorps. He found that much of the Indian diaspora around the world was very interested in getting involved in their native country because of the energy and possibility that was available in the world’s largest democracy.
Anand's work is representative of the shifting attitudes in India. He created a technology-focused franchising system (think: water ATMs) to bring clean water to the rural villages of India. Having heard enough promises from the government about future massive clean water infrastructure projects that just weren’t happening, his firm took a different approach, supplying the technology but requiring investment from franchisees.
Anand’s leadership model is based on planning for the future, collaboration, patience and passion. All of these are feminine traits, as we discovered in our survey. His joint-partnership model exemplifies to the shift in the mindset of Indian Millennials: don’t depend on the government to make changes, take the country’s future into your own hands.
As Anand and his generation continues to assert their attitudes into the general discourse, we can expect to see more innovation, more new ways of thinking and societal progress particularly when it comes to the rights of women.
In this new world, people are deploying feminine thinking and values to make their lives, and the world better. It is our belief that we foster equality and progress when we all think beyond gender, and the best way to advocate for the rights of women and girls, is when men model their approach.