Women need to show intent to break glass ceiling: Panellists at VCCircle summit

Women employees need to make their ambitions known to the management to attain a C-suite position, said panellists at News Corp VCCircle Women Leaders’ Summit.

“The first thing is you need to do is make sure you ambitions are known to the organisation. Demonstrate your intent strongly,” said Debjani Ghosh, managing director, South Asia and VP-sales and marketing group, Intel Corporation. “You have to be ready to take a few rejections, it happens to all of us. That shouldn’t hurt your confidence in your ability,” she said.

Uma Ratnam Krishnan, CEO at Barclays Shared Services, echoed Ghosh's thoughts: "Men ask for the job when they are ready, women wait to be 150% ready. They need to take the plunge earlier."

On the matter of pay equality, the panellists were of the view that organisations need to carry out extensive checks at various levels to ensure equal pay for equal work. However, women should not shy away from having conversations around salaries, they added.

“Even after finding out that they are getting paid less, very few women approach the management and negotiate. You need to have that conversation,” added Krishnan.

The panellists also acknowledged the problem of talent leakage, with women joining the workforce in large numbers but quitting a few years into their career due to childbirth or marriage.

“The need for flexible hours for women and men needs to be recognised. You cannot ignore that if a child is sick, that’s a woman’s priority. We need both maternal and paternal leave, so that the onus does not lie on one gender. We need to ensure that women do not fall off, and if they do, they need to be brought back on board smoothly,” said Debjani, illustrating a few measures to plug the leakage.

Rohit Sathe, senior franchise director at Johnson & Johnson, was of the view that the senior management needs to create policies that are sensitive to gender diversity, so that women do not feel left behind or judged for taking maternity leave.

On the importance of mentorship in helping women break into the C-suite, the panel unanimously agreed that there was a need for leaders to step up.

“Mentoring younger employees is something leaders have to take ownership for. It is important for younger employees to hear success stories from seniors,” said Shweta Rajpal Kohli, head of public policy-India & South Asia, Uber.

Kohli lauded the recent government move to extend maternity leave to six months, and said it was disheartening that many Indian startups had spoken against it. However, she added that hiring women just because they are women can be counter-productive; it can go against meritocracy while alienating them.

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