What Women Want

It's a socio political statement that became a mass movement. Today countries across the world celebrate it. It is ironic that what started out as a protest movement to discuss the terrible working conditions and low wages for women in a textile factory in New York City has been reduced to a jamboree of commercial messages that media indulges in every year.

So we at, decided to step out of the circle and ask a few women in power across the board what they thought about Women's Day and whether at the end of all the lip service paid to them and their talent, corporates were actually sensitive to their needs. A range of answers, most of them positive of course, lead us to believe that corporates are indeed sensitive to their women employees. But it is also a sign of times that most women we spoke to take pride in the fact that they have made it to the top not because of organizational support, but despite it.

It's a large talent pool out there waiting to be explored and exploited. Is it time media organizations take heed. Perhaps it is.

Here is a look at what some power women had to say -

Vyas Gianetti creative chairwoman and chief creative officer, Preeti Vyas Gianetti says: "The business scenario in India still works within man made structures. It is a highly competitive field and women are proving to be an important human resource. Studies indicate that women are much better at handling relationships; they are better team workers and team builders, more inclusive and surprisingly - bigger risk takers. Women are also more defiant in defeat, that is, they have an attitude that screams 'I'll show you… I'll do this better next time'."

So are corporates recognizing this trend?

"I would say that there is an increased appreciation of women's talents in the corporate sphere today than ever before. But we have to admit that it is a slow process. Some corporates are agnostic to the change; some others are taking their time but are making the effort. I know that the HR policies and therefore thewomen leaders in a corporate like ICICI get a huge boost but the media is catching up too.

"I also think that corporates would be ignoring the innate leadership capacity of a woman at their own peril. Greater acceptance needs to come in and in fact will.

"Also the glass ceiling affect is an internal proposition and most women have already broken through it. The need to restructure corporate policies will occur but once again, these are not compromises that a corporate is making. They are merely augmenting a process that will benefit their talent at work.

"That said, any such support by a corporate cannot be forced. That kind of culture must evolve and will evolve over a period."

Madison Media Group CEO Punitha Arumugam takes a clear position about why women should not ask for concessions or privileges from their organizations. "Is media woman friendly? But why should they be. I think corporates judge you by your capability and not what priorities you may or may not have. As for the whole myth of a glass ceiling, I think women broke that a long time ago. My whole point is, 'why should corporates be held responsible for the personal choices we make.' So sure, women might want to prioritize their family but then they will also have to fend for a back up or support system. To make an organisation responsible for it is unfair. And making work an excuse for neglecting a family or not having a family is not right either."

Nick VP & GM Nina Elavia Jaipuria who has experience in advertising, FMCG and media believes that there is no real gender bias or preference within the media industry, both genders are given an equal opportunity to deliver. As far as balancing work with family, it works in the same manner for males as well. 

Jaipuria adds, "Its more about the intent, you have to prioritise. If you want it to happen, you have to make it happen. And as for juggling work and home, multi-tasking is what women do best, its comes naturally."

CNBC TV 18 anchor Shereen Bhan is a recognizable face in the field of business television. She tell us why corporates may have to look at some of their talent and provide support to them if they intend to retain them. She says, "I think with media the problem that we essentially would talk about is time. Fortunately in media we also have a 'flexi time'. We do not keep predictable time but that also means that if we are not talking a 9 to 5 job, we are also not talking about being at work 24/7.

"I think what corporates need to address is the question of a support system for all its employees and not based on gender alone. Should we have special privileges? Increasingly corporates do step in and look at a particular talent and see if it's worth their while to accept certain demands. This is not a case of bias, but then you also have to prove your merit before you get special privileges.

"Also, I think, the reason why one might notice fewer women at the top is simply because women do opt out themselves and this might have nothing to do with the organisation. You can't be everything to everybody. So yes, in the case of some women, the glass ceiling is purely internal."

Times Now anchor Mini Menon gives a thumbs up to most organizations she has worked with as well. "I think when you work with professional corporate organizations you do not have to worry about gender concerns. I have worked as a reporter across organizations like BiTV, Star, CNBC and now Times Now and they have all been equally sensitive. So whether you are talking security during reportage, late nights or even living conditions while on report assignments, the news organisation has been most supportive.

"While I was at CNBC and closer to my delivery date I was given the choice to work fewer hours or even now at Times Now I am given complete freedom. But apart from the sensitivity issue, I think most women also understand that if an organization goes that extra mile for you, you have to be equally responsible at work."

Red FM RJ Malishka, who has just completed a marathon shopping session gearing up for the morning Women's Day special, huffs and pants through the conversation when she says, "Radio is at a nascent stage and although it is male dominated, being fewer in number is an advantage. Yes, there are pre set ideas and lines are drawn clearly between men and women junta at work, Red still tends to be more supportive of us women."

Does she ever wonder what it would be like to do the balancing act between being a mother and a cool RJ all at the same time? "You have a field like advertising and you know you will be working crazy hours there. My sister has to work crazy schedules and I always tell her to quit because really, it's bad for the ovaries. That said, I can almost imagine a day when I will wheel in a pram into the radio on air studio and say 'Be quiet, mama needs to go on air for the next 30 minutes'." Cool mom, indeed.

ShowM's Ravina Raj Kohli says that she has never faced any such discrimination during her ongoing career in media. "It becomes a problem when you think of it as a problem," she asserts. 

TV 18 web property IndiWo editor Swapna Chidambaram says, "I believe that the media is one sphere that allows you to choose the hours you want to work. It gives you the freedom to be a free lancer if you should so choose."

"Earlier, women picked 9 to 5 jobs and were satisfied. Today they venture out, look at a vast variety of disciplines and choose to work in a competitive arena. Today you have more female photographers choosing what was once a male domain. The talent pool has increased and this is certain to contribute to even more women leaders.

"A more important issue that I would place stress on is that women should take an equal onus to perform. In media women can prove themselves based on talent and dedication and rise based on merit alone. So today, we need to establish ourselves as expert writers, photographers or whatever our chosen domain is and NOT on account of being a "woman" in a man's world or anything."

UTV broadcast COO Zarina Mehta explains that because the media industry is still new, 7-8 years old, it is largely dominated by women. "I believe everyone is given an equal chance and that just goes to show what women can do. Maybe, in other industries like banking and engineering there still exists a bias. 

"I don't believe in Women's Day!" staunchly declares Mehta.

Strong words we admit. But is it such a rosy picture after all? The predominantly female team at thinks that's just one more facet to a woman at work. It ain't all good, but there's no point complaining. As for the organizations, amidst all the celebrations and cake cutting, it would be a great time to sit back and reflect on what can be done to give women power the impetus it clearly needs.

On that note, Happy Women's Day!

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