Gender has nothing to do with leadership was a key takeaway at India Impact Communication Conclave 2021: Women’s Day Special. The fourth panel discussion focused on the topic of ‘Gender bender or gender no bar – Women in leadership: Driving with purpose and fulfilment’. The panellists comprised Bhuvaneshwari Cheruvu – Areteans; Geetika Bangia – Philips; Preeti Binoy – Kimberly-Clark; Priya Patankar – Phone Pe; Sushmita Bandopadhyay – BD, and the session was moderated by Mitu Samar – Eminence. This discussion focused on how gender plays a huge role in leadership, especially in everyday workspaces.
Picture a leader
Picture a leader; is she a woman? Cheruvu opened the discussion with a thought-provoking remark highlighting the stereotype that surrounds what leadership is supposed to look like. She also pointed out how this is an issue present in the minds of all individuals. Right from the get-go, we are introduced to a mindset that has acted as a barrier to the growth of an individual. The running theme of mental blocks was stated by multiple panellists. Binoy spoke on the power of speaking your mind and allowing your thoughts, and presence to fill the space of the room. This is extremely important especially in efforts to combat the stigma around women leaders and find a niche for them to grow, as pointed out by Bangia.
Picture a leader, is she a woman? When Cheruvu’s nieces certainly think so. The mindset, especially in the younger generation, is slowly making room for acceptance of leaders regardless of what gender they are.
Thrive, don’t just survive
Negotiation was a topic that Bangia introduced, especially in the workload and finance. When it comes to negotiating in the professional space, Bangia highlights that women are not empowered to do so. This leads to situations where women are given the short end of the stick. This goes back to an earlier point of being visible and asserting your presence in the workspace. When it comes to financial negotiation, there is another range of stereotypes that have conditioned the workplace. Patankar brought up the reality that women are not introduced to big purchase decisions, and this has been a trend since their childhood. She states how both sides are to blame for this, the men for unconsciously leaving women out, and women for not actively pushing themselves into the conversation. Years and years of conditioning people in this way would develop a bigger issue over time.
More than a caregiver
We tend to forget that mothers are leaders as well. Bandopadhyay speaks to how society has placed the role of a woman as the caregiver in a household. Yet women, especially mothers, have not been able to take care of themselves. Bandopadhyay highlights this mentality of self-care is associated with “indulgence”. This thinking is especially harmful to women who have grown up with the pressure to maintain a household while they balance their job.
The conscious effort
The imbalance of women leaders in the workspace is a long and tedious battle, but the good news is change is on the horizon. There needs to be an effort on both sides of the conversation to balance out the years of imbalance due to harmful stereotypes, lack of voice, and negligence to self-care. Cheruvu spoke strongly to the need for conscious inclusion. An active stance of mending the imbalance will go a long way.
Session coverage by Chizuk Longkumer