IPG's Women's Leadership Network was started in the US in 2008 by a handful of IPG women who "set out to connect with colleagues and create a supportive and active network to increase opportunities for women at all levels across Interpublic".
Now, the Group has brought the initiative to India, where it was launched as ‘Equal & Opposite’, at an event on Thursday, November 11, 2010. The aim of the initiative is to improve gender balance at leadership levels in IPG companies.
The launch event saw speakers like retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi, who discussed the importance of promoting the home care industry to support working parents and provide an employment avenue for the large number of youth in the country. The other presentation was by Leena Nair, executive director - human resources at Hindustan Unilever (HUL), who said that the way of dealing with diversity and inclusion at HUL was to equip the men, women and the organisation by mentoring, providing networks for women employees and looking at flexible work opportunities, among other endeavours.
Lynn De Souza, chairman and chief executive officer, Lintas Media Group, and chairman, WLN India, said, "As a worldwide thing, IPG felt they had to do something about diversity and inclusion. After rolling out WLN in the US, they decided to roll it out to key markets - China and India. It's about getting all the agencies together and a game-changing thing for us." She explained the primary difference between the issues faced by women in the US and India. "In the US, it's more of an issue of maternal guilt, because there are nuclear families or single parents. Women drop out because they're worried about not paying enough attention to the kids. Whereas in India, because we have a support system, it's more about parental guilt. Most of the women have parents and in-laws to look after and those are things we have to address," she said.
Nagesh Alai, chief financial officer, Asia Pacific, DraftFCB, said, "Undoubtedly it is a good initiative, but I'd like to believe our organisation consciously does something about it and we'll get to a good place over a period over time. We believe in the concept of meritocracy (which isn't gender based), and we will do all the enabling and facilitating that is possible for everyone to come up."
Charles Cadell, chief executive officer, Lowe Lintas, explained his learnings from the speakers, "When you list the competencies that women are better at - whether it's listening or collaboration - and you put it all together, that's exactly what advertising agencies are all about for creativity and ideas. So from a pure business sense, you need a better balance at the workplace.
"The second thing that struck me is for agencies to meet the social needs in India through support groups, it's something that needs to be there for everyone. Especially in a place like Mumbai where you have staff travelling from 3 hours away, we've got to figure out how we can allow our staff to work from home. This means figuring out the technologies to be able to share all the work and ideas and collaborate online to be able to work from home. We've got to be able to figure out how to digitise everything and not have people work weekends and nights, and we've got to set real work focus goals where if someone is good enough and can finish their work in 6 hours then they can finish their work in 6 hours. And that works for men and women. There are things like creches and child centres and then there's stuff across the organisation which we've been thinking very hard about how we're going to this in 2011, which is going to support both men and women."
The WLN India Executive Committee comprises of senior women leaders. The Mumbai chapter is co-chaired by Kavita Lakhani, president, LinOpinion Public Relations and Loveleen Raina, vice president and general manager, McCann Erickson. WLN’s Delhi chapter is co-chaired by Sudha Natrajan, president and chief operating officer, Lintas Media Group. Savita Mathai, vice president – HR, Asia Pacific, DraftFCB, leads the Mentoring subcommittee. The National Events and Programs subcommittee is headed by Michelle Suradkar, deputy director HR, Lowe Lintas. The Membership & Communication subcommittee is headed by Parvathy Nair, vice president and general manager, McCann Erickson.