The 3rd annual Women Leadership Summit, hosted by the Women in Management club at IIMB, examines unconscious bias at the workplace and suggests ways in which stereotypes can be addressed both by young professionals and corporates
Bengaluru: Two keynote speakers, each role models in their own right, and a room full of achievers to whom working against the odds is second nature, combined to create a vibrant platform for discussions around women in leadership roles in corporate India.
“Success and likeability are negative correlates for women,” said Neeta Revankar, CFO, Saken Technologies and Member of the Management Committee of Sasken, exhorting young professionals to recognise unconscious bias at the workplace and condition themselves to challenge it.
The former South Zone cricketer turned CFO emphasized the value of developing domain expertise through constant learning and reskilling while paying equal attention to maintaining good health, building strong professional and personal networks and having the right mentors. “Make a religion around fitness. It will pime you for leadership roles and give you the confidence and the mental strength that you need,” she advised.
Drawing liberally from her own journey from the cricket pitch at Madras University to the corporate boardroom at Sasken, she spoke of the tight rope she chose to walk. “Be it the Company Secretary examination that I took when my baby girl was born, the weekend programme in strategic finance management that I signed up for even as I handled a high pressureMonday–Friday job, or the two-month management programme at Harvard Business School that meant leaving my comfort zone behind, all these decisions were difficult to take but having a clear picture of my goals and investing in myself by building strong networks and choosing the right mentors proved invaluable for me,” she explained.
Observing that corporates should make it worth the while of qualified women to stay and excel in the work place, she urged organizations to create, build and support both women’s only and mixed networks at the workplace where women can interact during work hours.
Calling for quotas for women in the workplace, she said the suggestion, though “controversial”, could ensure the presence women at every level. “Every member of every leadership team of every organization should have diversity as their goal, and should mentor at least 3-5 women,” she said.
On the theme of role models, the second speaker of the morning, Kaustubh Chakraborty, PGP alumnus (2003) from IIMB and current alum-trainer at McKinsey and Company, spoke on the aspiration gap which, he said, explained the lack of women in the C suite and emphasized the need to have more role models. Supporting his statements with statistics from a recent study of 118 companies with regard to women in leadership roles, he said the study revealed that women were choosing staff roles instead of line roles and the cycle kept reinforcing itself. “While addressing the aspiration gap, we should make a financial case for diversity,” he added.
The third annual Women Leadership Summit, hosted by the Women in Management (WIM) club at IIM Bangalore, witnessed an enthusiastic turnout not only from IIMB, but also from various other colleges like Christ University, and companies like SAP, Microsoft and Infosys in Bangalore.
Earlier in the day, N Ravi, Senior Fellow, Centre for Public Policy at IIM Bangalore, opened the summit with an inspiring welcome address. “While we as a country have plenty of work to do in having more women in leadership roles, I am happy to see concrete initiatives emerging to address the issue,” he said, offering the example of the Union government working with private players to reduce the waiting list for child care at the workplace.
The keynote speakers were followed by a panel on ‘Priming for Success’, featuring Dr. Do Thu Ha, Professor, Vietnam National University; Chitra V, Manager, Deloitte Consulting; Mansi Baranwal, Case Team Lead, Bain & Company and Latha S, CEO, ChipperSage Education, and moderated by Professor Vasanthi Srinivasan of the Organizational Behaviour & Human Resources Management area of IIM Bangalore.
The summit concluded with a workshop on ‘Social Entrepreneurship’, conducted by Nagaraja Prakasam, mentor at NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL), the entrepreneurship and incubation centre at IIMB, and Angel Investor & Founder, Indian Angel Network.
“Women and men often start out on an equal footing at entry levels in corporates. However, the numbers at the top tell a different story. Why is it that such few women are able to successfully ascend the professional ladder? What are the challenges faced, and how can they be overcome? These were the questions that inspired the theme of this summit,” said Anuradha Rao, President, Women in Management club, IIM Bangalore.
Started in 2014, the Women in Management (WIM) club at IIMB aims to promote gender equality and encourage women to find their rightful place in education, industry and entrepreneurship. Towards this end, the WIM club has launched several initiatives (such as summits, talks, workshops, mentoring sessions and networking events) to create awareness about the challenges faced by women in industry and the role to be played by various stakeholders in encouraging and developing women leaders.