‘Advertising has the power to bring indelible change in culture’

The final day of Goafest 2022 saw UN Women's Suhela Khan, Starcom India's Rathi Gangappa, and Leo Burnett's Dheeraj Sinha take part in a discussion on Diversity, Equality & Inclusion

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: May 7, 2022 2:22 PM  | 3 min read

“The true way for our businesses to invoke the superpower within is by introducing more diversity and inclusion in our workplaces,” says FCB Ulka Chairperson and CEO Rohit Ohri while highlighting the theme of Goafest 2022. He said it during a panel discussion on “Diversity, Inclusion, and Inclusion” on the final day of the festival.

The august panel included UN Women Country Program Manager - We Empower Asia Suhela Khan, Starcom India CEO Rathi Gangappa, and Leo Burnett CEO and Chief Strategy Officer - South Asia Dheeraj Sinha.

Starting off the discussion, Ohri emphasised that the diversity and inclusion in agencies must go above just numbers and must be integrated as a fundamental part of the organisational structure wherein women get the right work environment and culture.

Ohri brought Khan into the discussion by asking what makes DENI a challenge in South Asian countries, including India, where diversity and culture are diverse. According to Khan, everything boils down to the structural and cultural constraints and gender biases that are ingrained in societies like ours. “According to data, women spend 3.5 X more time doing unpaid care work globally and in India, this number is almost ten times higher. And this eventually reflects in the workforce participation too. Right now, women are just about 20% of the workforce and this number is continuously declining for the past few decades.”

The discussion then moved to Gangappa who talked about the issue of DENI-washing by several organisations wherein they hire a chief diversity officer and then don’t follow on with the whole cultural and structural changes within. “It shouldn’t be stopping in the script only but in merit and competency as well. To embrace diversity businesses would really need to embrace change in the way they are growing. More and more women must be taking leadership roles based on their merit.”

She also highlighted that Starcom has evolved a lot in this direction in the past two years, getting around 50% women in leadership positions. “There are positions and there are women who are capable and competent to take up these roles on merit. We need to give them these opportunities.”

Further, Sinha discussed how creative and communication businesses can work on the diversity agenda highlighting that many changes need to be made in how creative agencies function. “This culture of brainstorming late in the night over beers needs to be changed. We cannot be expecting women who have care responsibilities at home to spend 18-20 hours in the office too. We need to change how we function and make the environment more welcoming for women. Little changes like putting sanitary pads in female washrooms at the office will make a big impact. Advertising has the power to bring indelible change in culture and we should be working on creating content that helps us realise this agenda.” 

He added that organisations also need to cope with the rest 50% of the workforce that is the males, who should not be left feeling passive-aggressive or neglected in the process of women getting more chances.

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