Men & women are responsible for creating an equitable landscape in workplace: Deepa Dey

Deepa Dey- Head Communications & CSR at GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, talks about her journey in the industry, gender equality and an organization’s culture in promoting gender neutrality

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Apr 3, 2020 2:36 PM
Deepa Dey

An ace communicator who started her career as a journalist and later moved to Public Relations, Deepa Dey currently heads the Communication and CSR at GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare. With an experience of over two decades, Dey believes in smart work with constant learning. Working across industries, she has been the key driving force in building brand image and business strategies.

In today’s edition of our Women Achievers Series, we speak to Deepa Dey on her journey in the industry, gender equality, organization’s culture in promoting gender neutrality and more.

Edited Excerpts:

How were the initial days of your career? What were your key learnings?

I started my career over 25 years ago in Calcutta. Overnight I moved from being a journalist to being a PR professional. At that time I did not have any clue on what PR was. But I was open to new learning and I allowed myself to unlearn as fast as I learned. The other thing that I was very keenly focused on was creating partnerships within the company and outside. These relationships helped me to deliver on my goals as a communicator. So, learn, unlearn and create bridges.

How is the communication industry unique in terms of having a large workforce as women?

I will agree and disagree with this statement and let me unpack that. When I started, a lot of women were part of the profession at all levels. Men did not necessarily come into PR as much they opted for the allied line of advertising. But over a period of time, this has changed. More and men have joined this industry and given it its much-needed diversity. This I believe has made it rich and unique.

How can the culture of an organisation be instrumental in promoting gender equality?

A fundamental thing about culture in the workplace is that it should encourage you to bring your best self to your work without any anxiety or fear. It includes gender diversity but is not limited to that. In my organisation, we take inclusion and diversity very seriously and encourage the behaviour that allows for all types of diversities to come together.

What is the role of men in providing an equitable landscape at the workplace and personal life?

Men and women are equally responsible for creating this landscape. I am blessed with two men – my husband and my son who have both been exceptionally supportive of my choices and have done some heavy lifting at their end when I was not around. But I know that this is not the truth for all while I wish it was. But the onus as I said is on both men and women to strike the right balance – give space to each other, support each other, have each other's back. Easier said than done. And as mothers and fathers, we need to bring up sons who understand the value of equality.

Is the Communication industry infected with a pay gap syndrome?

This is not typical to communication it is much larger. In fact, there are more women in our industry than others. For me, it is not just a pay gap. Equality of pay is hygiene, for me, it goes a step further, are we giving women more opportunity for growth, for upskilling themselves, more exposure and more freedom to shape their world their way.

What are the major challenges for a woman leader?

Challenges are there at every step for both men and women. Whether you are in a leadership position or you are part of a group. I have been fortunate to work under a wonderful woman leader at the start of my career who supported me and gave me many opportunities. There are challenges but you, as an individual have to take ownership of your growth. You have to learn, you have to understand, you have to deliver, you have to align, you have to get your voice on the table. You have to assess what is the value you bring to the business – how are you making a difference. The seat at the table will happen only when you push for it. We are women yes, we are leaders yes – but we are also skilled professionals who are here to help the business and the reputation to grow.  

What is your message to the men and women in the industry?

We are living in unusual and difficult times. Never before have we been challenged as leaders as communicators to do the right thing for our people and our businesses. And there is no rule book to follow or a playbook to adapt. Look out for each other, have each other’s back. Maintain social distancing yet work together. Reach out to each other – peers, subordinates, everyone and see how you can make their load a bit less. Understand the context in which you are operating, it is a very different one from the one that you are used to. Be sensible, be kind, be alert. And above all – be there.

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