Kanchana TK is Director General and Board Member, Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI). She leads OPPI’s engagement with the Government of India on a three-part agenda critical to an industry that launches innovative medicines and therapies that are essential to the Indian patient. Her role involves leading conversations and collaborations with external stakeholders – policy makers, patient advocates, media and public keeping the patient centerstage.
In an interaction with People Matters, she shared her views about women in boardrooms and fields, and why inclusion is more important than diversity.
The OPPI field survey suggests that only 6% of field workers are women, and they lack necessary facilities such as washrooms, parking spaces, etc. What steps are you taking to enhance the current situation?
Women employees have to struggle for basic facilities such as separate washrooms, parking lots, and others. OPPI is working with all India Druggist and Chemist Association and requested them to provide these facilities to start with few places and then expand it to other areas. It will motivate more women to join the workforce. If workplace facilities remain up to the mark, it’ll lead to better output.
In the pharma sector, there is a massive gap in the leadership ratio between men and women as they don’t lead in commercial roles as their function. Hence at some point in time, they don’t reach the leadership positions. The solution to this is to hire more women in strategic and leadership roles and not only in transactional roles. With more women in the field, there are chances that the situation will improve in the coming days.
How is the government helping in this direction?
We didn’t go to the government because we believe in doing this ourselves. There is an opportunity to work around workplace safety and basic amenities for women. We will go to the government when we believe that we have made the right efforts at the first stage. There are many things that the government has done, such as maternity benefits law, minimum guidelines for women in the workplace, etc.
According to a report, 90% of women leaders don’t see themselves becoming a CEO. What are your thoughts on the same?
We don’t see many women in the C-suite roles because the boardroom atmosphere is very intimidating. Men in the boardroom and leadership roles are the decision-makers. The second point is that C-suite needs more time and extra responsibility. Women don’t socialize like men and hence get excluded from the inner circle of the leadership. But, I believe that we should not stop women from going out and being themselves. Women bring an entirely different perspective, overcome challenges, and overcome fear.
Let us move away from diversity and we should call it inclusion. We focus too much on diversity to get people on board but when we forget how to include them, it causes a problem. There is a saying, “Diversity has been asked to a party, and inclusion was asked to dance.” Organizations tend to hire and forget the inclusion part.
How can organizations use technology to foster Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace?
Technology plays a vital role in fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace. I am using gamification to point out employees spending time with each other. For example- we all know who sits where but we don’t meet with everyone. So, in the game mode, we inform them that in the last month you have met only four colleagues. All these small things matter and help the company to include diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
What is going to be your key focus areas for OPPI for the next few years?
OPPI stands for continuing to bring innovative medicines in India, and we will continue to do that, and keep the patients at the midpoint. In the next three years, getting innovative drugs and better health access to the patients will be my key focus areas.