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Panel Discussion on Re-Thinking Women in Leadership : An Indo US Perspective on July 24 at Hyderabad

(L-R) Ms. Priya Chetty Rajagopal, Chairperson, IACC-Womens Business Council; Ms.Sangita Reddy, Executive Director Operations, Apollo Hospital Group; Mr. Rajiv Kumar, GM, Microsoft Office Division & Microsoft Business Solutions, MSIDC; Ms.Kirthiga Reddy, Director Online Operations, Facebook India; Ms. Ruth Boettcher, Chief Officer, American Citizen Services, US Consulate Hyderabad and Mr. Venkatraman Laxmikanth, MD, Broadridge Financial Solutions ( India ) Pvt Ltd

Speaking at the third  Forum in the Series  on Re-Thinking Women in Leadership, organised by IACC – WBC, panelists talked about the areas of  focus required to ensure that the momentum that has been built up in the space of Women’s leadership assumes the necessary critical mass. Priya Chetty-Rajagopal, Founder-Chair of the WBC, and Partner , Stanton Chase , who moderated the event ,   said women should be aware of the choices they have and that the power of women is still unutilised.

There has to be a shift in the thought process of organisations from considering Employing women in the organisation as the ‘right thing to do’ to considering employing women as the bright thing to do, smiled  Sangita Reddy, Executive Director Operations, Apollo Group of Hospitals. Women are successful because they acquire a range of skills while overcoming barriers like convincing parents and husbands that they are capable of managing domestic and office responsibilities. Because of the barriers they face to reach heights in the work place, they tend to be very impactful and quite outstanding.

Even today women who are successful need to remind themselves that they can take on the next level of growth and responsibility, rued Kirthiga Reddy, Director Online Operations, Facebook India. The assumption that women are happy earning less does not hold true. However, failure to negotiate effectively over prospects is another area that needs to be addressed. Corporates are willing to pay if you negotiate. 57% of men out of college negotiate their wages while only 7% of women do the same.

Ms. Ruth Boettcher, Chief Officer of American Citizen Services , US Consulate Hyderabadspoke about how a higher percentage of women in the US are joining the workforce. 8 billion small business owners in the USA are women, and this creates a staggering  1.2 trillion in revenue. She stressed on the fact that it is vital for the Government to help build business skills in women.

Sangita Reddy said gender specific differentiation was not the only reason behind lesser number of women in top corporate jobs. Women tend to underestimate themselves. Studies have proven that only a handful of women are prepared to leave their jobs, when they are offered another exciting opportunity.  A framework should be created at the individual, corporate and society/Government level to empower women and make the work environment conducive and beautiful for them to work.

Ms. Priya Chetty Rajagopal, Chairperson of IACC WBC stressed the need to create a strong support at the workplace so that qualified women make it to the top at the same pace that similarly qualified men do.

While men overestimate their performance, women normally underestimate the amount of work and their contribution to the company. Less than 5%  of women are succeeding in reaching higher positions as they are averse to explore these  choices. As a result, the number parity witnessed at entry level jobs could not be seen at the higher levels where the number of women become slimmer.

Kirthiga Reddy spoken about women and their inner fears and the pangs of guilt they experience with regard to their responsibility towards Family. When a challenge is thrown their way, they are apprehensive if they can take up the challenge despite being adequately talented and qualified.

Make the choice that will make you happy and understand that it is ok to slow down , opined Rajiv Kumar , General Manager of Microsoft Office Division and MSIDC and he emphasised the importance of creating women role models whom other women can look upto. Inflexion points exist , and Women should not shy away from asking what they feel is right for them. For any organisation to succeed, they need diversity of ideas, for diversity of ideas it is a must to have diversity of people and genders.

Venkatraman Laxmikanth, MD Broadridge spoke about how some men do have a problem in completely internalising  the gender equality concept.  It is very important for the society to showcase successful women.

Sangita Reddy further emphasised on the fact that educated women have an obligation to the society to make an impact from what they do irrespective of whether  it is done at home or at the workplace. Success is understanding what makes you happy and then going ahead and doing it.

Mr. Laxmikanth pointed out that process of empowering women was like a marathon, so women  should not  run it like a 100 meters dash

Overall it was felt that while systems are slowly getting into place, greater  engagement and traction with various stakeholders i.e. government, business, associations, fora, family and community  as well as women themselves is required to create a sustainable movement in women leadership in India

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