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Wonder Women in the Workplace

[L-R] B.P. Bidappa, Elizabeth Broderick, Anjali Bansal
by Ishani Shukla
10 August 2017

On August 10th, the Asia Society India Centre hosted an insightful discussion on women and their position in the workplace today, at the Trident Hotel – the conversation centred around progress that has been made in rightfully integrating women and acknowledging their needs at work, and steps that can be taken to further this process. The context for the discussion was set by Elizabeth Broderick, Australia’s longest serving Sex Discrimination Commissioner, who recounted growing up in a female-dominated household in Australia and how her father was her biggest supporter, not wanting her to be limited by roles set by society for women.

She opened the discussion about diversity and inclusion by dispelling the popular belief that the more women are educated and join the workforce, the more they will automatically reach mid and senior level management positions – a theory she called the “trickle up theory”. Instead she said what needs to happen is to ensure strong and targeted intervention and to actively and intentionally include women at work.

Ms. Broderick then spoke about her most well-known initiative – the Male Champions of Change (MCC). The MCC is an initiative gathering 160 of Australia’s most influential male leaders to speak out for and act in the interest of gender equality. The group follows different strategies – such as the Panel Pledge, which is a pledge not to speak at conferences and events that do not have enough female representation in the audience or on the panel of speakers.

A panel discussion followed with Ms. Broderick, Anjali Bansal, former Global Partner and Managing Director, TPG Equity, and B.P. Bidappa, Executive Director, Human Resources for Hindustan Lever. Ms. Bansal pointed out that women face several obstacles throughout their career – including personal pressures, organizational factors and the interplay between the two. Mr. Bidappa pointed out that women and men who want to stay at home and take care of family feel an equal amount of guilt as those leaving to work in offices, and therefore what is needed is today is an empathetic and inclusive approach – to allow people to be themselves and to let them be comfortable in workplaces as well. An organization’s ‘software’ or its culture is very important, which is why men need to be educated about the value of having women in mid and senior level management positions. Mr. Bidappa further pointed out that changing systems and processes is just the tip of the iceberg – what is needed for real and lasting change is changing value systems at home.

Reported By: Ishani Shukla, Programe Assistant, Asia Society India Centre