Women media pros speak out about gender equality in the workplace

MUMBAI:  Women’s Day commemorates the movement for women's rights. First organised by The Socialist Party of America, the earliest women's day observance, called National Woman's Day, was held on 28 February 1909 in New York. 8 March was then suggested by the 1910 International Woman's Conference and labeled International Woman's Day.

Over the past decade, a lot of brouhaha has been created about 8 March – Women’s Day – as a day to celebrate eves all over the world. Even as an increasing number of womenfolk are joining the workforce in India, the perception is that the shift to positions of power has happened for a handful only. Yes there are a few women achievers who have made it to the top rungs of corporations and they feature in flashy features in business magazines and newspapers but the number that has made it to the very top is limited.

Therefore, spoke to a few industry professionals who have made a mark in the Indian media industry on what Women’s Day means to them and about the status of Indian women in media and entertainment organisations and most of them were blunt that corporate India and especially media and entertainment companies have a lot of distance to cover on the issue of gender equality in the workplace. Read on:

public://Anita Nayyar_CEO Havas Media Group India & South Asia.jpgAnita Nayyar, CEO India & South Asia  at Havas Media Group

Women’s day is just another day that reminds me how lucky I am to be a woman and to be one among the many inspiring and accomplished women across the globe. Our (advertising agency’s) work reflects our thinking and mindset which further determines workplace equality. As an industry, we’ve come a long way since the #MeToo movement and with more campaigns like #LikeAGirl, #JaneWalker, #UnitedbyHalf we are surely and swiftly moving in the right direction, towards gender equality. Women, across the world, are expected to play a larger part in handling a household and taking care of their family. Long working hours especially in industries like advertising and media, become a hindrance and affect the overall work-life balance. Although our country boasts of a number of successful women entrepreneurs who have created successful business brands across the world, their journeys have not been easy. Women are still considered as a weaker section of society than men and given less importance.

At workplaces, women need to first believe in themselves, participate more without hesitation and speak up for their rights. At an organisational level, companies should develop and implement comprehensive anti-discrimination policies, as a starting point. Such policies allow employers to make clear to its employees the types of behaviour that will not be tolerated in the workplace.

public://anita_0.jpgAnita Kotwani, Leader of Client Leadership at Mindshare

Why should the significance of women be restricted to a day? Her significance to me is “everyday” where she rises to the occasion and excels both personally and professionally. I think one makes a mark in any industry by the sheer outcome that you drive on the business.  At that time, it’s about results and not about gender bias. You deliver, you leave your mark. The only challenge that I faced in my career was how can I better my performance year on year such that I stand proud of my achievements?

public://Soniya Kulkarni.jpgSoniya Kulkarni, Creative and Business Head for Formats and Productions at BBC Worldwide India

The media industry is one of the industries where women have done relatively well as compared to many other industries. It requires lateral thinking, creativity, multitasking and democratic methods of operation, these are the things that most women have long proven to be excellent at. We have several instances of women who are leaders in production houses, programming, writers and designers. However, in the larger corporates you definitely see fewer women in senior and strategic positions.

I don't believe that women look for any special concessions at the workplace. We only expect to be treated equally, to be paid as much as our male counterparts are and given the same opportunities and the rest is on us to prove our best abilities.

public://tata.jpgMegha Tata, Chief Operating Officer at BTVI

Every day is a reminder to pause and reflect on the achievements of womenfolk around the world. There are many women employed in the media industry but I don’t see too many women as business heads or at the board level. It’s not about males dominating this industry, but there is something fundamentally wrong in the way we function of not making the environment more conducive for women to grow

In this competitive atmosphere, striking a balance between your work and personal life is not an easy job for working women. A demanding career makes things even more difficult. Even as a mother I adjusted, not compromised in my life. There are times when a PTA meeting was more important than a business meeting and at times vice-versa. That’s the balancing you need to do, this can’t be taught but comes from within you, by your experiences, understanding and prioritising what is important at that moment.

To ensure a healthy workplace for women, the industry needs to implement an egalitarian work culture, starting with equal opportunities and equal pay. There are some work roles that are less explored by women and organisations should encourage women to take forward such opportunities and support her on every possible step.

public://Ms Leena Lele Dutta (1).jpgLeena Lele Dutta, Business Head at Sony Pictures Networks India for Kids Genre

Why do we need to celebrate women for just for a day? I believe the key lies in being more gender neutral. I hope we have a day, in our near future, where women and men are both celebrated, free from prejudices where equality comes through in its true form. Indian media has a very healthy mix of both the genders. Women have been celebrated amongst all the sectors and business sectors especially have always enjoyed a strong presence of women professionals, and often in leadership roles. I believe the glass ceiling is cracked, but it’s yet to be broken.

There is the adage that ‘she would get judged in whatsoever she does’ and that has been hammered in our minds since the start. Working women essay many roles; a mother, wife, daughter, boss and a team member. It is multi-dimensional, pressured, and unfortunately many succumb to the ‘choice’ they need to make. In my case, I have been blessed with an encouraging husband and family. They have been instrumental in calming my anxieties every time I’m faced at the crossroads of making the ‘choice’ – the decision; especially more so after the birth of my twin boys.

public://rubeena.jpgRubeena Singh, CEO, iProspect India.

If you go back in history, you will note that roots of Women’s Day lie in Russia where during the World War 1, where driven to despair by the long lines for food, women went on strike. Much later the UN declared 8 March as Women’s Day to celebrate women's achievements throughout history and across nations. For me, the fact that we observe Women’s Day means that true gender equality is yet to be attained. In India, the media sector is one of the most gender diverse. Across content creation, marketing, creative, advertising women have been continuously making their mark. That said, at the senior and leadership levels we have a long way to go. 

public://gada.jpgKranti Gada, SVP at Shemaroo Entertainment

There are many women out there who know that it is not a level playing field for them and who in their own manner want to change it. Women’s day celebrates and recognises women, their solidarity and support for each other.  This is a day that celebrates their collective interests. I feel women have made some commendable progress in the media industry and continue to make a significant mark for themselves. We now see so many women behind the camera on television sets, in news channels and donning different hats in other creative fields. But what we can’t ignore is that, this industry has its own set of challenges. Media is a dynamic, 24X7 industry and has no fixed hours and day offs. A journalist can be summoned at any hour of the day if there is a news break. Films and television shoots almost always go beyond their twelve hours shift and wrap up into the wee hours of the day. 

There is a high dose of uncertainty involved in this profession and it does become difficult for women to dabble with work, personal commitments and duties at home. It is up to us to decide whether we will ape the masculine or underline the feminine.

public://ARCHANA-ANAND (1).jpgArchana Anand, EVP & Head of Digital at ZEE5 India 

The fact that we need to call out and celebrate this gender with a specific day indicates that we still have some way to go before we claim true equality. Patricia Arquette in her Oscar acceptance speech last year spoke about the need for ‘equal wages’, cheered on by Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez. It is really intriguing that even today, women's equality is being discussed and debated in hugely public forums of the first world. If Madonna and Meryl Streep feel the inequality strong enough to talk about it, that says a lot.

People also assume that women will not be able to give their full potential as they have to balance work with usual life breaks; marriage, kids, home management, etc. Then there are often assumptions about women not being analytical enough. Women also have a higher EQ which is often underestimated, as is their ability to multi-task. Just stop seeing them as women and start seeing them as professionals, the way you would any man.

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