The glass ceiling is breaking, but slowly: Women honchos

September 28th, 2008 - 10:54 am ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Sep 28 (IANS) Women leaders in India’s corporate world, though still small in numbers, see the situation changing for the better as the gender divide narrows and the glass ceiling disintegrates. “If women want they can reach the top in the corporate ladder. There is nothing like glass ceiling for women in corporate sector. Moreover, with the diminishing of gender divide, women with their ability are best suitable to head corporate businesses,” asserts Kalpana Morparia, CEO of J.P. Morgan India.

“As a woman from the corporate world, I say all the aspiring women leaders and entrepreneurs have the ability to take a risk in their careers and come out of their comfort zones,” says Shanti Ekambaram, group head, Wholesale Banking, Kotak Mahindra Bank Limited.

Kalpana and Shanti were among the several leading women executives who gathered at India’s IT hub last week to deliberate on ‘Women - The Leadership Journey’. They agreed more women leaders need to be groomed because there was paucity of women managers at senior levels in India.

The conference was organised by the Confederation of Indian industry (CII), Karnataka, in collaboration with the Women Business Leaders Forum (WBLF).

“The objective of the conference was to address issues like how to make leaders out of women as it involves setting goals, communicating ideas and delivering results,” said Priya Chetty Rajagopal, co-convenor of WBLF and vice president of StantonChase International.

Such meetings help “delve into effective decision-making processes, altering behaviours, recasting mindsets, organisational change, personal negotiation styles, and investing in and managing relationships for greater impact,” Priya told IANS.

Besides Kalpana and Shanti, other participants included Rupande Padaki, director, The P&P Group, an HR consultant firm; Padma Ravichander, managing director, Mercer; Revathy Ashok, managing director and head-finance, Tishman Speyer, a leading real estate firm; Sandhya Vasudevan, managing director, Thomson Reuters; and J. Janelle Shubert, director, The Centre For Women’s Leadership, Babson College.

They discussed, among other topics, the changing context of leadership and leadership strategies for women.

On the existing scene in the corporate world, Nirmala Menon, founder of Interweave, a diversity management solutions company, said: “Women at the top are still rare. This is true globally, where they comprise only 10 percent of senior managers in Fortune 500 companies. In India, the picture is far worse. Statistics indicate that women comprise some three percent of senior management in India.

“It’s time to address the issue and encourage and groom women to become leaders. Studies have also indicated that the companies with higher percentage of women board directors outperformed companies with the lowest percentage, as today’s market has a growing pool of women customers, shown by different studies.”

Urging women to take the risk, Shanti Ekambaram cited her own journey as an example. “I joined Kotak Mahindra when it was an unknown entity in the banking sector some 17 years back.

“I took a risk at that time, as I left my lucrative job in a foreign bank. But with a passion to excel, hard work and result- oriented focus, I have achieved success. As a woman I know we have the ability and skills to achieve milestones in the corporate world,” said Shanti.

Asked about the steps that would be taken after the conference, Priya said: “We have taken note of the suggestions given by the key panelists as to how to change women’s roles from being mere employees to leaders in their respective companies. We’ll be sending the suggestions to companies across the country.

“A better understanding of women’s role in the companies they work for has to be cultivated. Women have the flair to reach the top in corporate world as they are efficient and good decision-makers.”

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