Beyond the glass ceiling The Women in Management (WiM) Club at IIMB recently hosted a panel on reimagining the new generation of business leaders. Dr Deepti Ganapathy shares her takeaways from the discussion

This year, the 7th edition of the Women Leadership Summit at IIM Bangalore hosted a thought-provoking panel discussion with speakers who work in the private sector, government as well as entrepreneurs.

The theme for this year- “Re-imagining the New Generation” where we set forth to re-imagine a future generation by setting a frame of reference from our present actions in moving one step closer toward gender parity.

As the moderator of the panel, I sought to peel through these questions, layer by layer so that our audience were able to delve deeper into this discussion with the multitude of layers that emerged. Reflecting upon the theme, we dare to ask these questions again and again to empower young women leaders with the answers they need to know, to make better decisions and deal with situations that they will encounter as they progress into the world. What does the future hold? Generations of women have in their own way paved the path for us to be here, to stand up with that voice of reason for ourselves and for those without a voice. Health statistics tell us that women lead a longer life than men, hence financial independence, better living amenities and the eco-system that allows a woman to stay long into her twilight years- often alone with little or no family support are issues that confront us.

Today, we have issues that confront us, which we have little control over – Climate Change, pandemics, a world where the socio-economic gap widens year-by-year and a world where diversity and inclusion are ideals that stand wearily on shoulders of those who abide by them.

Here are a few themes that emerged from the panel:

Multi-narrative influences

While making her opening remarks, Susan Thomas, Director, National Institute of Fashion Technology, Bangalore said, “today young women grow up with a multi-narrative influence while our generation was fed with a mono-narrative which implied we need to have a good career and manage home with ease”. An IRS officer, Susan worked with the Income Tax Department in Ministry of Finance for 17 years before moving on deputation to the Ministry of Textiles. A TEDx speaker she was recently ranked by SheThePeopleTV in their list of 40 under 40 for her content on Instagram shattering gender myths and stereotypes. Talking about the choices that are there before today’s millennials she enumerated that for this generation, it is perceived to be fine, if one “cannot have it all”- implying that women are in a space to make their personal choices and have no pressure to do well in all aspects of their professional and personal life choices.

Also highlighting the fact that spatial and time dimension is empowering while taking a toll – thanks to technology and the ability to transcend time zones and spaces while being everywhere or choosing not to be anywhere as well, Susan raised these pertinent issues while opening the discussion with these frameworks.

Nithya Balasubramanian, Director at AB Bernstein, an alumni of IIMB (PGP’08 batch) who has worked with Cipla and McKinsey and has been featured on Economic Times’ coveted ‘40 Under Forty’ list, reflected upon her own journey in the corporate world. Her observation that a man with a daughter will surprisingly emerge as a better mentor than a man with a working spouse was insightful. She urged young women to have a wide circle of mentors and to not hesitate while asking for a raise, promotion or speaking about their achievements during their feedback sessions.
If the eco-system for women is surrounded by stereotypes in the public and private sector, the struggle is no different for an entrepreneur. “I am asked if my husband is taking care of the finances,” quips Taniya Biswas, Co-founder of Suta., winner of the Times She Unltd Entrepreneur Awards 2019 and recognized as the Best Women Entrepreneurs of 2019- She The People.
While talking about the challenges that engulf them when running their own venture, it doesn’t seem easy, says Sujata Biswas, co-founded Suta with her sister Taniya. Suta is 16000+ weavers strong Sujata is recognised by Times She Unltd Entrepreneur Awards 2019, Best Women Entrepreneurs of 2019- She The People, SheMaker Evangelist Startup 2021, i-Diva’s 50 most beautiful women and Impact creators in Handcrafted Fashion- ET Inspiring Women Awards 2021.

The questions from the viewers were diverse and thoroughly dissected by the panellists with ease. The panel concluded that these conversations, however difficult must continue and encourage women to deliberate upon their chosen career paths to make way for the women following them to forge ahead.

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