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Why Diversity In The Workplace Matters: Women Leaders Speak

Here is a commentary from some successful women leaders who have defied the odds and in their own ways have shattered the glass ceiling.

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Women make up 50% of the workforce—but they make up a small fraction of leadership positions in most industries. Yet, there are so many successful women leaders who have defied the odds and in their own way, have shattered the glass ceiling. This Sunday, March 8 – International Women’s Day – is perfect to talk about the importance of gender diversity and equality in the workforce.

Below is a commentary from a selection of female leaders in tech and new age companies, expressing their views on what can be done to advance their fields. These women play prominent roles in the success of their organizations, and are an inspiration for other men and women spearheading digital innovation.

Bindu Surendran, Senior Principal, Delivery Management, Sabre GDC, Bengaluru

From resisting social expectations to adopting a new culture, women today are faced with many challenges. Great work is not enough for women, just need to focus on the work you do and believe in yourself and on the way to your success help others, investing in learning and development for yourself and for others. Mentors can play a big role in supporting women at the workplace. At the same time, organizations must offer enough flexibility for women to maintain a work-life balance. It is important to leave work at work when the day is over, unless there is a critical issue which needs attention which would occur occasionally. In any case, women should be assertive.”

Huma Abidi, Senior Director – AI Software Products, Intel Corporation

“While women have come a long way since, substantial gaps remain when it comes to gender parity. What has been encouraging in the last few years, however, is the coming together of the industry, academia and governments to accelerate inclusive participation of women at the workplace. Today, we’re seeing women pursue long-term careers in technology, driving innovation for the industry. Technology companies are more aware than ever that a diverse workforce and inclusive culture are not just critical to their evolution but are the driving forces of their growth. If we want to shape the future of technology, we must be representative of that future. Intel achieved gender pay equity across our worldwide workforce. Our Women at Intel Network (WIN) has a clear vision for gender equality and overall skill development of women at various stages of their career through mentorship, technical and leadership development initiatives.”

Rose Tsou, Head of International and eCommerce, Verizon Media

Organizations have to support women when they really need help and in a way that is meaningful for them. It’s essential to create a work environment where women feel safe, trusted and empowered. It is not just about the skills and training that women in tech require professionally — though that is important — but about the critical support they may need at points in their career to balance work and family. It means trusting women and mentoring or empowering them to take on greater leadership responsibilities. Ultimately, it is about creating a work environment where  women can bring their ‘whole self’ to work, not just their ‘work self,’ which maximizes their potential and contribution to an enterprise.”

Sasikala Mahesh, Head of Delivery (India), ThoughtWorks

“Gone are the days when women only topped stereotypical functions in corporate India. Today, women are charting business strategies, generating demand, managing partnerships, and running global operations. Women entrepreneurs are changing the startup ecosystem and are dabbling into fields that were traditionally dominated by men. Women are naturally empathetic and can contextually apply emotional intelligence to manage people effectively. Women leaders across the world have demonstrated their abilities to build a safe, open and conducive work environment. Women are beginning to break the stereotypes in the tech industry, pushing the boundaries and are leaving a mark in a big way. But it’s going to take sustained efforts by organizations to keep things moving forward.” 

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 programs 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.”

Shilpa Sinha Harsh, SVP, Global Corporate Communications, Hinduja Global Solutions

“While enterprises are already focusing on improving their diversity balance by introducing women friendly policies like flexi-work, special programs for women returning from break, mentorship programs etc. they should also intervene at the school level in a more hands-on way. This could be in the form of competitions, guest lectures, inviting schools to visit their campuses, scholarships etc. With these efforts, when the students choose their academic tracks, more girls will consider STEM fields as a viable and exciting career option. Women in leadership positions, especially in technology companies, can be inspiring role models for challenging stereotypes and encouraging girls to freely pursue careers in the subjects they are passionate about.”

Shikha Pillai Head of Strategy, Siemens Healthineers 

“Women bring a unique energy and perspective to leadership and therefore it’s imperative to focus on inclusion and balance in organizations. The playing field needs to be leveled to enable #EachForEqual.

That said, it is heartening to see that there are many more opportunities for us today and women role models are spearheading change in various fields. Each woman who carves a path for other women is transforming our world for the better!”

Margaret D’souza, HR Head, Flock

“At Flock, inclusion and diversity are vital to the culture of the company and ensuring the progress of women remains a key priority. Being in 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 upskilling and leadership training of women at all levels. The company’s policies of 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 not only a sustaining a conducive work environment for employees, both women and men, but also help them advance and thrive in their careers.”

 Leila Pourhashemi, VP – Technology Business Operations, Blackhawk Network

“Despite the fact that almost half of India’s population is comprised of women, gender inequality continues to exist in the workplace. To encourage more women to pursue careers in technology, we have to start by emphasizing a STEM curriculum for girls early on. Women also face professional hurdles during the transition from managing to leading, typically during the promotion to director-level positions. At this stage, the potential for conscious and unconscious bias is high, as the people in decision making roles for leadership promotions tend to be men. Companies can address this by ensuring that interview panels and promotion decision makers include both men and women and that there is a diverse group of candidates being evaluated for each position. At Blackhawk Network, we strive to lead the way by mentoring women around us, encouraging them to ‘lean-in’ and sponsoring them to seek new opportunities to advance in their career.”

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. 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 programs as well as flexibility at work.”

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.”

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.”

Sashikala Viswanathan, Director – Corporate Quality, CSS Corp

“We are at the cusp of a technological revolution, where now more than ever before, women in tech are changing the narrative and constantly evolving in their roles. Women have been at the forefront, helming technology companies and leading by example. In a predominantly male dominated industry, women have carved a niche for themselves through sheer dedication and grit, while juggling their various responsibilities and attempting to shatter the glass ceiling. In this growing, diverse ecosystem, the roadblocks that deter women are quite often self-inflicted, rather than being a societal or professional limitation. Being able to strike the right balance between work and home, while taking time for self-care becomes inherently difficult in high tensile environments, which may cause deep-seated problems for women. Empowering women through programs, training sessions and workshops are ideal ways to encourage their participation and give them a platform to express themselves.

Lakshmi H Shastry, Principal Architect, Technology Advisory & Consulting, Brillio

“At Brillio, we are a young team and believe in giving the employees, an equal opportunity. Initiatives such as Brillio Academy, Winspire, etc., enable us with the ability to influence and seize the opportunity rather than wait for it. We are constantly upskilling ourselves to align with the evolving technology and market requirements. On this International Women’s Day, I would like to say, we can see the needle moving in the right direction and workplaces becoming more inclusive. The unconscious biases have reduced, however it is slow and steady progress. It is, therefore, imperative to persevere and never give up on personal sense of self-worth as well as professional achievements.”

Lakshmi Mittra, VP – Center of Excellence (CoE) and Clover Academy, Clover Infotech 

“The 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 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.”

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.”

 

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