Rewriting the Rules: Women at the helm - Megha Tata

Guest Column: Megha Tata, MD, South Asia, Discovery Communications India, writes on ‘women’s gross under-representation as leaders in the Indian workforce’

e4m by Megha Tata
Published: Dec 3, 2019 12:44 PM  | 4 min read
Megha Tata

I have been part of the Media & Entertainment industry for nearly three decades now. It is an industry that has transformed itself massively over the past few years. However, what strikes me the most is that when it comes to leadership, most Media & Entertainment firms, are helmed by men. When I’m at industry events or I’m invited to various reputed forums, I often find women underrepresented vis-à-vis men, at the table, something I’ve seen mirrored across industries and organizations. In fact, Credit Suisse in their latest report titled ‘CS Gender 3000’ has stated that India’s female representation on boards increased by just 4.3 percentage points to 15.2 per cent in 2019 from 2014 while India’s female representation in senior management stands at a mere 8.5 per cent in 2019. These numbers are a worrying reminder of women’s gross under-representation as leaders in the Indian workforce.

While there is no set management style that could be defined in terms of gender, certain qualities such as competitiveness, ruthlessness and assertiveness are often viewed as predominantly male due to eons of conditioning. Women are often found ‘lacking’ these as leaders. As per a recent Pew Research Centre report, women who have reached the top feel as if they need to ‘act like men’ to be accepted into the seemingly all-boys clubs that most corporate leadership teams and company boards are. A truth I have often heard as well. Not only are prejudices about women’s inabilities as leaders outdated, but also do a grave disservice to the unique perspectives and people management styles that women leaders often introduce to organisations. We cannot discount the demonstrable work of women leaders that have produced outcomes as successful as, or even far surpassed than, their male counterparts.

The truth is that there are some innate skills that actually could give women an edge in business making them extremely valuable for the company. While technical know-how and knowledge is key to success at the workplace, it is a skill that can be acquired and is more accessible today than ever before. But, the skill that most companies are putting a high premium on is ‘Emotional Intelligence’ or more commonly referred to as soft skills. Most important day-to-day work skills fall under this umbrella including collaboration, communication, critical thinking, problem solving, motivation, work ethics, resilience and many more.

In today’s high-visibility, hyper-connected world where trust is one of the most sought-after qualities in a professional environment, it is extremely critical that a company and its leadership is always acting in an ethical manner. Researchers at the Wharton School say that women, who have been in similar leadership roles, have often been better at enforcing ethical ways of doing business which help build companies and not damage them.

I have met women from within the company and the industry to understand what, it will take for them, to go beyond what is expected and truly work towards shattering that ever-present glass ceiling. What is it that we as leaders can do to ensure that there’s more women at the top helming teams and companies and making decisions? When invited to speak at industry event as a ‘Woman Leader’ I often wonder, when will a time come when we no longer have to use this gendered distinction and can just have leaders who happen to be, well, women?

The answer to these questions is simple: companies need to start working towards building a work culture that places high emphasis on creative and innovative thinking, believes in empathetic and ethical business practices and promotes trust. We need leaders who understand the value that a diverse leadership team can bring to larger organisational growth and therefore, invite and welcome women among their ranks. Only then can we move towards create holistic workplaces where the conversation on gender shifts to a positive one.

Building a culture that has fairness, equality and respect at its foundation is considered critical to the success of our business at Discovery. We take pride in the richness of our diversity – with 50% women representation in our Asia Leadership Team.

As Sheryl Sandberg rightly put it, ‘It’s time to cheer on girls and women who want to sit at the table!” So as leaders of the corporate world, let us cheer on those young girls with big dreams in their eyes, those women who’re juggling careers and homes, those amazing ladies with iron will bucking all traditions to become experts in their fields and encourage them to become the leaders they were born to be!

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the authors and do not in any way represent the views of

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