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Women in leadership: industry voices

March 8 2021: International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality.    This year’s theme is: 'Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.'
We bring you some voices  from  corporate India on  the challenges and opportunities for women   in these challenging times.
Manisha Banthia, Director, Analytics, Fiserv Global Services: Women from all fields and at all levels should strive to drive innovation and business transformation across organizations. Women have broken all barriers in technology across sectors. The rising popularity of fields like data science amongst women can change the rules of the game. While some are now part of core leadership or have built their own enterprise, there is also progressive increase in participation of women in niche areas like data science and analytics, UI/UX, animation etc. To accelerate growth here, it will be essential for companies to incorporate forward-thinking policies for women and provide them an environment to be at their best.
Marie-Helene Mansard, Business Development Director, Axis Communications, Asia Pacific: Being a woman in security and technology, I have witnessed progress regarding women's representation across different industry verticals. I have realised we must live in the moment and act now to break the preconceived gender stereotypes. I believe that it's critical for organizational success to have a healthy diversity quotient. There should be a culture of learning and development and sensitizing the workforce.We are at a juncture of limitless tech possibilities and as more women helm challenging roles; I want to encourage young professionals to seize every opportunity and think one step further. Do not let gender be a deterrent and as a woman, support another woman so that you are visible and heard at the workplace
Arpana Mehra, Chief Human Resources Officer Engineering Centers, Altran, part of Capgemini: An ideal work environment is diverse, recognizes talent without bias and actively promotes gender equity. Opportunities for women in leadership roles used to be a handful when I started my career in technology more than two decades ago. Over the years, I have witnessed a steady growth in the representation of women in engineering as well as other professional spheres. While Covid-19 and the consequent lockdown has, in some ways brought an impact, I am confident that it will gather momentum in the near future. At Altran, part of Capgemini, we have made substantial progress in fulfilling the individual career needs of our employees by aligning gender parity with business strategy. We are committed to play our role in accelerating women’s progress at the workplace. My advice to young women is to find the right mentor, trust the guidance, gain knowledge and share their learnings. It is important to keep a positive attitude, remain focused and turn every challenging situation into an opportunity
Nikhil Arora, VP and MD,GoDaddy India: The conversation around gender disparity in the workplace continues to gain prominence in India this year. Even before the impacts from the current COVID-19 global pandemic, the number of women employees across sectors in India has been disproportionate. Some of the issues currently impacting women in India, such as: lack of women in leadership roles, gender pay gap, fewer women-led startups, unpaid care work, coupled with age-old social prejudices, leads to a significant impact on India’s socio-economic development. To help foster workplace gender equity, businesses should consider ways to reduce unconscious bias in HR processes, introduce new policies to encourage more women into the workforce, offer training and support for women, and prioritize providing a safer, more conducive environment for women at work. GoDaddy is an inviting place for women to work and an industry leader for women in technology. Our 2020 diversity report shows that women represent 30% of GoDaddy's global workforce. While there is more to do, we are actively working on creating an ecosystem that provides equal opportunities, rights, and benefits for women in their path towards achieving success and equality
Manisha Raisinghani, Co-founder and CTO, LogiNext:  2021 brought in good news with a woman led tech company going IPO. This success story was celebrated and ushers in a new age in the post covid world where we are all rooting for more women in leadership roles across the board. Less than 10% of the S&P 500 companies have a woman CEO but that number should grow rapidly in the coming times. And this will happen by changing mindsets at a cultural level by encouraging more young women to pursue their dreams. Technology and the internet is a great leveller because it gives access to a sea of knowledge and anyone can start a business from anywhere! At LogiNext, we have a special push to achieve a 50:50 gender ratio by the end of 2021 and we already have several women in leadership roles across the organisation. LogiNext is probably one of the most diverse high growth start up globally and we'd like to encourage more and more companies to take this route.  
Lakshmi Mittra, VP and Head, Clover Academy: This year’s theme forInternational Women’s Day – ChooseToChallenge - is a call to action to recognize and celebrate women for their role in shaping a more democratic future, and building a gender-neutral society. Within organizations, women have already cemented their positions as innovators, thinkers and go-getters. Now, the time has come for organizations to take this contribution to the next level by introducing forward-looking policies and initiatives for women to thrive. At the same time, women need to rise above the status quo and embrace challenges. This leads to the creation of amicable work culture that not only facilitates mutual growth but also strengthens an organization’s values and reputation, further assisting in attracting and retaining the right kind of talent and forming a diverse workforce.
Surabhi Goel, CEO - Aditya Birla World Academy: For me gender equality means truly being equal. Neither men or women are superior. It means that we need more men as teachers, it means raising my son to do household chores and respecting a woman who may be more successful than him in the future. I choose to challenge the belief that working women are not good mothers or good daughters. I want to challenge people who look at compassion and empathy in women as their weakness. Because they are actually their strengths. At the Aditya Birla Education Trust, we have several women in the leadership team. We hope that we can inspire other women that they too can lead.
Jyotsna Uttamchandani, Executive Director, Syska Group: During the pandemic, the world witnessed that countries which had women in the leadership positions were in a much better shape than the rest. Women have time and again proven that they are focused on continuously finding solutions for challenging situations. The world wants change and this could definitely be a century where equality can be established in every field. A big example that showcased a country breaking the etch was when Kamala Harris became the first woman Vice President of the United States. It is key that in this post pandemic world, we not only identify but accept the problems of patriarchy. We need a more humane and rational approach. Most importantly women always believe in working in a sort of comradeship. Be it healthcare, hospitality, politicians, innovators, women have been front liners. It is time we must discard the gender stereotypes, empower and let women take the lead towards this unrivaled gridlock. As Michelle Obama says, “there is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.
Mili Panicker, Senior Manager - HR, WebEngage: As HR leaders, we are constantly striving to make the organisation a great place to work for our employees across the globe. Focusing on diversity, inclusion and respecting individuals as a whole at every level is very important and needs to be adapted by every enterprise. That said, companies also need to curate and drive HR initiatives that empower women and assure them a safe place to work, while balancing their personal life. Today, with Women’s Day around the corner, as corporate organisations we all need to open up new opportunities and avenues for women to grow and succeed. As HR teams, we need to understand the challenges women employees face at work and believe that empathy and support are two essential things to facilitate the growth of women in the workforce.
Capgemini: This International Women’s Day, Capgemini  reiterates its commitment towards gender diversity with a focus on its key gender balance initiatives. At Capgemini the principles of diversity are a source of creativity, innovation and inspiration for the company. Capgemini wants to be recognized worldwide as a leading responsible company using its expertise for positive impact as they are ‘Architects of Positive Futures’. It shapes how the company works with its customers, partners, suppliers and colleagues globally to create greater opportunities for sustainable business and affirms their status as an employer of choice.Gender diversity is a critical priority for Capgemini to ensure it creates a sustainable pipeline of the best available talent and increase women representation at senior levels. To support this priority, the company runs various interventions. Diversity ratio in India at Capgemini is close to 38%.
Shilpa Basappa, Head of Engineering, 75F APAC: At 75F, women hold essential leadership positions. One of the key goals of 75F is to encourage more women in technical and leadership roles as we truly believe that a highly diverse team is fundamental to a company's ability to innovate and stay relevant. 75F also believes that having a diverse and inclusive environment is not optional; rather it is a must-have to hold women talent and make a huge difference in our product. 75F values women by encouraging them to integrate the culture, diversity and inclusion principles into all facets of the company life cycle, thus ensuring a stronger company.
Ritu Pusti, Brand Manager- Hocomoco:Women are breaking every stereotype and excelling across sectors, including real estate which is predominantly considered male-dominated. It's also interesting to note that women are also amongst the fastest-growing group of consumers in terms of purchasing land/house. At Hocomoco, we have always believed in giving weightage to talent/skill over gender, and to build a bias-free organization. Our project management team has close to 50% women employees, and some of the crucial departments (interior and marketing) in the company are headed by women.
Meera Rao, Senior Director of Product Management, Synopsys Software Integrity Group: As a woman working in technology, I’m a strong believer that confidence is key. The true key to success is making sure your opinions and ideas are heard and being confident in your vision for what you want to achieve. In a field predominantly populated by men, women can defy the stereotype of what an engineer looks like by showcasing their expertise and taking a leadership role in implementing cutting-edge tools and processes. Early on in my career I realised that I needed to focus on my skills and ability to communicate effectively in order to gain the trust and respect of my colleagues. In other words, confidence and speaking skills are key to success. It’s key to empower all voices and promote inclusion for one and all. Talking about diversity is a good start — everyone should understand that inclusivity provides many benefits within an organisation. Diversity can help ensure a more productive, innovative, and creative workplace; a more respectful and positive workplace culture; and above all, employees who are happy create an organisation with high employee morale. But it’s not always easy to have those conversations. We might start by having them within our own homes, our own inner circles, and then having those tough conversations at our workplace.
Neerja Birla, Founder & Chairperson, Mpower:On International Women’s Day, we celebrate women from all walks of life! The modern Indian woman is a powerhouse – fighting for her rights and proudly flaunting the many other facets of her personality. She is making her mark in business, science & technology, politics, sports, the arts, and in society as a whole. In this age of globalization, India has seen the rise and triumph of women leaders who have pushed the boundaries and helped to strengthen the workforce by creating inclusive environments. It is heartening to see that this growth is not just limited to women in metros. Even rural and semi-urban entrepreneurs are taking giant leaps for womankind, and encouraging their peers to follow their footsteps. Over the last year in particular, there’s no denying that the pandemic has been difficult for many, and the pressures have been compounded for women. It is apparent that socio-economic vulnerability combined with the control of their sexuality, societal pressure, harassment or violence etc. gravely impact both their mental and physical health. On our 1 on 1 helpline we have received calls from women across India struggling with relationship issues, anxiety, depression due to loneliness and self-esteem issues. As a nation, until we come together to create awareness and address the issues women face, only then will we able to create an environment where women can thrive. The change needs to begin with each one of us. We need to respect ourselves and not be apologetic about who we are and what we want. While we have come a long way in these last few years, we still have an even longer way to go. This journey has only begun.”|
Juhi Mishra, Manager, HR Business Partner-India, Randstad RiseSmart: For long women have been major contributors in corporate success stories, more often than not, while working behind the scenes. In a COVID-19 world where almost everything that we know and accepted as normal, has changed, there is a heightened need for this to be reflected in the boardroom as well. The unfortunate reality is that in India, we have only about 17% representation among women in board positions. This year’s theme for International Women’s Day – ChooseToChallenge, is a call to action to recognise and celebrate women for their resilience and achievements. It is also a reminder to women that they have the power to choose to challenge social norms and shape a more equal future.Within organisations, women have already cemented their position as thinkers, doers, and as forces to reckon with. Now, the time has come to take this to next level; for organisations to create an even playing field, and give women professionals an environment which they can thrive in. Randstad RiseSmart is a firm believer in creating an inclusive and diverse culture where our employees enjoy equal opportunities, and can thrive to reach and exceed their goals. Organizations need to take a proactive stance to create an inclusive and respectful workplace. The effort has to be two pronged – allow ease of entry and provide equal opportunities for development. In the long run, such measures will create a positive environment for mutual growth. Additionally, it will also strengthen the organization’s reputation as an employer of choice, to attract and retain the right talent, and build a diverse workforce that’s future-ready.