Shastri Indo-Canadian visiting lecturer sheds light on women and work

In a rapidly developing India, how is women’s role changing in the workplace, as well as in the home? And how has the ongoing rural to urban migration affected this?

These are questions Professor Padmini Swaminathan has long been interested in. She holds the Reserve Bank of India Chair in Regional Economics at the Madras Institute of Development Studies in Chennai, India, and has examined industry, labour and development from a gender perspective for the past 28 years.

She will further explore these questions and share her experiences during a three-week visit to Canada that will bring her to York and also take her to Vancouver and Ottawa as a Shastri Indo-Canadian visiting lecturer. She will meet with policy makers and share her knowledge with students, faculty and community members. Last year, York Professor Daniel Drache was the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute Canadian studies visiting lecturer (see YFile, Feb. 4, 2009).

Right: Padmini Swaminathan

At York, Swaminathan will chair a graduate workshop today, titled “Interrogating Development and Development Indicators”, where students from several GTA universities will have the opportunity to share and receive feedback on their research.

On Thursday, Nov. 4, the Shastri scholar will be part of a symposium on “Transnational Mapping of the Institutionalization of Women’s Studies”, organized by York’s Centre for Feminist Research. For more information, visit the Graduate Program in Women’s Studies website.

In her final York event, Swaminathan will speak on “Employment and Maternity Protection: Understanding Poor Coverage of Beneficial Legislation through Content Analysis of Some Judgments in India”. This will take place Thursday, Nov. 11 at 2:30pm at Founders College, organized by the International Development Studies Program and the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR). For more information, visit the YCAR website.

Throughout her visit, organized by York social science Professor Sharada Srinivasan and hosted by YCAR, Swaminathan will be available to meet with students and faculty in and around York by appointment. Anyone wanting to take advantage of this opportunity can contact her directly at

“We are very pleased to be able to host Dr. Swaminathan. We are very fortunate to have a scholar of her calibre spend time with us,” said Susan Henders, director of YCAR. “We are also grateful she will take time to review works in progress and meet with students here at York as well as further afield.”

Swaminathan will also visit the University of Toronto, the University of Guelph-Humber, Simon Fraser University and Carleton University and will meet with officials in the nation’s capital.

The Shastri Indo-Canadian visiting lecturer program is organized by the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, which promotes ties between Canada and India. Every year, one recognized and engaging scholar can be nominated in one of the following areas: development, law, science, technology, agriculture, economic reform, environmental management, management, information technology, education, arts and the social sciences and humanities.

Swaminathan received her PhD in industrial economics from the University of Bombay in 1982, after which she joined the Madras Institute of Development Studies. Her work has always been interdisciplinary in nature. Some of the issues she has examined include the connection between infant mortality and women’s choice of work, as well as the informalization of the Indian economy.

With the rapid pace of development in India, Swaminathan says women’s work is becoming more and more invisible as many work in rural areas and are in low paying jobs.

She has been requisitioned by provincial and central government bodies such as the Tamil Nadu State Statistical Committee and the Madras High Court.