e4m Women Achievers Summit 2020: The ground realities of gender diversity and pay gaps

Panelists Varsha Chainani, Pooja Pathak, Rachana Chowdhary, Madhu Chhibber along with moderator Shreya Krishnan discuss on diversity, inclusion and pay gaps

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Jul 31, 2020 9:08 PM

The first edition of e4m 'PR and Corp Comm Women Achievers Summit and Awards 2020' on Wednesday kicked off with a session on 'Women in communication: A focus on gender diversity and pay gaps'. The session was moderated by Shreya Krishnan, VP - Marketing and Communication, Anviti Insurance Brokers Pvt. Ltd. The panelists were Varsha Chainani, Senior Vice President, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd; Pooja Pathak, Co-founder & Managing Director, Media Mantra; Madhu Chhibber, CEO, Madison Public Relations; and Rachana Chowdhary, Founder Director, Media Value Works.

The panelists shared their insights on the ground realities of the terms 'diversity' and 'inclusion' in today’s scenario. Kick starting the session, Krishnan took initial remarks from the panelists on their thoughts on gender diversity and pay gaps.

"Gender diversity is not new & it is something that is being discussed for 100 years now. So it's not just few decades, but it is 10 decades,” said Varsha Chainani. Pathak, added, "The discussion is not about any gender, it is more about talent & who will fit in the role.”

Further adding to this, Madhu Chhibber, said “I’ll begin by taking a wider view than the world of PR. According to the World Economic Forum’s, Global Gender Gap Report, none of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes. As per the same report, men and women will have pay equality in about 257 years. So economic gender gap is definitely an issue at the workplace, however in my opinion there isn’t a conscious gender bias in the PR industry in India. ”

On being quizzed if gender disparity exists in the industry, Rachana Chowdhary took the initiative and said, "There have been enough reports and articles that suggest gender parity has been at an all-time low when it comes to women empowerment.”

“Diversity should be a business priority and only then can it become more of a reality at the workplace. Diversity and Inclusion are not only about gender but entail the appreciation of age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, disability and socio-economic background among several others.  Despite the global PR industry being two-thirds female, only 11% have female dominated boards. In fact according to a Global Women in PR (GWPR) Annual Index 2019, of those surveyed in the Indian PR industry, 78% had male dominated boards and that surely says it all. In spite of some fantastic role models, both globally and in India, we can definitely do better at stronger representation of women in leadership roles in the PR industry” opined Madhu Chhibber.

Pathak talked about equal representation of both the genders. She said, “There is more representation of both men & women even it terms of finance & fashion. It is not obligated that only men can do finance & women can do lifestyle client.”

Taking the momentum forward, Krishnan asked if there were anecdotes of gender discrimination among the panelists. Chhibber came forward and replied, "I haven't experienced a conscious bias in our industry for pay. It's about finding the best candidate for the job.”
Chowdhary made another important point. She added, "At every point in time, with every woman, there is some arrangement which is made which isn't included in any report. We may get some answers with a personal connect created in organisations.”

According to Chainani, "There is a need to break these gender barriers, we aren't a minority, we are an overwhelming 50% of the population. If we look at inclusions in the communication industry,  that is what is our focus today. And I think that diversity & inclusion is very much there and open at the entry level.”

On being asked if pay parity exists in the system, all panelists agreed on the fact that pay parity is a myth if we look at some case studies.

Madhu Chhibber responded stating, “In the absence of formal data on this for our market, I’ll cite data from the UK, which is reported to have one of Europe’s most significant gender pay gaps. In the PR and communications industry in the UK, despite women accounting for 66% of employees, the gender pay gap in this sector was reported to be 21% last year. I’d like to believe it’s definitely not so marked in India. However this is a subjective observation. I believe that the introduction of gender pay gap reporting in other countries has been a step in the right direction, and even if the issue is a small one in the Indian PR industry, reporting would mean it gets identified and corrected early. While much has been written about skill and pay mismatch perhaps being further pronounced by societal norms—marriage, maternity and mobility causing a dent in women’s workforce participation, but equally, let’s cheer for wonderfully progressive companies that play catalysts in women achieving equal pay. This is true of the PR and Communications world too.”

Proceeding towards the end, the moderator asked, as an employer, what should we do to mitigate the existing pay gap? All panelists presented their different views. Pathak said, "When it comes to diversity & inclusion, I think the organizations that we are talking about & the companies that we are talking about are very inclusive."

“For companies that are ahead of the curve in addressing gender pay gap, parity is not a best practice tick box but v much an integral part of their work culture. The reasons for gender pay gap have various factors that impact, from length of service to experience and specialism.” Madhu said. She added “Some best practices for gender wage parity can include having clearly defined bands which will aid parity from the offer level; eliminating the practice of asking candidates for their salary histories with deciding factors being job role, job size and internal bands set for the role; being conscious of outliers and taking action; checking for unconscious biases influencing increments among others. In fact, I do believe that women should assert themselves on points of merit and pitch for their earnings not to be compromised. Surveys have revealed that women feel uncomfortable about the negotiating process, as several of us may have experienced personally too” Madhu concluded.

According to Chowdhary, the available statistics are based on numbers. The parity subject continues to be there. Every women makes certain arrangements based on her choices. She added, "The pandemic has helped gain parity because both men and women are working from home so the chores are now equally divided. It's taken a complete turn".

"For women in communications business, the industry has been very good in terms of opportunities and multitasking. This typically isn't the cup of tea for a man who has methodical processes,” concluded Chowdhary.

The moderator ended the session with an engaging and witty rapid fire round with the panelists.

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