India Today’s first Woman Summit and Awards, held in Mumbai on February 6 was attended by top women professionals from corporate India, women entrepreneurs, women in Government, etc., along with a distinguished panel of speakers. The Summit acknowledged the contribution of modern Indian woman aspiring towards leadership in their chosen field of work.
Delivering the opening address, Aroon Purie, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, India Today Group, pointed out that the percentage of women in the work force had gone up from 13 per cent in 1987 to 25 per cent in 2001. According to him, by 2010, this figure would go up to 45 per cent. Purie, however, lamented the fact that the number of women in the top rung was abysmal. He said, “Women need equal opportunities and there are many barriers.”
Making a difference
Delivering her keynote address, Sheila Dixit, Chief Minister Delhi, noted, “The challenge for women is to balance their personal and professional lives with their intrinsic nature of love and compassion.”
While noting that only successful women were recognized, Dixit said, “Unsung women, who toil outside their homes in their work place and come back home to tend to everyone, should also be given due recognition. Only 2 per cent women in India are paid equally and there is much bias in relation to inheritance, ownership, and wages. Men should not consider them as competition.”
This keynote session was moderated by Prabhu Chawla, Editorial Director, India Today Group.
The glass ceiling – fact or excuse?
A session devoted women at the work place, saw panelists like Madhabi Puri Buch, Executive Director, ICICI Bank Ltd; Falguni Nayar, Managing Director, Kotak Mahindra Capital Company Ltd; and Chandra Iyengar, Additional Chief Secretary, Public Health and Family Welfare, Government of Maharashtra. The session was chaired by Vinita Bali, Managing Director, Britannia Industries Ltd. All the women agreed that there was a glass ceiling and that women themselves put barriers for themselves.
Falguni Nayar noted, “There are no golden rules to succeed at the workplace, no secret recipe. No one-size-fits-all, but mentoring women can groom them to a senior position. For professional women, it has never been so good. Women should be passionate about their work, they have the ability to work double hard, prioritise time and make good use of infrastructure.”
Vinita Bali stressed, “Women should be part of the team and not relegate themselves to the sidelines. They must learn to be more demanding of their rights and opportunities, just as men are, and not be shy and reticent and play equal games. Organisations should support talent and move away from gender divide.”
Agreeing with her, Madhabi Puri Buch said, “It is very hard for women in an organisation to pass the filter and move ahead. Women need to choose their careers as wisely as they would choose their husbands. Men have more flexibility and mobility in their careers, whereas women are constrained by their employers and society, leading to the era of talent shortage.”
Stating that there was a power struggle, Chandra Iyengar cautioned that women must understand and accept this and avoid getting conned and just move ahead of men who resisted this. She advised women to bond, socialise, break isolation at work, focus, trust themselves, and confidently move forward.
She pointed out, “There is change in the society due to awareness and media. ‘The-Other-Mother’ syndrome eventually goes as children grow to admire their working mother.
The session was moderated by Leena Nair, Executive Director, Hindustan Unilever Ltd.
Woman in crisis control: Taking charge of life
Delivering her address, Nicola Horlick, Fund Management Guru & CEO, Bramdean Asset Management LLP, narrated her personal and professional crisis, the trauma and tragedy of losing one of her six children to leukemia. Juggling unmoving deadlines at work along with demands of home life to frenzied hospital trips to losing her daughter and job at the bank that she built and pull out of trouble due to work politics and resultant apathy, the shame and humiliation, Horlick realised that best way to prove her innocence was to restart her business, and along with her bosses, who were sacked, she started Bramdean Asset Management and rebuilt fortunes for her clients.
Horlick, who has been nicknamed ‘Superwoman’ by the British media, said, “Stakes are very high in financial services, so people behave very badly. It is incredibly lonely in pain and grief and easier to be working than sitting at home.
The session was moderated by Sangeeta Talwar, Executive Director (Marketing), Tata Tea Ltd.