For the last 25 years as a facilitator in the leadership space, I have met some wonderful people, brave, inspiring, ambitious with all the makings of visionaries. Women and men, who believed in doing things differently and doing it with passion.
As the years passed by, a stark reality became clear. Only half of those ‘visionaries’ have gone on to become game changers in the corporate scene, and of those half, a clear majority are men.
It was this reality, coupled with a need to create a balance that kick started Tatva’s journey into the space of Diversity and Inclusion.
NASSCOM has been a forerunner in closing this gap. Their diversity summits over the past five years coupled by the introduction of the Diversity and Inclusion awards, have cemented their focus in the minds of their members.
Due to this common vision, a partnership was forged, and NASSCOM invited its members to come together to talk about the ‘leak in the women leadership pipeline’ at a session in Mumbai.
I have to admit something here. I’ve been around a long time and life still has a whole lot of surprises for me. And this time, the surprise was in the form of the Govt. of Maharashtra.
The Govt. of Maharashtra has been working on diversity initiatives for a while now. Their initiatives do not only deal with women development, but go as far as to address the needs of the differently-abled.
Once again the common synergies came into play. Two prominent members of the Govt. Of Maharashtra, came on board to be part of our session, namely, Mr. Rajesh Aggarwal, the IT Secretary of the Govt of Maharashtra and Mrs. Valsa Nair Singh, the additional commissioner of the MMRDA. Each had an element of inspiration that would add immense value to our session.
As the HR Managers and business leaders walked into the venue, a wisp of doubt began to creep in. Would we be able to deliver a balanced content where our message of equal opportunity would be understood and well received? After all, the aim was not to preach special opportunities to women but to remove perceptions, recognize existing challenges and facilitate solutions that would create a balanced platform for the wholesome development of an organisation.
Mr. Rajesh Aggarwal, opened the session with riveting information on the current scenario of diversity in Maharashtra and the initiatives taken by the government to ensure that its policies included people from all walks of life, irrespective of gender or ability. He urged the guests to think beyond the boundaries of current realities, to become enablers of social change and to believe that the future holds promise.
From then, on the ball was in our court. With the combined team of Ravi Raman, Vijay Munshi and I, we decided to get our guests involved. We urged them to speak their hearts and their minds, and the experience was transformational.
Our invitees connected on common issues, and learned the existence of new ones. Women spoke their minds and men questioned the existing practices. It was madness. The sort of madness that creates change.
After threshing out and connecting experiences, we explained to them our point of view. The Tatva version of the story and the initiatives we had designed to help bring about a change. I believe we hit the right note, because we showed them that change was possible. We showed them it was not an unscalable challenge, but one that can be addressed if we change our approach.
We didn’t have to go too far to convince our guests, as the next session cemented their belief in our views.
Mrs. Valsa Nair Singh took the stage, and decided to tell a story. It was a story of challenges, a story of growth, a story of courage, it was her story. She related her life experiences as a woman officer in a government organisation and the resilience she had to develop to grow and succeed. Her lesson was simple, ‘”If you believe in yourself, nothing can stop you”.
As the session came to an end, we realised that this was only the beginning. The journey is long but the end is in sight. And we were not alone. Organisations like the Govt. of Maharashtra, NASSCOM and our beloved guests proved that the like-minded exist, and with time, the dreams we dream would be realities we live.