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Women Innovators In The Emergent Era – A Dialogue For International Women’s Day : Ending The Culture Of Silence

For innovation to happen there is a need for varied perspectives. Gender is important but so is a different mindset

It is that time of the year again when there will be renewed conversations centred around celebrating women, in the hope for a more balanced world. It is also time to take stock and discover if there has been any change with respect to their rights and empowerment.  As a prelude to the International Women’s Day that falls on March 8th, Avid Learning – an Essar group initiative along with The U.S. Consulate General, Mumbai and Penguin Random House India presented a panel discussion called ‘Women Innovators- in the Emergent Era’. The discussion promised to focus on the emerging and increasing power of women in the workplace and in various creative fields beyond the business like art, film, food and more in India and abroad.

In conversation with Sandip Sen, President- Emerging Business, Essar Group and CEO, Litmus World, were four achievers – yes they also happened to be women! The panellists were International Business Author and former Vice Chair of General Electric, Beth Comstock; Food Entrepreneur and Founder, The Table, Gauri Devidayal; Artist and former Director of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Mumbai, Brinda Miller; and Deputy Country Representative, UN Women, Nishtha Satyam.

These ladies have been trailblazers and pioneers in their respective businesses and fields and the discussion focussed around the emerging gender diversity, evolving gender roles and inclusivity that fueled empowerment. The conversation was free-flowing and the panellists gave their personal stories to illustrate some points. I will try to summarise some takeaway points from the power-packed evening.  With rapid changes in technology, information and systems, organisations are entering an ‘Emergent Era’. The question was to see how workplace practices were changing to make it more inclusive for women.

Beth Comstock, the author of the book, ‘Imagine it Forward: Courage, Creativity, and the Power of Change’, quoted from her book to make her point. Comstock pointed out that for changes in the workplace and for transformation; change has to start with the women. She drew from personal experiences during her career and averred, “Change starts with you, with giving yourself permission to push outside expectations and unleash your curiosity to discover what’s next.”

Most often what holds women back is the fear of the future by imagining it as a scary one instead of a happy one. Comstock implored women that we be courageous and give ourselves permission to try something new- maybe in a smaller setting at first to give yourself and others the confidence.

An interesting point that came across that many organisations were veering towards a gig economy. In this digital age, this promised to present a unique opportunity for women, where human touch would more valuable- and women would be in the forefront leading the change.

Often organisations get stuck in a rut and there is no growth.  This was primarily because people usually want to hire people like themselves. “But for innovation to happen there is a need for varied perspectives. Gender is important but so is a different mindset”, she concluded.

Nishtha Satyam takes her a role in the UN dedicated to working towards Gender Equality and Woman’s Empowerment, very seriously and she gave some valuable insights to the gathering. Making a powerful statement, she said, “Women constitute nearly 50% of the population and rather than breaking through the glass ceiling; they need doors to be opened.” Satyam quoted the instance of the role of the all-women peacekeeping contingent in Liberia. A contingent of 125 women peacekeepers of the Indian Formed Police Unit was positioned with the UN mission for nine years from 2007 until 2016. This contingent helped disarm more than 100,000 combatants. They protected millions of civilians and helped to rebuild the police, the security services and other institutions. Not only was there sustained peace, but these policewomen also triggered a four-fold increase in Liberian women applying for posts in the police force. Indeed women have a strong role in being agents of change – that which is sustainable and irreversible.

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An important point Satyam pointed out was that in the past women had to solely fight for their rights. It was now high time that there should be a common platform to talk about gender equality. It is now not just a women’s issue, but a human rights issue. To achieve this, the United Nations has spearheaded a global solidarity movement called HeForShe. It is an invitation for men, boys and people of all genders to stand in solidarity with women to create a bold, visible and united force for gender equality. In the movement, men of HeForShe aren’t on the sidelines. Instead, they are with women and with each other to build businesses, raise families, and give back to their communities.

Satyam mentioned that political parties are now getting aware that women form 50% of the electoral population and are including issues of their importance in their manifestos. More importantly with movements like the #Metoo, the culture of silence was ending.

 

Image Source: Pixabay

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About the Author

Sangeeta Venkatesh

Sangeeta Venkatesh is the co-author of 'The Waste Issue' - an interactive workbook for school students on solid waste management. As a freelance writer for 20 years, she has contributed to magazines such as Education read more...

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