The global average of women CEOs is below 10%, says a study by IRC Global Executive Search Partners - India and Synergy Consultants. This statistic might look dismal, but few organisations are turning things around for women professionals. About 5 companies – Microsoft, PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PwC), PepsiCo, Tata Sons and American Express – have devised a women leadership program ‘Reach Out 2.0’ with an aim to promote gender diversity and develop skill sets of women professionals for top roles.
According to D Shivakumar, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo India,“Diversity is crucial for success and companies are at various stages on the diversity journey. Identifying future women leaders, building a clear plan for their career and developing them into strong, independent capable leaders has to be a key agenda item for any CEO and board.”
It’s a nine-month long program where around 15 CXOs have signed up to mentor 5-7 senior women professionals from each of the organizations. Mentors like Bhaskar Pramanik, Chairman, Microsoft India, Deepak Kapoor, Chairman, PwC India, Sanjay Rishi, President, American Express India, Dr N S Rajan, Group CHRO and Member-Group Executive Council, Tata Sons, D Shivakumar, Chairman & CEO PepsiCo India are going to be playing critical roles as enablers in this program. Last year, the initiative witnessed the participation of 30 women leaders across these five organizations.
Satyavati Berera, COO, PwC India who is also a mentor in the program told People Matters, "Reach Out 2.0 offers the right platform for senior women professionals to collaborate, build relationships with peers from other organisations and gain perspectives from leaders across the industry. These attributes are essential for a well-rounded leader.”
So what do the participants expect out of this program! Naseeb Puri, Associate Director – Brand Marketing, PepsiCo India said, “This initiative facilitates access to perspectives from other industries, from different career stages & with varied experiences – all of whom are clearly amongst the top minds within their organizations. It can therefore help provide a deeper insight into leadership thinking & inspire ways to navigate a successful career & personal growth path.”
Vandana Bhalla, Head of Marketing – Eyewear, Titan hopes to “to identify, focus and build on some key skills required for me to move up the corporate ladder in a fulfilling way. It is interesting to note that many women at this stage of my career face similar challenges both at the professional and personal level.”
Attending a program is not the objective, but developing leadership skill is the ultimate goal. Says Batul Shah, Director - Risk Management, PwC said, “I believe being a successful business leader requires one to walk a tight rope between building consensus and also being accepted as the final voice. Through this program I am looking forward to interacting with senior business leaders, who have not only been successful but have also managed to sustain such success, and learn from them how to navigate through tricky situations.”
Microsoft India’s Hitu Chawla who is the Director Marketing also believes that “Networking & Mentoring are important facets of career advancement. Platforms such as these give you the exposure and visibility to build your personal brand, strengthen your networks and develop valuable mentor/protégé relationships.”
Mentor Suchitra Rajendra, Vice President, HR, PepsiCo India reiterated the importance of diverse workforce. She said, “At PepsiCo, we believe a diverse workforce leads to a more creative and productive work environment. Our holistic D&I agenda therefore spans across gender, generation, and other forms of diversity. A key focus amongst these priorities includes focused capability building for our women employees to enable them to be future-ready for leadership roles.”
The culture of openness is what differentiates a great work culture from a good one. As rightly summed up by Dr N S Rajan, Group CHRO and Member-Group Executive Council, Tata Sons, “Diversity succeeds only when there is a culture of open, candid conversations wherein women can share their dilemmas without concerns on how it might impact them.”