Women in Business: The Key to Igniting Potential

Day-2 of BoB 2020 was yet another constructive day of learning and sharing. Reflecting predominantly on the critical issues that required immediate address, the BoB Exclusive session became a solutions space for the delegates.

The panel discussion on Blurred Lines: The Paradox of Meritocracy in Women in Leadership saw active participation from the delegates, for the venue was the powerhouse that addressed the issues pertaining to meritocracy creating inequity and other imbalances in the workplace. The concept which is studied to be the ground of systemic bias and stereotype was addressed by the leaders, drawing from their learnings and experiences. The panel that consisted of three distinguished guests included Mr Manish Sharma, Principal (Senior Partner), Business Technology Leader, Pune, ZS Associates, Dr Monisha Sharma, Therapeutic Area Head. South-East Asia. Global Clinical Trial Operations at MSD Pharma, and Mr Padmaraj Venkatappa Head of Ethics, Risk and Compliance, Novartis.

“There are companies which use data and analytics to be very transparent and de-bias their process. So, to be a true meritocracy, companies should start with an even playing field first and acknowledge what the disparity is”, stated Dr Monisha for her opening comments. The session which also delved deeper into male allyship, Mr Padmaraj shared his personal journey of becoming a male ally, starting from home. He opined, “We have to understand that, when we are seeking a support system to be successful, it is our responsibility to create a support system also for our women to be successful.”

Mr Manish, one of the 2020 Male Ally Legacy Award winners, added to the statement the three aspects to keep in check by the allies. “First, educate yourself on the inequalities that women experience every day. Second, understand that you will make mistakes while being an ally and learn from those mistakes. And third, amplify voices for people who cannot be loud”, he stated. The session was moderated by Ms Bhavani Balasubramanian, Chief Strategist, Avtar.

The parallel session that hosted Ms Deborah Munster, Vice President, Diversity Best Practices, a division of Working Mother Media, walked the audience through an enlightening workshop on, The impact of Covid pandemic on Women in the Workforce. The workshop covered extensively on the overall, unequal impact of Covid on women’s jobs, economic, emotional, and physical wellbeing.

Commenting on a question seeking the measures to be taken by the individual and organisation in ensuring women’s retention, she emphasised on the importance of managing stress, as it is a critical point overlooked. Ms Munster opined, “It is obviously a very individual thing as everyone faces different things – like childcare, eldercare, socio-economic impact. The social contract is one measure. There are some organisations that provide support– providing time-off for health and emotional wellbeing. In fact, in Japan, there is a concept known as Forest Bathing – taking the time to go outside and be with nature. Look for different opportunities where one can support each other, have women support groups and mom support groups, and to the men in the group, women need men as allies”, she added. Divisional Manager, Consulting & Solutions, Avtar, Ms Nisha Chandran moderated the session.

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