Breaking Bias On Leadership Capabilities & Business Acumen Of Women Leaders Is Necessary: Garima Pant Group HR Director, Mullen Lowe Lintas Group

"Chores whether household, external or financial, need to be taught to all genders alike. No stereotypes," said Garima Pant Group HR Director, Mullen Lowe Lintas Group

Breaking Bias On Leadership Capabilities & Business Acumen Of Women Leaders Is Necessary: Garima Pant Group HR Director,  Mullen Lowe Lintas Group

Please share your successful journey of becoming an Entrepreneur/Leader and the challenges you faced to be one.  

My journey isn’t a story of struggles but one of a great ecosystem, open mindset and the virtues of equality and progress. I come from a tier 2 town, a traditional one, with a modern outlook. I have been fortunate to have parents who are progressive and always treated me and my older brother alike. Like many others, my key influence has been my mother, whose fundamental value of life is equity( yes, you heard it right). Being children to middle class working parents, as we grew up, we had a good hands-on experience and understanding of our privilege, duties, and responsibilities. Since my brother was brought up like me, my world view of equality and choice of people I surrounded myself with later in life have been similar.   

My biggest strength and support have come through family, across all my key life stages.  Making the choice of my post graduate college, I was guided and nudged by my elder brother.  In the early years of my career, traveling, settling in and working across different cities in the country and the world came naturally due to the freedom and courage I learnt as a child. 

Marriage didn’t come in as a speed breaker, my in-laws didn’t expect the stereotype ( it wasn’t a battle I had to fight) and with the support provided to me by my spouse in taking care of our child and the house equally ensured I could prioritize as per my professional and personal demands.

Another aspect that helped me flourish, is the spectacular organizations that I worked with all through my career so far. At each place, the policies and practices were best in class, the support from managers and colleagues ensured that the feeling of being less empowered due to gender didn’t cross my mind.

With my journey I strongly believe that the right role models, unbiased behaviors, and support can help women achieve their potential. 

  

Since Gov. has taken a lot of initiatives for women empowerment, what are some of the social beliefs that need changes in higher education, business opportunities, and high responsibility positions? 

Our belief are our barriers. Many women have grown up in surroundings where joining the professional workforce is not in their own consideration, this is one of the biggest roadblocks towards empowerment. As we move towards education and employment, classification of professional education and career choices based on gender stereotypes e.g.: Women as Caregivers, Men as the business drivers etc. is another limiting belief. Showcasing senior women professional, making them mentors, is one way in which this belief can be altered. At MMLG, in collaboration with our clients we have been doing purpose led work where we look at breaking stereotypes, sensitizing the society, making allies thereby working towards women empowerment e.g., to name a few, our works with Tata Tea – Inequality is Learnt, Equality needs Teaching, Havell’s- Respect for Women or the numerous pieces of work on Tanishq. We are working towards breaking barriers; these are societal changes, and our effort is ongoing.  

Investment and confidence in women entrepreneurs are important. In India, while the situation is improving today, the representation of women founders in India’s startup ecosystem has been a matter of concern and the money raised by women-led startups accounted for less than 1 per cent of the Rs 10.6 lakh crore pumped into Indian startups over the last 34 months. Breaking Bias on leadership capabilities and business acumen of women leaders is necessary to balance the gender ratio at management levels in corporations.

  

What shall be the education model that can make everyone more accommodating? What should be taught to our children about Gender Equality? 

There are many fundamental shifts that are needed. It needs to start with gender neutral language. We have been raised to use “he” as a pronoun while explaining things or in our conversations, this needs to change. I personally make it to point to share this in my daughter’s school, with parents and teachers alike. Also, there is a dire need to break stereotypes of profession in kids early on. A minor change but an important one, most times, teachers reach out to mothers for all parenting duties, the involvement of the father seems more discretionary, the responsibility is equal and needs to be understood and acted on.  

At MLLG, while our employees are sensitive and have a deep understanding of gender equality, as an organization we run programs about Conscious Inclusion and building and diverse organization. This is done the speech and drama way to ensure there is dialogue and greater conversation and understanding on the subject.  

With regards to our impact via our communication, I particularly like our latest work on Unacademy- Teach them Young, this one is on teaching beyond course books and focusing on teaching our boys the virtue of gender equality.

Does the gender gaps are still all too obvious? If yes, what are some of those areas, and why do you think it's not bridged yet.  

Yes, they are all too obvious aside from very small segments of mindset in society( not SEC’s) where they have reduced. The list as I see is:

Health: Life expectancy at birth. Needless to explain, this as we know is due to societal prejudice for having a male child. 

Education: Lesser girls receive access to formal education as well as dropouts post class 8, their intake in STEM. Defining role stereotypes of women-- household or caregiving roles primarily. 

Employment & Entrepreneurship: Participation of women in the urban workforce stands at ~10 %, similarly for entrepreneurship the number stands at 13.8%. Policy making and breaking stereotypes are biggest opportunity areas to reverse the trend. 

Governance: Women in parliament account for only ~11% members. India ranks a dismal 146th in women’s representation in the national parliament. This needs government reform which we know is hanging for lack of consensus and political inaction.  

At MLLG aside from being an equal opportunity employer, we have our DEI Apex Council which is focused on the task of gender equality and inclusion. We also make concerted efforts towards greater women representation. Our gender ratio for women at leadership level in Mullen Lintas stands at 67%. This is not alone; we have few business functions where the ratios are similar. This is a result of years of inclusive leadership. There are areas to work on and we are committed to those.  

Gender gaps are due to stereotypes we have been conditioned to for years. While the government and organizations can and should do their bit by being more progressive in policies, practices, communication and benefits, real change will only be driven when there will be a mindset shift in the society.

What could be some of the social practices that can bridge the gender equality issues from grass root level, and what change do you think it can bring to society & the workplaces.

Raising our children equally: Chores whether household, external or financial, need to be taught to all genders alike. No stereotypes.

Adjectives to describe girls/women need change: It shouldn’t be my strong boy and my delicate girl. I am not saying we make everything alike, but to consciously avoid stereotypes which our children grow up with and start believing in.

Child and early Marriage: This would allow for education, awareness and involvement of women in the workforce, thereby a more empowered generation.

Creating a safer society for our girls: Teaching our boys to respect women and equality is the key. 

Also, Cultural institutions of patrilineality (inheritance through male descendants) and patrilocality (married couples living with or near the husband’s parents), play a central role in perpetuating gender inequality and ideas about gender-appropriate behavior. Changing the value of girls must include men, women and boys. Only when the society’s perception changes, will the rights of all the girls and all the boys be fulfilled. 

Needle movement in the above areas would allow for greater participation of women in the workforce, break stereotypes and ensure that women do not drop off during critical life stages and reach upto the highest level in management 

  

Ancient Indian history was all about empowered women. Even the Gods have an equal share of both genders. What do you think is needed for women of today to recalibrate to new demands and remain empowered?#AGenderEqualWorld – What's your Pledge in one line? 

Women can create, nurture and transform. Seeking inspiration from Pearl Bailey, Choose the crown you want, the one that hurts in not worth wearing. 

 Also read : Changes in the Education System is the way to stand against social biases - Shivani Malhotra, Partner & Managing Director, Positive Vibes Consulting