Women in the Social Sector: Challenges and Triumphs

| 7 March, 2024
Women in the Social Sector: Challenges and Triumphs
Published: 07 March, 2024
Women in the Social Sector: Challenges and Triumphs


Women have been the pillars of strength in the realm of the social sector. Dr. Kiran Bedi, Aruna Roy, and Sudha Murthy are just a few of them who have led initiatives throughout the country and brought forth transformative change in society. However, their journey has not been simple. It is marked by both challenges and triumphs. This blog will delve into this landscape, shedding light on their pivotal role in social work, the obstacles they have encountered, and how they achieved progress in society.

The Crucial Role of Women in the Social Sector:

Women have always played a critical role in society, whether it be in families, raising children, health, education, community building, politics, or the social sector. Working for causes such as education, gender equality, healthcare, and community development, women have been natural leaders in social work practice due to their innate soft skills, such as empathy, resilience, and commitment to the cause. Women have driven several initiatives that address complex social issues, such as the upliftment of marginalised communities, by working at the grassroots level and advocating policy changes benefiting the people directly.

Challenges Faced by Women in the Social Sector:

Nevertheless, there are several barriers that women face in the field of social sector preventing them from advancing their careers. Gender prejudice and discrimination in society have hampered women from holding leadership, and decision-making positions. The burden of juggling job and family obligations only makes this worse. It is also observed that caregiving responsibilities are mostly given to women rather than management tasks. Lack of institutional support, funding constraints, and inadequate resources also exacerbate the struggles of women in the social sector..

Navigating the Complexities of Social Work Practice with Women:

Women are generally frontline workers in the social sector. They provide essential services and support the vulnerable populations. Their work has been fostering positive change, such as empowering women through skill-building programs, advocating for women’s rights, and counselling survivors of domestic violence. However, cultural norms that perpetuate gender inequality and inhibit women’s agency are barriers that women have had to navigate to advance in the social sector.. Women can challenge this existing power structure and promote inclusivity and social justice by adopting a feminist approach to social work practice.

Celebrating Triumphs and Resilience:

Despite facing a myriad of challenges, women in the social sector have achieved remarkable triumphs and created a lasting impact.. Their strong drive to bring meaningful change has inspired others through resilience, determination, and unwavering commitment. Women have played diverse roles in advancing the goals of the social sector, from grassroots organisers and community leaders to policymakers and advocates. Their contribution is essential in building resilient communities and encouraging a more equitable and inclusive society. There have been countless women leaders in the social sector, but some of them have helped millions prosper through their work.

  1. Aruna Roy: She has led the charge in efforts for the rights of underprivileged and marginalised groups. Additionally, she served as the spokesperson for the 2005 Right to Information Act, which was approved by the Indian parliament. Having worked strenuously for the people over the years, she is the president of the National Federation of Indian Women and the founder of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan.
  2. Dr. Kiran Bedi: She is the first Indian and the first woman to be appointed as the head of the United Nations Police and the United Nations Department of Peace Operations. She is the founder of Navjyoti India Foundation, which addresses drug abuse issues in various parts of Delhi. She also set up the India Vision Foundation in 1994, working in the field of police reforms, women empowerment, and rural and community development.
  3. Rohini Nilekani: She is the founder of Araghyam, a non-profit organisation that focuses on water and sanitation issues, and she also chairs the Akshara foundation which works on providing primary education to all. A philanthropist by nature, she is the chairperson of Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies.
  4. Sudha Murthy: She is the chairperson of the Infosys foundation which contributes through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Infosys foundation has built over 2300 houses in flood-affected areas of the country as well as contributing to building libraries and sanitation facilities. She also works for rural empowerment and upliftment of women.

The Role of Education and Training in Empowering Women in the Social Sector:

Education and training play an important role in empowering women in the social sector. Courses such as the Post Graduate Program in Development Management (PGP-DM) from ISDM not only provide comprehensive training to women but also equip them with policy analysis, leadership skills, knowledge, and tools to address complex societal changes effectively.. Moreover, to foster gender equality in the social sector, it is essential to promote initiatives that encourage women’s participation in decision-making processes and the development of women in this field. Women in the social sector have been inspiring others through mentorship activities such as webinars, talks, and displays of work on various social platforms. This not only encourages other women to pursue a career in social work but also promotes the social sector.

Creating a Supportive Ecosystem for Women in Social Work:

Creating an ecosystem that addresses the unique needs and challenges of women is imperative to truly harness their potential in the social sector.. This ecosystem is largely created by developing venues where women's perspectives are respected and heard, by offering networking and mentoring opportunities, and by advocating for gender-responsive policy. Destroying obstacles and paving the way for women to succeed in the social sector also requires funding the advancement of women leaders and promoting gender-inclusive policies. Diversity plays a major role in this context; bringing varied opinions and perspectives into the culture helps organisations make better-informed decisions regarding issues that they face. It also fosters innovation and creates an inclusive ecosystem for everyone to share their thoughts and visions.


Women are an indispensable part of the social sector, driving change and advancing social justice. Despite the difficulties, their tenacity, will, and dedication to improving communities worldwide serve as an example to all. By tackling systemic hurdles, supporting gender equality, and investing in women's education and leadership development, we can create a more fair and inclusive social sector where women's contributions are acknowledged, recognised, and celebrated.


They are the drivers of social justice, serving as catalysts for change in the social sector. Women contribute in several areas in the social sector, such as poverty alleviation, promoting gender equality, healthcare, education, and community development. Women bring unique perspectives and innovative solutions to address complex social problems with their empathy, resilience, and dedication. They drive sustainable development, advocate for inclusive policies, and empower marginalised communities through their leadership.

A few of the difficulties faced by women in the social sector include discrimination, restricted access to leadership positions, and unequal compensation when compared to their male colleagues. Women are disproportionately burdened with fulfilling society's expectations and striking a balance between job and family life. Additionally, the lack of adequate support systems and opportunities further hinders their development. Implementing policies that support work-life balance, providing mentorship and networking opportunities, and promoting gender equality are some systematic changes that can address these challenges.

Transparent recruitment and promotion, as well as gender-sensitive policies and practices, are necessary for all organisations. To support their career advancement, it is also crucial to provide mentorship and opportunities for professional development. Family-friendly policies and work-life balance through flexible schedules are also important to foster a supportive work environment. Promoting inclusivity, with efforts to challenge stereotypes, is required to evolve societal attitudes towards gender roles. Eliminating gender-based discrimination and promoting gender equality is essential for creating a more equitable social sector.

Supporting initiatives that address gender-based challenges, mentoring women who aspire to enter the social sector, advocating for gender equality in your community and workplace, and volunteering with organisations that focus on women's empowerment and gender equality, are some ways you can support women in the social sector. Amplifying the voices of women leaders can contribute to meaningful change by participating in discussions and events focussed on women's issues, which can also support women in the social sector.

Implementing equal pay policies and flexible working arrangements to accommodate caregiving responsibilities can support and empower women working in the social sector. Training specifically tailored to women’s needs and providing opportunities for professional development can also empower women to advance in their careers. Maintaining, developing, and elevating female talent in the social sector can be greatly aided by an inclusive workplace culture where women feel acknowledged, respected, and valued. It is also necessary that women in the workplace feel heard and their opinions are taken into account while making decisions.

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