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Top cities for women to work in India: Chennai ranked number one, Delhi not within top 10

A recent report has analysed 111 Indian cities, ranking them on the basis of how conducive an environment they provide for women’s employment. While South Indian cities have emerged among the top cities in this regard, Delhi does not figure in the top ten cities’ list. 


AVTAR, a talent strategy consulting firm working towards diversity and inclusion, recently released a first-of-its-kind report titled ‘Viewport 2022: Top cities for women in India’. The report has identified critical indices to assess over a hundred Indian cities in terms of their inclusivity potential for working women.

The assessment is based on different categories of government data, and Avtar’s own research on the diversity, equity and inclusion landscape in the country over a decade, along with a survey of 783 women from across India. The cities have been bifurcated into two categories: those with a population of more than one million, and those with a population of less than one million, as per the 2011 Census of India data.

What are the criteria used to score the cities?

A total of 111 cities have been analysed in the report, based on how inclusive they are for women. Every city has been given a City Inclusion Score (CIS), based on two pillars — a Social Inclusion Score (SIS) and an Industrial Inclusion Score (IIS).

The SIS reflects social factors that influence a city to be more women-friendly. It is based on four indicators:

  • Ease of Living score (based on the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs’ Ease of Living Report, 2020, it is centred on aspects of quality of life, economic ability and sustainability, and represents the liveability of the city.)
  • Safety score (based on crime rate against women from the National Crime Records Bureau’s data for 2020, it represents the level of women’s safety in the city).
  • Women’s representation rate (based on data from the Periodic Labour Force Survey 2019-20and the 2011 Census, it represents the proportion of women within the total workforce of the city.)
  • Women’s representation rate (based on the number of regional women empowerment initiatives in a state, as per data available on state governments’ websites, it represents how the city fares on aspects of women’s empowerment over a period of time.)

Whereas the IIS is an industrial/business concept that evaluates the extent to which organisations in the city across industries are inclusive of women. It is based on three indicators:

  • Inclusive organisations (indicative of density of gender-inclusive organisations in a city.)
  • Inclusive industries (density of women friendly/inclusive industries within a city.)
  • Career enablers (based on the career enablers for women, such as child-care, elder-care, mental health consultation, flexi time, and remote working option, provided by organisations in the city.)

Data for these indicators was sourced from Avtar’s own research in this regard over the last decade.

Additionally, findings from a dipstick survey of 783 women across India were used to apply weightages to the SIS and the IIS, with women weighing social inclusion aspects (ease of living, safety and city amenities) at 80 per cent and availability of job opportunities within industrial inclusion at 20 per cent.

What do the rankings look like?

In both categories (cities with over and under one million population), cities from South India have emerged at the top. Cities from Tamil Nadu have topped both two categories, and eight of its cities are amongst the 10 top ten cities of both categories.

Cities in South have performed better in both categories 

Based on the aggregate scores, Chennai topped the list of cities in Category I with a CIS of 78.41. It is followed by Pune (69.44), Bengaluru (64.48), Hyderabad (62.47), and Mumbai (61.11) among the top five big cities. Coimbatore and Madurai of Chennai also find place among the top ten cities.

Delhi ranked 14th with a CIS of 41.36. No cities of the most populous state of India, Uttar Pradesh, feature among the top 25.

Top 10 cities in category I with SIS and IIS respectively

In category 2, the first five places were occupied by cities of Tamil Nadu. Tiruchirappalli ranked first with a CIS of 71.61, followed by Vellore (70.30), Erode (66.50), Salem (65.86) and Tiruppur (64.21).

Tiruchirappalli, Vellore and Salem also feature among the top 10 cities in the 2020 Ease of Living Index.

Top 10 cities in category II with SIS and IIS respectively.

Averaging the CIS of cities within the same state, Kerala had the highest average score of 55.67, followed by Tamil Nadu (54.4), Maharashtra (45.5), Himachal Pradesh (44.45) and Karnataka (44.22).

East scored lowest in regional average 

The assessed cities were also categorised, based on their location, into five regions – North, South, East, West and Central. As per the average CIS of cities in each region, the southern region emerged at the top with a score of 46.17, followed by the West with a score of 41.13.

The eastern region, with Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal and the north-eastern states, emerged last in the regional average list with a score of 29.43.

The top three cities for each region are:

  • North: Delhi (41.36), Srinagar (39.05), and Amritsar (36.13).
  • South: Chennai (78.41), Bengaluru (64.48), and Hyderabad (62.47).
  • East: Kolkata (54.8), Dhanbad (26.34), and Patna (26.33).
  • West: Pune (69.44), Mumbai (61.11), and Ahmedabad (58.62).
  • Central: Raipur (34.4), Indore (31.61), and Bhopal (31.21).

Other noteworthy trends

Interestingly, the capital cities of several states do not feature in the top 25 in any of the two categories, with only Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Odisha being the exceptions. This is noteworthy because the state capitals generally receive a lot of attention in terms of political and socio-economic capital from the State.

Further, there are some cities, including Delhi, with a high IIS but a low SIS. This indicates that the workplace in these cities may be women-inclusive, social factors such as quality of life, women’s safety, women’s representation in the workforce and women’s empowerment initiatives create a barrier for women’s employment. While Delhi ranks 19th in the SIS ranking, it has done fairly better on the IIS parameter, ranking ninth among all cities.

On the other hand, there are also cities that have a high SIS but a relatively low IIS, such as Puducherry, Visakhapatnam, Surat and Bilaspur. This shows that though the social environment in these cities is comparatively more favourable for women, women-inclusive industries, organisations and enablers are scarce in these cities.

A country-level analysis based on the comparison of the national average of all cities with cities’ individual scores indicates that there is a need for a lot of improvement in the majority of cities. The national average CIS is 37.75; only 47 of the 111 cities are found to be above this national average score. This means that 58 per cent of the surveyed cities fare below the national average.

A comparison of the average scores of the top 25 cities in both categories indicates that smaller cities outperform bigger cities by a slight margin. The CIS of the top 25 cities with a population of more than a million is 48.48, while that of the cities with population under a million is 51.66. The corresponding SIS and IIS are also higher for the latter (49.07 and 62.02 respectively) than the former (45.96 and 58.58 respectively).

What are the recommendations of the report?

Avtar’s report suggests that the gaps can be filled by realising certain common characteristics that the top ranked cities have reflected. These are:

  • Usable public amenities, effective crime response, and appreciable living standards.
  • Conductive culture, supportive peer groups and a thriving corporate ecosystem.
  • Inclusively mature and diversely driven spaces and culture, with a tendency for allyship for steady professional and personal growth.