'Commitment to equity & inclusion helps in curating an equitable workplace'
Namita Narula Gandhi, GM – Corp Comm at Cloudnine Group of Hospitals opens up about her professional journey, her thoughts on the pay gap and the role of communications in the times of coronavirus
Namita Narula Gandhi leads the Corporate Communications practice at Cloudnine Group of Hospitals and oversees communications planning and implementation of PR initiatives for all the 14 hospitals across India. With 13 years of experience with expertise in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry, Gandhi is a versatile communicator, an avid reader and social media freak.
She has worked on several mass media campaigns on national public health issues across leadership roles. Namita has a vast experience in strategic counsel and media outreach, internal employee communications, crisis communication, content strategy and content creation, influencer outreach and advocacy.
In today’s edition of Women Achievers Series, we talk to Namita, General Manager – Corporate Communications, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals over her journey in the healthcare communication industry, her thoughts on the pay gap in the healthcare industry, the importance of communication in the times of Coronavirus crisis and more.
1) Tell us about your journey in the communication industry. What are your key learnings?
My journey started way back in 2008 with a small PR agency by the name of Perspective PR. From there, I got the opportunity to work with several clients across sectors before I decided to make my niche by pursuing a career opportunity in Healthcare Communications. Travelling through agencies and pursuing my interest in healthcare, today I lead communications for a leading maternity, childcare and fertility care group of hospitals in India. All through these years, my key learning has been boosting my skills as that will help against losing out to competitors.
Secondly, one of the best things to do in any industry is to grow your professional network. Also, it is very important to decide what area of communications you are interested in. In order to give yourself the best chance of success in the field, it is important to research the different types of communications you are most interested in. Last but not the least, the ability to be proactive, not reactive.
2) How crucial has communication become in these distressful times of COVID-19 for the healthcare industry?
Effective communication is of utmost importance during a pandemic not just for the healthcare industry but for every industry. We all know that disease outbreaks are inevitable, and often unpredictable, events. Outbreaks are frequently marked by uncertainty, confusion, and a sense of urgency. Communication helps in proper preparation and helps us to avoid any business disruptions to essential operations that a pandemic can pose. Any healthcare organization needs to have a response plan in place in order to communicate with employees, customers, suppliers, and partners.
Telecommuting plays an important role as certain pandemics, such as Influenza (Flu) or coronavirus (COVID-19), have the potential to cause fear and anxiety amongst everyone. Allowing employees to work from home could be the best option to ensure continued operations. Communication and interaction by placing wellbeing calls with employees during an outbreak should be top of mind for organizations. Should a pandemic occur, it is important that employees know what healthcare coverage is available to them, as well as services such as vaccinations and access to medical facilities. Meaningful communication in situations like COVID-19 helps in sending clear instructions and updates to staff, key stakeholders, and customers to minimize risk, keep them safe and resolve issues quickly.
3) How can the organisational structure help in curating an equitable environment?
In my view, an equitable environment can be created when there is clear and consistent communication of the commitment to equity and inclusion. Employee’s views and involvement are key to the success of any initiative. This not only helps in creating an equitable environment at the same time ensures the participation of employees in every policymaking. We need to ensure there are diverse candidate pools, training hiring managers and committee members, knowledge of and adherence to diversity and/or affirmative action goals, examining position announcements and evaluation matrices. Beyond all this should be retention policies by creating and support of formal sponsorship and mentoring programs, employee resource groups, and work-life balance and other professional development programs. Most importantly promotion i.e- “Promoting from within” whenever possible, developing internal candidates as well as non-traditional candidates with different educational or training backgrounds. All this contributes to an equitable organizational culture.
4) What does your organisation do to keep women motivated in the workplace? How do you mentor your team in terms of gender neutrality?
Enabling a work-life balance, friendly environment is something that I admire after having to work for about 13 years now with different organizations. In terms of gender neutrality, my mentorship mantra, which I have learned from my mentors over the years is, "communicate, communicate, communicate." Leaders must engage, involve and discuss everything about the organization/department, how will it redefine itself to sustain revenues during the downturn, any restructuring, how each team members roles and responsibilities add to the organization's / departmental success. Team members appreciate being "in the know" and will contribute to improvements and future success. Once they understand the reasoning behind decisions, fears are alleviated and their energy is channelled into helping the organisation reach its goals.
I strongly believe leaders must ensure and appreciate team members from time to time and understand how their individual efforts contribute to the organization's overall strategy and direction. It is very important that we as leaders - follow through on promises made to team members.
5) Is the healthcare industry affected by the pay gap syndrome?
The health care industry, when taken at face value, seems overwhelmingly “female.” Women represent 70 per cent of the 43 million workers in the global health care industry. In most countries — regardless of overall female labour force participation — women’s share of employment in health care and social sectors is higher than their share of employment in the economy as a whole. Despite their dominance in the workforce, women are largely under-represented in the senior leadership ranks of the industry. Their participation in senior and executive leadership varies by country and region and is affected by whether they are working in the private or public sector. According to the World Economic Forum, just 35 per cent of the leadership roles in the global health care industry are held by women. For global health organizations, only 25 per cent have gender parity in senior management, compared to 20 per cent on their governance boards. In my view, not just healthcare but for any sector - the focus on “maternal identity” — the expectation of becoming a mother — is a cultural pressure, it is also another indicator of a significant barrier for women, the issue of work and life balance. At different stages in both professional and personal life, women are faced with either sacrificing their career or family goals.
6) What are the major challenges to women leadership?
In my view, the biggest challenge that women continue to face is most of the people in the room are men. There are very few organizations with a global footprint who believe in “Women in Leadership” and are willing to “hear and invest “with what a woman in leadership has to say. The second biggest challenge that I am sure every woman encounters is “Pay Gap”. It is perceived wisdom that women choose low-paid occupations because they offer more flexibility, or are more family-friendly. Again, the perception that it is a choice to prioritise children over paid work, rather than being due to a lack of viable alternatives, positions the gender pay gap as a fact of life, and releases employers from responsibility for changing it. There is a continuous fear and trust me you can ask anyone that many people in the industry still feel that women in leadership shall be prioritizing family which will limit them to perform and deliver at their roles. To derive income comparisons, men and women are matched on factors such as age, education level, the industry of employment, and marital status.
7) What is your message to all the women in the communication industry?
My inspiration comes from the famous quote by Ginni Rometty CEO of IBM who once said and stands true to every woman in the communication industry today. One of the most important things for any leader is to never let anyone else define who you are. You define who you are. We need to think of ourselves as the steward of a great institution and at every stage, we must continue to increase our learning, the way we think, and the way you approach the organization. Never doubt yourself. The outside world is cruel and they will always think women are not strong enough to handle difficult situations or women will have too many priorities at a given point in life which will deviate them from professional opportunities. Don’t let that happen to yourself. Learn to be independent, fearless and always lead from the front before others take the credit of your success.
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