The inaugural session of the CII Women’s Conference dwelt with the fact that women are critical in achieving and maintaining sustainable development. And that the goals of sustainable development can be met only if policies, actions, attitudes and the social framework could be premised. Firdose A Vandrevala (Chairman, CII, Western Region & Managing Director –Tata Power Company) gave the welcoming address. The theme address was engineered by Lalita Gupte (Joint Managing Director, ICICI Bank), while the special address was given by Anand Mahindra (Vice President & Managing Director, Mahindra Mahindra) and Satyabir S Dodd (Principal Secretary, Department of Woman & Child Development Government of Maharashtra.)
Pallavi Jha (Chairperson, Managing Director, Walchand Capital), Govind Ehiraj (CNBC TV), Ganesh Natrajan (DY Chairman and Managing Director, Zensar Technologies Ltd), Meenakshi Madhvani (Managing Director, Spatial Access) and Rajeev Karwal (Managing Director, Electrolux Kelvinator Ltd, Delhi) were among those present.
The first panel discussion was on ‘Are women discriminated against in professional organizations?’ Meenakshi Madhvani said, “With increasing work, dual responsibilities exist for women, leaving them with little time to network with each other. While the boy’s network takes on at different levels, women find little time to socialize with women colleagues or for that matter, male colleagues. The glass ceiling does exist in most organizations but it’s up to the women to stand up for their rights and make use of the right opportunities.”
Rajeev Karwal, Electrolux asserted, “The task before any management structure is to make changes within the organization, which would encourage women to avail the right opportunities. But before an attitude change in an organization, there has to be an attitude change in society. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.” Natrajan believes that it’s up to women to voice their concerns, that it’s up to them to seek legal counsel, as and when they are being discriminated against.
The second discussion was on ‘Achieving Personal Excellence-Success Stories’ and featured Lalita Gupte as the moderator, Nafisa Shikari (Dealer, Corporate Central Bank), Naina Lal Kidwai (Vice Chairperson & Managing Director, HSBC Securities and Capital Markets), Villoo Morawala Patel(Founder & CEO, Avestha Gengraine Technologies, Bangalore) and Ranjana Kumar (Chairperson & Managing Director, NABARD).
Shikari expounded, “Personal Excellence though an important aspect, has to be supplemented with adequate support from the management. There are ways to work around some of the disabilities that we might have and through enough patience and effort, we can get by them. As a visually impaired person, Central Bank has given me enough of opportunities, without which, I would have ended up as a mere telephone operator. Computers and IT have made a difference to our personal and professional lives to such an extent that we can trade stock online.”
She added, “However, as a request to all corporate bodies, they need to give us adequate opportunities to excel. I urge them to not close doors on us. At the end of the day, we may not do different things but we do things differently.”
Kidwai stated, “Women need to get out of their comfort zones and push themselves a little further. Push yourself, push your team and push your organization to new heights and be passionate about everything you take on. To err is human, and you must make sure that you do not attribute your mistakes to your womanhood. In the course of your career, you may meet a lot many challenges. On your way up, people may shovel dirt at you and may make the entire process difficult. You need to just learn your lesson and move on. And strive for the best.”
Kidwai added, “It’s important to stretch yourselves to the maximum limit. And it’s important to be better than the best. Also, in the course of my career, I have noticed that women don’t push their case enough like their male colleagues do. Women are mostly quiet about their achievements and they expect to get recognition for their efforts, without pointing out their strong points. This mindset has to change.”
Morawala Patel stated, “Excellence in business or personal life does not result from chance, fate or good luck. You need to prioritize your objectives and aims - whether you aspire to be valuable, unusual, and unique, or quite plainly, the best.”
‘Reservation in Parliament, Right or a Privilege’ which was the next discussion featured Barkha Dutt (Senior Editor, New Delhi Television Ltd), Ranjani Kumari (Director, Centre for Social Research) and Kavita Khanna (Legal Director, Bharat Radiators.) as the panelists.