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Wonder Women 100: Mindset needs to change first for more inclusion, diversity

Fewer women leaders at upper management positions, wage gaps are still big issues.

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KOLKATA: Women are increasingly coming out and taking up more challenging roles against all odds. The media, entertainment and advertising industry is no exception. Despite the great strides made over recent years, there are still issues like fewer women leaders in upper management positions and salary gaps that need to be addressed for a better tomorrow.

In a panel discussion, ‘Women, inclusivity and change’, industry leaders shared their views on the existing gaps and how that can be tackled to bring about positive change. Zee5 head-customer strategy and relationships Anita Nayyar, ABD CMO Anupam Bokey, Lodestar UM CEO Nandini Dias, NXTDigital group chief technology officer Ru Ediriwira, Madison Media Sigma - Madison World CEO Vanita Keswani, Hollywood actress and producer Rashaana Shah and Indiantelevision.com founder and editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari were part of the discussion. The session was moderated by Indiantelevision.com editorial lead Srishti Choudhary and online lead Arunima Bhattacharya.

First off, the panelists expressed their opinions on whether corporate India has finally adjusted itself to bring more women professionals into leadership roles. Nayyar said we are miles away from where we actually should be given the kind of women leaders that are there in any industry, not only in advertising and marketing. Women have taken leadership roles in sectors like manufacturing, banking, and automobile; which most people considered no space for a woman.

Dias brought up another important aspect of addressing the issue. While organisations across the board are hiring more women, these recruitments are happening mostly at the starting level. As time passes, the women get into different life stages, some of them even drop off. Corporates, governments do not enable their female employees to stay in the workforce, there are not enough policies to ensure they don’t quit midway because of changes like marriage and pregnancies.  

Not everything is grey though. According to Keswani, there is not any gender if looked at from the perspective of microenvironment of media. She added that the industry believes in a person’s capability and does not uphold any bias. Moreover, it is about the individualistic approach. She also highlighted an issue that even some women don’t prefer working with women. “A lot of spirited action and ambition to move up the ladder,” she emphasised. The drive to work and climb up the ladder depends not just on an organisation’s policies, but the person’s family, upbringing, and education.

Bokey, who works in the liquor industry where gender disparity has been prevalent, said that he joined his current organisation because it had a very transformative agenda. The agenda was not only about market share and sales but also internal management. He asserted that there is no option to not have this diversity because business or brands will suffer otherwise. Equal the numbers better would be the work, he stated.

Hollywood actor and entrepreneur Shah said women are more well accepted in Hollywood, compared to the Indian film industry. Hollywood is much more inclusive too. She had to go through a great deal of unlearning after moving to Los Angeles. There are more women on sets these days, and there is no code of conduct expected from women particularly, making the experience more liberating. However, she faced a unique problem when she was pitching to venture capitalists to invest in her production house. The investors did not trust women with so much money, making the overall pitching much harder for her.

The issue with such a mindset is also a big reason for the wage gap among male and female leaders. Nayyar said that everyone, including women, should stop seeing things in terms of gender. There is a wrong perception across industries that female resources can be hired at a cheaper cost. Most of the industries are not equating capability with remuneration, she pointed out. The salaries are not at par because these organisations are, by and large, headed by men. Dias shared a similar view, adding that women don’t negotiate often because they get overwhelmed after breaking the glass ceiling. Experts opined that belief in self can give them a place at the negotiation table.

Ediriwira highlighted the lack of mentorship in many organisations is another reason for many women just stopping at middle management. “We have the responsibility to mentor and help other women who are coming up behind us,” she shared.

“Diversity, inclusion – these are not words. These are facilities to be done, things to be done. We don’t want clones of men. A woman will think differently, she will behave in another way, her bodily function will be in a certain way. We want diversity, inclusion in the real sense of the word and that will bring nuances which are different and organisations need to facilitate that,” Dias emphasised.

Most importantly, being true to yourself, taking care of yourself, empowering and encouraging other women, asking for help rather than going it on your own, are mandatory to bring the change from within.

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