Covid has been a setback for the female workforce: Daisy Chittilapilly

At Business Today’s The Most Powerful Women in Business conference, women leaders discussed the progress and challenges they face in the professional world

Mar 30, 2023 09:37:00 AM | Article | Noel D'souza Share - Share to Facebook

From left: Siddharth Zarabi,Suman Mishra, Ashima Goyal,Jyoti Deshpande and Daisy Chittilapilly

A panel comprising Suman Mishra, CEO, Mahindra Last Mile Mobility; Ashima Goyal, member of the RBI Monetary Policy Committee; Jyoti Deshpande, CEO, Viacom18 Media; and Daisy Chittilapilly, president, Cisco India and SAARC, discussed how bias can be tackled at the workplace at Business Today's 'The Most Powerful Women in Business’ summit in Mumbai on 29 March.


The session was moderated by Siddharth Zarabi, managing editor, Business Today TV.


Is the glass ceiling shattered in India?


Giving her opening remarks, Chittilapilly voiced, "While there has been progress, there is still a long way to go to achieve equality in the workforce."


Mishra added, "India has come a long way from what it was 30 years ago, the growing awareness of the importance of diversity in the workforce has made it easier for women to do business."


Deshpande sharing a different perspective, said, "In my opinion, I don't don't believe it is more difficult for women to do business in India than it is for men."


What has led to the ease of doing business in India


Mishra stated that it is easier to do business in India as a woman because currently there is more awareness in the corporate world.


She shared, “Businesses have realised that having more women and being diverse in the workforce is essential. The women who have shattered the glass ceiling for quite some time have paved the way for the next generation. The growing awareness combined with the sheer amount of past effort has led to the ease of doing business in India."


Adding to this, Chittilapilly, highlighted the presence of strong female role models in the banking industry and politics 10-20 years ago. However, she emphasised that there is still a long way to go in terms of participation in the Indian labour force.


“Pre-Covid 17-18% of women participated in the Indian labour force. That has now been reduced to 13-14%. It takes a long time to move the needle to 18% and for it to drop so low is problematic. There is a lot of progress but there's still a lot of work to do. Covid has set us back. We have to work hard to get those numbers to where it was”, expressed Chittilapilly.


Status of women professionals in the media sector


Deshpande pointed out that while there are a lot of women on the creative side of the media business, the majority of them are at the mid-management level.


“When we look at the top level, there are few women leaders even in the media industry. Sisterhood is paramount and is the momentum that should be created to see a change a decade from now. In one of the businesses that I run, there are 70% of women leaders in the workforce have reached that position through their merit and hopefully, this will pave the way for more women in leaders in the media industry”, she remarked.


Challenges of breaking through the glass ceiling


Chittilapilly gave a three-step plan for young professionals to tackle biases: scaling up, speaking up boldly, and getting up after being knocked down.


In her closing remarks, Goyal emphasised the importance of women developing their personalities to reach the C-suite level. “When women work in groups where there are fewer woman leaders, they tend to copy from other women. But that method is very dangerous. Women should be themselves and do something they enjoy doing. You can do well in your career, but to reach the C-suite level women need to develop their personality to have that extra factor”, concluded Goyal.


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