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ET Women's Forum: #MeToo created empathy, brought change at the workplace

The #MeToo campaign has helped accelerate a cultural change.

ET Bureau|
Updated: Feb 12, 2019, 11.41 AM IST
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From left) Namita Thapar, N Venkatram, Dipali Goenka
From left: Namita Thapar, N Venkatram, Dipali Goenka
The Economic Times Women’s Forum 2019 took forward the mission that it launched last year — to collaboratively and urgently build a sustainable culture of empowering India’s half a billion women — through a scintillating day of conversations and debates about encouraging greater participation and reducing gender inequality in every sphere of life, work, and play.

The #MeToo movement, which has redefined things that were previously considered “normal”, has helped accelerate a cultural change that is happening in the way businesses, and society in general, treat women, but there is scope for further improvement — this was the general view at a panel discussion at the ET Women’s Forum.

“#MeToo has created an environment of empathy. The biggest positive is that now people don’t dismiss it (harassment faced by women) as rubbish as they did before,” said Rekha Sharma, chairperson of the National Commission for Women. “Women are talking about it and everybody is listening to them because women are holding each other’s hand.”

Many organisations have undertaken sensitisation programmes for their employees since October, when the #MeToo movement gathered momentum in India, almost a year after taking the world by storm. Discourse on gender equality too has come to the forefront.

“When I joined Welspun, the workforce had 7% women; today, we have 24% and we are going to 30%. We look at creating an environment which is friendly to women, very conducive and transparent,” said Dipali Goenka, chief executive at Welspun India.

From left: Rekha Sharma, Anupriya Acharya and Birgit Liodden
From left: Rekha Sharma, Anupriya Acharya and Birgit Liodden

While Namita Thapar, executive director at Emcure Pharmaceuticals and moderator of the discussion on ‘Beyond #MeToo’, delved into the roles that leaders could play on gender equality, Anupriya Acharya, CEO of Publicis Media India, spoke about the need to have more women in decision-making roles. “We talk about gender sensitisation, but nothing can be as effective as having women at the top,” Acharya said.

Some organisations have already identified the need to have senior female executives.

N Venkatram, managing partner and CEO of Deloitte India and the only male member on the panel, said his company realised that it had very few female partners even though it was hiring many women, since the time required to become a partner was long. “We collapsed some levels so that we could promote people faster … Four years into this, the result speaks for itself. On our last year’s promotion list, 22% people got promoted, and it was 50:50 (gender mix),” he said. “It was not by design, but it happened on its own because we have created a structure.”

Birgit Liodden, director of sustainability, ocean industries and communication from Oslo Business Region, asked firms to consider gender equality as a business case that can create new opportunities and improve results. “Starting from the top to all the levels of an organisation, there is need to set really very clear targets and which are measurable and linked to the bonus of managers, ” she said.

This panel was moderated by Namita Thapar, executive director, Emcure Pharmaceuticals.

ET Women's Forum: Shikha Sharma, Diana Hayden, Aditi Mittal Reveal How To Prioritise Onesel...

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11 Feb, 2019
Eminent women suggest what you should do to put yourself first.In pic from left: (Shikha Sharma, Diana Hayden, Aditi Mittal)
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