Event Coverage

IICC 2021 Panel 1: Scratching more than the surface of diversity

Comms News, in association with 80 db communication, Scroll Mantra and Kommune Brand Communications, organised the Women’s Day Special edition of India Impact Communication Conclave (IICC) on March 09th, 2021. The conclave had a set of five panel discussions with 30 leading communication leaders in conversation on various pressing topics around the industry. The first-panel discussion was centred at ‘Scratching More Than The Surface Of Diversity – A look into where we stand as fellow professionals’ which began with the introduction of all the panellists who included Chaya Arora – SAP India; Geetanjali Nehru – Max Life Insurance; Neha Bajaj – Scroll Mantra; Priya Badshah – Invesco; Vasudha Jha – Mars Petcare and was moderated by Shreya Krishnan – Anviti Insurance Brokers.

Industry outlook

The moderator started the discussion by asking the panellists to share their thoughts on where the industry stands in context with the topic itself. Arora initiated the conversation by stating that gone are the days where women were the weaker section and that the women who are privileged and empowered should help the section which needs it. Building on it, Badshah said that there certainly is awareness but a lot of work needs to be done in order to bring about a shift in mindset, to which Nehru completely agreed and underlined the need for professionals to sit together and deliberate a way to change the ante from where it is today. Talking about how our own unconscious biases create differences, Jha pointed out that the journey of diversity begins from looking for a change within ourselves to change the world. Bajaj concluded the question by stating that we still have a long way to go in order to achieve a healthy state of diversity and inclusion.

Equity and the industry

“Equity means empowerment, development, being fair, and I would love to be in a world where equity as a concept doesn’t need to be spoken about because it’s a natural – the skin of the game. And while we aren’t there yet, we have noticeably moved in that direction over the past few years”, said Nehru while answering the question ‘What equity means to you and are we there yet?’ Agreeing with the point, Priya Badshah added “Equity should be inherent. Right now, it’s acquired. There’s a lot of work which needs to be done. All the cards are on the table and all that’s left for us to do is put constant conscious effort and execute the plan.” Vasudha Jha had a different take on the issue as compared to the rest of the panel as she questioned the question and shared that the concept of equity seems a little nebulous to her. “Equity to me is a culture which is free of all biases and is fair when it comes to giving equal opportunities on a merit basis” highlighted Bajaj. Bringing the section to an end, Arora said, “Equity is a matter of heart and it starts from home. So, if our perspective is right then equity is not going to be a word which will be played around with.”

Diversity of all kinds

The panellists held similar views on the current state of diversity and inclusion in the industry. They believed that there’s still a long road ahead to achieve a neutral and inclusive state. Bajaj underlined how she never came across any company which hired a transgender as an employee and that the leadership should start acknowledging the level of exposure diversity brings to the table. Jha challenged the unconscious biases we hold and advised us to be aware of them and make a conscious effort to bring about the change we desperately need. It’s a constant conversation that needs to be called out time and again is what Arora said in addition to the point being made. Badshah rightly demanded the industry to be gender agnostic and urged women to not ask for special privileges goes against the entire construct of equality. Building on the same, Nehru pointed out the need to have the courage to ask for what you deserve and for the industry to have merit as the only criteria whatsoever.

Top three troubles

The panellists had a very candid and crisp response when they were asked to state the three biggest challenges in the path to achieving equality. While Badshah, Nehru, Jha and Bajaj saw the current mindset and mindset, unconscious bias, lack of confidence, patriarchy, lack of commitment, and making it into a community thing as the main areas of concern, Arora brought a different perspective to the table by saying that challenges are just a perspective and not real. She further added the benefits of challenges and how they help one learn and grow.

Session report by Ashlesha Raj

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