Tamil Nadu cities dominate the ‘top cities for women in India’ Inclusivity Index; Southern cities do well overall

The "Top Cities for Women in India (TCWI) in 2023" was unveiled by Chennai-based non-profit Avtar in its second edition.

ByAjay Tomar

Published Feb 16, 2024 | 2:33 PMUpdatedFeb 17, 2024 | 8:06 AM

The study sought the perspectives of employed women on the inclusivity and suitability of their cities for professional life. (Creative Commons)

Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, is India’s “most inclusive city for women”, according to a ranking based on a national survey. Two other South Indian state capitals, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, figure in the top five among 49 cities with a million plus population.

Eight South Indian cities figure in the top 20 in this category: Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Madurai, Vijayawada, Hubli-Dharwad, and Visakhapatnam.

The survey titled “Top Cities for Women in India (TCWI) in 2023” was released by the Chennai-based non-profit Avtar in its second edition.

Tiruchirappalli (Tiruchy) — a six-hour drive from Chennai— earned the distinction of being the most inclusive Tier-2 city with a population of less than 10 lakh.

Among the 64 Tier-2 cities with a population under a million in India surveyed, 21 are from Southern states — nine from Tamil Nadu, four from Karnataka, two each from Telugu states Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, and Puducherry.

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Where do Southern cities stand?

In the “population over one million” category, Chennai led the charge with a City Inclusion Score (CIS) of 48.2, followed by Bengaluru with a CIS score of 43.53. Interestingly, both cities were ranked at the same spot in Avtar’s 2022 report as well.

Top Cities for Women in India 2023. (South First)

Top Cities for Women in India 2023. (South First)

Pune (43.50) and Mumbai (40.64) in Maharashtra claimed the third and fourth spots, respectively.

Telangana’s capital, Hyderabad, secured the fifth position with a CIS of 39.58.

Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu rounded off the five Tier-1 Southern cities in the top 10, boasting a CIS score of 28.66.

While four cities from southern states fall in the top ten, a total of eight figure into top 20.

These include Tamil Nadu’s Madurai (11th spot), Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada (13th) and Visakhapatnam (16th), and Karnataka’s Hubli Dharwad (15th) also are among 8 South Indian cities.

In the “population under one million” category, five Tier-2 cities from Tamil Nadu dominated. While Tiruchirappalli  and Vellore were positioned first and second, respectively, with a CIS of 40.39 and 38.22, Salem (36.69), Erode (36.02) and Tiruppur (36.01) secured the sixth, seventh, and eighth spots, respectively.

Two Tier-2 cities from neighbouring Kerala — Kochi and state capital Thiruvananthapuram — stood third and fourth on the list with a CIS of 37.62 and 37.46, respectively.

Puducherry, one of the eight Union Territories (UT) in India, finished at the tenth position with a CIS 34.41.

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Voices of women from the South

Upon engaging in Focused Group Discussions (FGDs) across various cities, the study thoughtfully captured the perspectives of women. Some lauded their cities as safe havens, while others highlighted existing challenges.

A woman in Hyderabad narrated her experience of searching for a rented house during the FGD, “Being a single woman is a taboo, I guess. But I found a house owner who is good and welcoming. So I am in a good space right now. But yes, I do think about what would happen to a woman who is earning less.”

Another woman from Vishakapatnam, a coastal city in Andhra Pradesh’s said, “I have observed that everywhere you go, there are policepersons even after 10:00 pm and there is security for women and children in the night.”

Highlighting a challenge, a woman from Madurai, during the FGD, said, “There are many social restrictions for girls in Madurai. Girls are allowed to study but not allowed to work.”

“One Jayalalithaa or a woman vice chancellor is not enough,” said a woman participant from Coimbatore, while stressing that more women need to make it to that level and, for that, family support is required.

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Recommendations and way forward

The Avtar-conducted study advocates for ensuring women are “able to participate in the economy as men do”. To create a conducive environment for working women, the study proposes several inclusive measures.

The primary aspect concerning women’s inclusivity is the availability of transportation and ensuring safety. The study emphasises, “The availability and access to multiple modes of transport are key to a well-functioning city. Last mile connectivity, well-lit roads, night patroling, etc, are essential to build a sense of security and safety in city commuters.”

Law enforcement is the next crucial factor, as per the report. It highlights the importance of cities not only focusing on crime prevention but also on apprehending and trying criminals swiftly and effectively for their crimes to maintain low crime rates.

The study notes, “The state of Tamil Nadu has one of the lowest crime rates (crimes against women) and it is no surprise that a number of cities from this state find a place in the top 10 rankings.”

Another vital aspect emphasised by the study is the availability of child care and elder care facilities to empower women to pursue their choices independently. The study states, “One of the most pressing issues women face is managing their care-giving responsibilities, alongside work responsibilities. A city that has many options for child and elder care facilities will be a city where women can go out to work without being bogged down by these responsibilities.”

The Avtar study underscores the significant role organisations play in increasing women’s workforce participation and reducing gender disparity. It suggests, “City officials can ensure that workplaces follow government regulations and norms designed to benefit women employees.”

Methodology of the survey

The study, rooted in a nationwide survey conducted in urban areas, sought the perspectives of employed women on the inclusivity and suitability of their cities for professional life.

Via a series of questions, participants, representing diverse demographics, shared insights on both positive aspects and challenges within their cities. The evaluation encompassed 17 key criteria.

The methodology is hinged on three factors — Social Inclusion Score (SIS), Industrial Inclusion Score (IIS), and Citizen Experience Score (CES). SIS gauged the social environment’s safety, employment rates, and overall quality of life for women. IIS delved into inclusive organisations and career opportunities for women, while CES reflected citizens’ experiences.

On the basis of these three factors, an analyses was conducted with respect to the framework of the study and an aggregate score was arrived at for each of the 113 cities surveyed.

The cities were then ranked on the basis of the scores across two categories — with population over one million, and with population under one million.