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Addressing pertinent issues

Many discussions have been held around the gender gap but the relevant question is whether this clamour has been able to bring about the much-needed change.

The Statesman Desk | Kolkata |

We have laws created for assuring gender equality as the Constitution of India condemns discrimination based on gender. However, with economic growth, the nation is significantly lagging behind due to wider gender gaps. An illuminating session called “Breaking down Boundaries” was recently held at The Park, Kolkata in the presence of notable guests and panelists. It was aimed at addressing the questions that lurk within the boundaries of the household, workplace and the mindset. The session was divided into three main discussions – Challenges Facing Diversity, Gender Diversity and Disrupted World of Work and one on debating whether #Metoo is More Sensationalism than Activism, or not.

The first session asked a key question as to why the focus of gender gap only pertains to men or women. The boundary of a mindset that constitutes more than two genders was pertinent. In this vein, Amit P Javalgi, Special Superintendent 1, IB, West Bengal said, “It is not just one gender but a spectrum of genders.” Talking about the reason as to why women continue to be exploited, he said, “We hardly see any serious problems in simple societies. The problem arises when societies become complex. Complex societies have specialisation categories like division of labour and the varna system which leads to hierarchies of power and this leads to exploitation.”

Apropos to the session’s discussion on “power, bias and culture”, Atrayee Sarkar Sanyal, Chief Group HR and Chief Diversity Officer at Tata Steel Limited said, “When I was asked about what I want to talk about, I had said that I want to make the elephant dance in the room and the elephant are the corporations. I firmly believe that it takes one person to create a change. With change, needless to say, we have to break away from the word ‘conformity’. The second discussion emphasised on the challenges pertaining to working professionals. It is said that 50 per cent of women and 70 per cent of men aspire to reach a top position in their career. However, the number of women reaching top leadership positions is remarkably low. In many organisations, women are unsure about the corporate culture and whether they are suitable for positions of leadership.

Although many organisations have tried to implement measures aimed at increasing gender diversity among senior executives, few have achieved notable improvements. Another issue that was highlighted in the session was the divergence of views between men and women executives, from middle to top management. Speaking on the occasion, Madhulika Kanoria, Chairperson, CII Women Network for the West Bengal Chapter said, “The purpose of this discussion is to emphasise the differences in gender perspectives amongst individuals. Ensuring equal representation of women in the workplace can have positive effects across an entire organization.

It might feel as if women’s presence in the workplace is a given, but globally, despite making up 50 per cent of the population, women can generate just 37 per cent of GDP. We at CII IWN aim to emphasise that gender diversity is the call of the hour and if implemented well, it will be beneficial for society, business and economy.” Sucharita Basu, Vice President, CII Indian Women Network for the West Bengal Chapter then added, “We wanted to create awareness about the muchneeded women equality in a workplace. The aim of ‘Breaking down Boundaries’ is to increase women positivity through self-promotions, perception of equal pay and career opportunities” The third session delved in a debate on the whole #Metoo Movement, which has brought women’s rights to the forefront of the global conversation in unprecedented proportions. The panelists spoke about how the whole movement has increased public focus on sexual assault and encouraged a lot of victims to raise their voice against such cases. The session concluded on positive thoughts and messages aimed to help every woman lead any change with more conviction as well as improve their workplaces and communities. Overall, the sessions offered the understandings to help individuals recognize and promote women in the workplace and society while addressing the right to equality.