At an event held in Mumbai on November 11, 2010, Lynn de Souza, Chairman, Women’s Leadership Network (WLN) India, and Chairman and CEO, Lintas Media Group, announced the launch of ‘Equal & Opposite’, a WLN India initiative that aims to improve gender balance at leadership levels in IPG companies. Other eminent speakers included Dr Kiran Bedi, Ramon Magsaysay Award winner, social activist and IPS Officer (retd.), and Leena Nair, Executive Director, HR, Hindustan Unilever Ltd.
The event also saw the presence of WLN India’s executive sponsors – Nagesh Alai, CFO, Asia Pacific, DraftFCB, and Charles Cadell, CEO, Lowe Lintas.
Women are playing an increasingly important role in the sustained success of companies. Unlike most other professions, women already form a very large part of the workforce in communications and other creative professions – 34 per cent, compared to a national average of 14 per cent. However, the challenge before this industry is the high dropout rate. The ratio drops to just 11 per cent at senior management positions.
Speaking on the occasion, de Souza said, “We felt that it would be best to begin at the top (where there needs to be maximum awareness generated and fears mitigated), and that would then drive change below, and generate support for all subsequent WLN India events, training and workshops, many of which may be exclusively for women.”
The WLN India Executive Committee comprises senior women leaders. The Mumbai chapter is co-chaired by Kavita Lakhani, President, LinOpinion Public Relations, and Loveleen Raina, Vice President and General Manager, McCann Erickson. WLN’s Delhi chapter is co-chaired by Sudha Natrajan, President and Chief Operating Officer, Lintas Media Group. Savita Mathai, Vice President, HR, Asia Pacific, DraftFCB leads the Mentoring sub-committee. The National Events and Programmes sub-committee is headed by Michelle Suradkar, Deputy Director HR, Lowe Lintas. The Membership and Communication sub-committee is headed by Parvathy Nair, Vice President and General Manager, McCann Erickson.
Kavita Lakhani, Mumbai co-chair, WLN India and President, LinOpinion Public Relations, observed, “Gender differences when properly harnessed can result in immense growth and multidimensional progress for the company. It is hence important for every organisation to become gender skilled, and to learn how to bring out the best in all their employees. Our strategy will involve ‘Celebrating the Difference’ that women bring to the table, rather than pushing for drastic behavioural modification (women behaving like men, men being extra kind to women, etc.). Equal & Opposite will encourage women to stay on the career curve all the way up to the most responsible leadership positions. To bring their special brand of looking at things differently into the mix, in order to complement and balance the equal and opposite viewpoints of their male counterparts.”
Elaborating on WLN India’s plans, Loveleen Raina, Mumbai co-chair, WLN India and Vice President & General Manager, McCann Erickson, said, “The WLN India committee will actively work with existing talent in the organisation to understand the challenges faced by women in the workplace and their apprehensions in charting out a long term relationship with the organisation. Activities undertaken will broadly be divided in four key areas – National and local events to create a platform for the existing talents to network and share their experiences; Mentoring the promising talent pool to create leaders of tomorrow; Advocacy for top management; Client Roundtables to educate and bring to focus the issue of gender management and related training and HR processes.”
On December 6 and 7, 2010, WLN India will co-host an IPG-sponsored event, ‘The Battle for Female Talent in India’, featuring a study done by Sylvia Hewlett, President, Center for Work-Life Policy. The study is an exploration of best practice in the private sector – cutting-edge initiatives that leverage the newly-rich pool of female talent. It will unveil new research and explore new strategies for cultivating, engaging and retaining this critically important talent. The next event follows on December 8 – a live webcast of a talk in New York by Ilene Lang, President and CEO of Catalyst, a leading organisation in the US working to expand opportunities for women in business. Lang will be speaking on the topic: ‘Women in the Business World: How Far Have We Really Come and What Can We Do About It?’.
Going forward, WLN India will address work-life balance issues, provide gender handling training to both men and women, create a comfortable inclusive work environment at every level, address issues of gender based inequality, if any, and ultimately establish the IPG network with women employees (current and prospective) as the ‘best place to work’.