Originally posted in BusinessWorld.in on March 3, 2020 by Poonam Singh.
Every year Women’s International Day comes with a theme. This year’s campaign is #EachforEqual which upholds the concept of equality that says ‘An Equal World For An Enabled World’.
Despite thousands of women continuing to break the glass ceiling every day with their work, at some point, they face gender disparity in a working environment. To fill in this gap, many companies have taken initiatives as fillers, for instance, Ola has started ‘Women On Wheels’ to empower women drivers.
At Infosys, the focus is, nurturing equitable workplaces that truly celebrate the diversity of our workforce and nurture inclusion to harness innovation. These are one of the examples from the two different sectors. Let’s discuss, how industry women leaders are celebrating the equality:
Pearl Tiwari, Director & CEO Ambuja Cement Foundation
In our experience of working with thousands of rural women across India, we’ve seen that the aspirations of women are really growing and coming to the fore. The more opportunities women are given the more they grab those opportunities and run with them.
Securing women’s ‘participation’ is the key and provides the necessary launching pad for women to build networks, learn, earn and grow. We’ve seen that women who participate in SHGs or livelihood opportunities build confidence and the necessary skills that elevate them as community leaders – either formally (as Sarpanches, Ward Members and the like) or informally (as change-makers in their community) – tackling social issues and influencing others to get involved.
Traditionally, the saying goes that ‘women are the weaker sex’ but really they are much, much stronger! If given the chance, they can juggle so many of life’s complications – be it work family, society – in a far greater capacity than men.
Dr. Babita Shekhar, Advisory Board Member, iE3 Innovations
The precision of the “human computer” Katherine Johnson was instrumental in rocketing men into space and ensuring America’s lead in the space race. As a part of NASA’s “Computer Pool”, Johnson, along with a group of brilliant black women, made US Space travel possible. A pioneering mathematician, she was the inspiration behind the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures”, which depicted well the struggles of women to make place for themselves in the field of mathematics, technology and engineering.
When Indian scientists successfully put a satellite into orbit around Mars, it should come as no surprise that there were again a group of women scientists in the control room during the launch. The path for women achievers has never been easy, be it Katherine Johnson in a segregated NASA or Anuradha TK, the senior-most woman officer who joined ISRO at a time when there were few women in the engineering department. These women and others like them have broken stereotypes about women and inspired generations of young girls to aim for the stars.
Despite these and other such inspiring stories, women are still under-represented in science and technology. STEM had been a predominantly male domain, largely due to cultural and social biases. The fourth industrial revolution, powered by disruptive technologies is also leveling the playing field for women and ensuring their place as equals in the workplace as well as in society.
Akshita Gupta, Co-founder and CMO at ABL Workspaces
Specifically in India, the increasing number of success stories of women entrepreneurs highlight how women are now breaking stereotypes when it comes to entrepreneurship. I firmly believe that every woman should have a dream and determination to achieve the same. More and more people are now realising the potential of a woman with their unique qualities like the ability to multitask, being more patient than men, making them the perfect business leaders.
Running a business for the last 3 years have taught me a lot of things, but one most important learning for me has been to be persistent and focused on our goal even when society pressurizes us. I also believe that this will be my one advice for my peers who are trying to make their mark in this male-dominated industry.
Shanai Ghosh, ED & CEO, Edelweiss General Insurance
I think notions of gender-based differentiation are sowed in childhood; the value and belief systems stay deep-rooted and it is difficult to change these, later in life.
Home and school have the maximum influence on children during their formative years and while I think we have made progress, we still have a long way to go. So, I look at parents and educators of today, to ensure that children are instilled with values and beliefs that ensure equal freedom, choices and opportunities, for both boys and girls.
I am encouraged by what I see around me but as this is a very urban view, true progress will be when we are able to change the narrative at grassroots, where the birth of a child, whether boy or girl, brings equal joy and hope to parents.
Rachan K, Associate Director – HR, Markelytics Solutions
Balancing work and personal life can have its hardships, mistakes can be inevitable but there is always a success and we also need to understand that failure is a part of your success. Although we relatively lead a steady life, work or life can become overbearing and when a feeling of being overwhelmed hits us, we may not make the right decision. Having a form of guide or a mentor in life skills helps you to understand your inner morals and allows you to think and compete in a rapidly challenging world.
We, at Markelytics, have always realized the importance of work-life balance for all our employees and have regularly conducted sessions for the same. Work-life balance becomes more challenging for women given the society that we live in, where more impetus is on women to ensure proper functioning both at home and at work. There is no dedicated day, but the realization is more now since women’s day is around and we’ve invited a renowned life skills coach to give a talk on this subject to all our women employees sometime next week. She will be joined by a few senior female employees as well, who will share their inputs to inspire and engage with our people.”
Gauri Bajaj, Director and APAC Head for Managed Security Services, Tata Communications
At Tata Communications, diversity and inclusion are integral to the culture of the company and ensuring the progress of women remains a key priority. The company’s programmes and policies to nurture an equal opportunities environment through unbiased applicant screening, allowing leaders to follow their natural leadership style, flexibility of work hours and location to maintain balance between personal and professional life – all contribute to creating and sustaining a conducive work environment for employees, both women and men, to advance and thrive in their careers. Such initiatives make Tata Communications a preferred employer of choice in the industry.
Lakshmi Mittra, VP – Center of Excellence (CoE) and Clover Academy, Clover Infotech
On International Women’s Day, we celebrate women from all walks of life! Indian IT industry has examples of women leaders who have pushed the boundaries and helped to strengthen the workforce by creating inclusive environments. Being an innovative and dynamic sector, it’s important for the IT industry to create more opportunities for women to not only enter the workforce but also lead it. More initiatives and forward-thinking policies need to be introduced for the upskilling and leadership training of women at all levels. At Clover Academy, the entire training management and delivery is being done by a team of women IT professionals. There are a lot of women among the graduates who train at Clover Academy. In addition to technological knowledge and hands-on experience, we facilitate soft-skills training, team-building workshops, and leadership and mentoring sessions to enable them to take on leadership roles in the near future.
Anmol Rodriguez (Acid Attack Survivor & Likee Influencer)
The issue of equality for women has been at the forefront for quite some time now. While we have already come a long way, it is only appropriate to mention that much headway is still needed in this regard. Having said that, I would also like to add that the onus of shattering this glass ceiling lies with the women themselves.
With a focused approach and determination, one can overcome the obstacles and emerge at par with their male counterparts. Being an acid attack survivor myself, I have experienced ordeals and roadblocks since childhood. But it was my determination and acceptance of myself that helped me emerge victoriously. Remember, no one will come to your rescue unless you vow to fight your own battle. Equality needs to be won, not borrowed.”
Rishu Gandhi, Founder and Head Brand Strategist, Mother Sparsh
I am neither against feminism nor in favour but I certainly believe inequality. Every woman should have equal rights to men. She should never be degraded by a person or society. As in today’s era, women’s are equally capable of men in every possible way.
Gitika Srivastava, Founder of Navya, a clinical informatics company which provides online expert opinions to cancer patients
Women empowerment is celebrating women across the world on a given day, (because celebrations are nice, and even if we are loved every day, we get showered with some extra affection, pampering, presents, and attention on our birthdays; similarly it’s just fabulous to celebrate women and womanhood as an international community one day in a year), and respecting her every day without making it a big deal that you are doing so. The day we naturally stop feeling the need to actively respect women as equals or more important citizens of the world, will be the day women will truly be empowered in a no big deal, natural, way-of-life kind of way! Today, the educated, the activists, and the feminists have to go out of their way to shine light on women’s rights, issues, disparities, abuse, achievements, sense of equality, and demands that should not require any attention at all. It should just be status quo, the boring and natural, non-sensational dynamic of the world. Until that steady state is achieved where women’s rights are basic human rights, a woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or a space engineer and mother of three, or a homemaker that raises two chivalrous boys, is not empowered.
Niru Agarwal, Trustee, Greenwood High
The key to empowering women world over is only by providing them with proper education. It is imperative for educational institutions and boardrooms to reflect diversity and bring more women into the corporate fold. The empowerment of women has been extensively debated and written about all over the world. As India strives towards equal rights, a change in the perceptions of men and women is needed to reduce gender disparity. Over the years, a steady rise in the adversities faced by Indian women and girls has taken place. Some major challenges that India faces are poverty, a lack of education, health and safety. It is important for women to be part of decision-making in the social, educational, economic and political spheres to overcome all these challenges. Women’s participation in these different structures enables holistic development of society and nation at large.
It is crucial to sensitize people at a young age, so they become an integral part in bringing about a transformation on women empowerment in Indian society. When men start respecting women and accepting them as equals, a lot of gender-based inequalities will reduce considerably. Today, I appreciate the fact that women are beginning to be at the forefront of institutions working as CEO’s or board members and heading global companies. This is a sign of society maturing in terms of gender parity and women contributing a great deal to the overall progress of the country. It is crucial that more opportunities be created to ensure greater participation of women in society. With improving sensitivity towards women, I am confident that women’s contribution to the GDP of the country would only increase as they are a very important economic actor.
Mahasweta Ghosh, Head of Marketing and Technology, Mom’s Belief
When it comes to diversity and inclusion of women, I believe that in recent years, women have proactively worked to make space for themselves in the corporate sector. In the next few years, I am hopeful that corporate culture will move past the quota system where they feel the need to hire women just to come across as more inclusive or diverse, instead of hiring women because they truly believe in their capabilities and consider them as valuable assets to be added to their organization. We need a world where there are more women in leadership positions and this can only be achieved through the empowerment of women and encouraging them to be more assertive in their career building, and by motivating them to chase their dreams and ambitions with dogged determination.’’
Dr Malini Saba, Founder & Chairman, Saba Group Holdings & Saba Family Foundations
We focus on hiring mainly women in my companies because I want to create a culture for women in the Commodities space. Even today it’s a male world & one has to deal with them on every level. I feel we as women are a lot more understanding, multitasking and emotional, we look at a problem differently and try & find a solution to it in a simple way and not complicate it, which is a priority. I believe to change the mind-sets the media has to change because it plays a major role in the way they portray women in movies, shows and even in Interviews. We all are equal there is no women entrepreneur or male entrepreneur, we are all just entrepreneurs.
I think balancing your work is very important and I believe women can own it all. The young women and men out there need to stop thinking like men or women, they have to keep sexuality out of it, Do what is true to your soul, believe in yourself, you don’t have to do it the way they want you to do it.
Lakshmi Mittra, VP – Center of Excellence (CoE) and Clover Academy, Clover Infotechon
On International Women’s Day, we celebrate women from all walks of life! Indian IT industry has examples of women leaders who have pushed the boundaries and helped to strengthen the workforce by creating inclusive environments. Being an innovative and dynamic sector, it’s important for the IT industry to create more opportunities for women to not only enter the workforce but also lead it. More initiatives and forward-thinking policies needs to be introduced for the upskilling and leadership training of women at all levels. At Clover Academy, the entire training management and delivery is being done by a team of women IT professionals. There are a lot of women among the graduates who train at Clover Academy. In additionto technological knowledge and hands-on experience, we facilitate soft-skills training, team-building workshops, and leadership and mentoring sessions to enable them to take on leadership roles in the near future.
Sahiba Singh, Chief People Officer, Acuver Consulting
The technological era is ultimately about maximizing human potential. In these ultra- competitive times, a culture of bias repels true talent and compromises all scope of organizational growth. At Acuver, we truly believe that we stand invincible on the foundation of equality. Here true equality is not just an idea but everyday actions of providing for everyone’s unique needs and trusting everyone with the freedom to design their own success roadmap. In serving as a springboard for every employee’s professional development, whether men or women, we ensure a win-win for our people as well as the organization.
Anjana Sastri, Head of Strategic Initiatives at CIS
Each for Equal stresses the importance of giving everyone, irrespective of gender, the opportunity to explore, perform and excel in various fields. While Women’s Day is a day dedicated to encouraging and celebrating women, I truly believe that a woman excels at her job every day and we must all appreciate and encourage the hard work and dedication with which every woman contributes to society.
Extrapolating the concept of inclusivity is the concept of gender equality. Women are equally capable as men and gender does not define ability. One of the initiatives that we are trying to encourage students at CIS to pursue, is approaching villages in our school’s neighbourhood and helping the women to set up and run their own small indigenous businesses. This will go a long way in empowering women and educating others in the village as well as our students about the importance of gender balance.
Fabiola Mendes, Director, Bennet & Bernard Group
Women’s empowerment is a vital value of the new world. It is important for women to value and respect themselves in whatever field of life – social, educational, economic, cultural and political spheres – before they expect others to do so. Women respect the strengths of other women and it is important to cherish and rejoice in the fact that women are strong. Women’s participation in the different structures of society enables holistic development of society and nation at large. In this modern era, we are seeing hundreds of women who have become pioneers and leaders in their own right occupying positions of power and influence. It is important to encourage and grow one another, and appreciate each other in this script of success. Women now are the harbingers of social transformation and are at the forefront of society, having come a long way from the past. Be it in economy, business, trade, real estate, policy, government, judiciary, the liberal arts and literature, women are at the helm more than ever before. This is the sign of a progressive, maturing society. With opportunities now vast and widespread, women are competing as hard as their male counterparts in all spheres of society. Today, while the world celebrates international woman’s day, I celebrate every woman I know, every woman who reads this. You are beautifully and wonderfully created and let no one tell you otherwise.
Aditya Agarwal, Co-Founder, Wealthy
“The theme for International Women’s Day 2020 — #EachforEqual — draws attention to the fact that gender inequality poses not just societal issues but also economic ones. In our culture, women are still breaking the mould and realizing that financial independence is a key element for gender equality.
According to the Women in Financial Services 2020 report, the financial services industry is missing out on $700 Billion a year by not meeting the financial needs and expectations of women. This is a huge gap and there is a vast scope to meet the growing financial needs of women in our economy. Our experience with the female wealth managers at Wealthy validates this as they perform better than their male counterparts. Therefore, it also makes business sense for us to support and encourage women to earn on their own terms. Our platform is dedicated to providing an inclusive approach and our Wealth Managers are playing a vital role in providing sound financial counsel for clients’ financial growth and well-being.”
Neha Sanjay, Head of Marketing, Esper
Around the world and through the decades, we have all shared the struggles of Gender Equality. Gender Equality is an apt theme for IWD 2020 and is particularly relevant for a country like India. Gender inequality is not a woman’s issue, but an economic one. It is crucial in ensuring the smooth progress of every industry and sector.
According to the Zinnov-Intel India Gender Diversity Benchmark report released last year, India has merely 26% female representation in technical roles at corporates across the country. This statistic may be a reminder of the gender disparity in the industry, however, it is also indicative of the scope of opportunities for women disruptors in this space. Brands and workplaces need to focus on taking on the role of an enabler in this regard.
At Esper, we believe that Gender Equality has to be designed deliberately at the workplace. Keeping this in mind, we are making efforts to ensure gender diversity through initiatives like hiring more women at all levels, and offering them upskilling and leadership programmes as well as flexibility at work.”
Sunaina Sharma Menerkar, General Manager, Grand Mercure Mysore –
Having come a long way within the Hospitality industry, I have seen the glass ceiling break that existed where the women had to work harder or give up working due to their family commitments. For me this has been a long and fulfilling journey. We are living in a changing world where more women are following their dreams with passion, desire, and spirit to lead. The Hospitality industry has started to acknowledge and appreciate the commitment shown by women to create a safe culture and opening up numerous opportunities for them’.
Neliswa Nkani, Hub Head – MEISEA, South African Tourism
Globally and in India, women across industries have been increasingly raising the bar and setting aspirational standards of innovation, performance & achievements. The travel industry is one which has nurtured its women leaders over the years, empowering and encouraging them to spread their wings. The industry has been defined by some of the most commendable and inspirational female personalities who have gone against the tide of challenges through sheer dedication & determination. As with any role in life, women will continue forging the future of travel with their quiet strength and impeccable work ethic. I couldn’t be prouder of what we as a community of women leaders have achieved and it heartens me to see the camaraderie shared across the industry with women becoming strong support and motivation systems for each other.
Deepa Sasidharan, Head Corporate Communications, Continental Automotive India
Gender equality is a business imperative, not a favor or magnanimity offered to women – This needs constant reinforcement, and if it takes a women’s day for this message to be loud and clear, so be it!
Most organizations these days have zero discrimination policies, but some societal/cultural imprints are hard to evict from individuals, leaving a largely un-addressed realm of unconscious bias. These come out as off-color jokes, stereotyping, biased hiring choices, etc. at the workplace. A welcome change this Women’s Day would be to acknowledge that unconscious biases exist and to make a sincere effort towards women empowerment.