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Noorings: Looking for more women leaders to head industry bodies

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Noorings: Looking for more women leaders to head industry bodies

It is so difficult to write on subjects like these and not be misunderstood for being a feminist or a sexist of some kind. For those who know me, I am neither. And I give credit of that thought process to some of the most iconic names of the Indian media and advertising -- with whom I have had the good fortune to meet and learn from.

I was not even a year old in the business, when I had heard Lynn de Souza (Lintas Media Group) say inclusion of a woman in a body or a committee should not be because she is a woman, but because of her capability.

What she had said then, I understand better now.

The Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) is seeing a bitter battle over the President’s Chair right now. In a sense, this has reminded many that this is a position of prestige and responsibility, and should not be taken for granted. Why else are agency heads and CEOs spending considerable time of their day in deciding who should win this Chair. As we continue our research on this for the various reports we are doing on the elections, we chanced upon the list of the Past Presidents of the AAAI since 1945. A young colleague of mine casually remarked, no women presidents there.

And we scanned the list once again. We did find NV Wadia in the 1976-77 term, and then Tara Sinha in 1984-85. Of the two, I have met only Sinha – and even now she can make people sit up straight.

After that, in the last 25 years, no one has nominated a President that happened to be a woman. Perhaps a nomination was made, but it was not accepted – though I find this suggestion unlikely myself. From Roda Mehta and Ketaki Gupte to Lynn de Souza and Meenakshi Madhavani, our industry has some of the most powerful women leaders, who are respected not just in India, but in their global networks. They don’t say no to challenges of any kinds, and they have taken time out for the growth of the industry.

I do not know the reasons why this Past President list is bereft of women icons that have donned the exchange4media Women Icon issues year after year, or have been featured in similar other industry lists. But I missed them in the list.

Despite the way de Souza, for instance, views it, over the years, many industry leaders have told us that even as women in Indian advertising industry are doing well, it is true that there are cases when glass ceilings have come in the way of growth. I suppose there never is an objective way of looking at this.

Don’t get me wrong – ours is a fair industry. And I am extremely fortunate for being a part (even though an external one) of it. But I have to say, one reason is that I get the chance of interacting with these women leaders, who understand that even in the world of equality, there are times of differences – some face it, some don’t. But even those who face it, or not, find a way to grow, a way of shutting everything else and focussing on critical areas, a way of questioning everything and yet maintaining order, a way of bringing non-like minds together, a way of working together. Isn’t that what an AAAI President should be about?

The story is not every different for some of the other bodies – Ad Club, Advertising Standards Council of India, Indian Broadcasting Foundation, Indian Society of Advertisers. We don’t have their Presidents’ lists since inception, but there are no women leaders to show in these in the recent past.

The industry can do with the guidance and leadership of the likes of Lynn de Souza for a year or two – it has already benefitted from her expertise and doggedness in areas like measurement. The newer leaders – Punitha Arumugam, Jasmin Sohrabji, Nandini Dias, Divya Radhakrishnan, and it is a decently long list to go on – have often brought views and thoughts that have made us revisit and relook at reports and analyses. Minds such as Apurva Purohit, though she has now left the agency side, would have made a difference.

‘Women in advertising’ is a subject that has interested people like me for many years. These are some of the sources that I draw my inspiration and strength from, everyday. These are names that have knowingly, or unknowingly, challenged convention and made more place for other leaders to come in the industry, and grow. And that is perhaps the reason that triggered this piece.

Past Presidents of The Advertising Agencies Association Of India
1 Mr. M. H. Broom 1945-49
2 Mr. Jagan Nath Jaini 1949-50
3 Mr. D. H. McGill 1950-51
4 Mr. A. M. Patel 1951-52
5 Mr. W. F. Dyer 1952-53
6 Mr. E. J. Feilden 1953-55
7 Mr. S. K. Bose 1955-57
8 Mr. A. M. Patel 1956-58
9 Mr. J. Kurien 1958-59
10 Mr. R. F. Hardcastle 1958-59
11 Mr. H. N. Robinson 1959-60
12 Mr. S. N. Banerjee 1959-61
13 Mr. A. K. Gupta 1961
14 Mr. Harish C. Jain 1961-62
15 Mr. S. N. Banerjee 1962-63
16 Mr. I. Premnarayen 1963-65
17 Mr. R. Ahmed 1965-67
18 Mr. J. Chakravarthy 1967-69
19 Mr. A. S. Peerbhoy 1969-71
20 Mr. Bhasker B. Mundkur 1971-72
21 Mr. J. L. Mainthia 1972-74
22 Mr. P. Sanyal 1974-75
23 Mr Kailash C. Jain 1975-76
24 Mrs. N. V. Wadia 1976-77
25 Mr. S. Ghosal 1977-79
26 Mr. Ahmed Ibrahim 1979-80
27 Mr. S. R. Ayer 1980-82
28 Mr. R. K. Swamy 1982-84
29 Mr. R. C. B. Pereira 1984
30 Mrs. Tara Sinha 1984-85
31 Mr. Avinash Jain 1985-86
32 Mr. Bal Mundkur 1986-88
33 Mr K. Premnarayen 1988-89
34 Mr. M. K. Khanna 1989-90
35 Mr. Goutam Rakshit 1990-92
36 Diwan Arun Nanda 1992-94
37 Mr. Goutam Rakshit 1994-95
38 Mr. Anil Kapoor 1995-97
39 Mr. Ram Sehgal 1997-99
40 Diwan Arun Nanda 1999-2000
41 Mr. Ramesh Narayan 2000-2002
42 Mr. Sam Balsara 2002-2004
43 Mr. Srinivasan K Swamy 2004-2007
44 Mr. Madhukar Kamath 2007-2009


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