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Empower Women Power

This article was published on Re:locate – a leading website with information and support for HR, global mobility, managers, global teams and those relocation, operating in or setting up new operations overseas. For the online version, please click here.

The recent AC Nielson survey revealed that the most stressed women in the world are to be found in India – the country came ‘top’ among 22 nations. I am testimony to this, as I juggle young adults on one side, elder care on the other and a hectic job that gives meaning to my life.

However, I decided to seek support from my family and staff, and to go into the world to help others build an inclusive mindset. This past decade of creating empowered global citizens has been especially fulfilling when I do my role of gender balance building.

Let me tell you something that is not normal: When you take a gender workshop tour across a nation of 1.2 billion people, and go to the most advanced urban cities, you expect modernity. Modernity means equality of genders in the workplace.

My tour with our Gender Diversity workshops for a leading industrial gases company countered all normal expectations. It was not normal that so many men were blissfully ignorant of what women feel, how they think, or even how to promote them within teams.

We did a session in Bangalore – they were reluctant participants, but realised the importance of gender equality soon enough. The first session was for the highest ranking members of the company. Half-way through the session, many of them felt that the session had to trickle all the way down the leadership pipeline – and it did.

We started our session by asking the men about who had helped them the most in their lives. All of them said mother or wife – none mentioned a female co-worker.

When prompted, however, they all named at least one female colleague who truly enhanced their work and enabled them to succeed. However, it did not come naturally to them.

The rest of the afternoon, we spent exploring:

  • Differences between men and women in thinking and feeling;
  • Getting the men to ‘be’ women for an hour, which was an ‘aha’ moment;
  • Honest discussions about what we are doing that leads to 89% of Indian women being stressed.

The last part of our programme was about finding solutions. Our workshops really work, because we engage with the emerging data and conversations lead the way. We act as facilitators. Also, as we understand Indian men and women in the workplace and home, we allow conversations to go back and forth between those two areas. In this custom-tailored, industry-specific workshop, the solutions to improve come from the participants.

The result of the success of this pilot session was a three-city tour of Kolkata Bengaluru, Mumbai. Nine sessions later, measurable data emerged to show a drop in the attrition rate of women, and an increase in the hiring of women in jobs that were traditionally reserved for men in this company.

As catalysts in this company, we got the men to open up. I spoke to Mr. Banerjee, from Kolkata before I sent off this article. Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta, is known for the first Nobel Prize winner from India, Rabindranath Tagore, and his famous school Shantiniketan – where Indira Gandhi, the first woman Prime Minister of India, was a student. I asked him what he applied from our intervention. “I now look for a woman to promote, for a woman to hire, and, only if it fails, I consider a man,” he replied.

As Pat Harris, Chief Diversity Officer of McDonalds, said to Ranjini Manian, the Founder of Global Adjustments, the other day at the Harvard Women’s Leadership Board where they both served, “I tell my people: If you can’t find a woman, don’t fill the spot; if you look hard enough, she will be right there”.

The writer is Lead Trainer at Global Adjustments. She can be contacted at shanti@globalajustments.com

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