September 23, 2013 — Welcome to the first in our series of “Men Who Get It” profiles, designed to showcase male executives and experts who act as Catalysts for change by advancing women in the workplace. This week, the spotlight is on Jayakanthan M, Head of Talent & Development and Diversity & Inclusion, Global Operations Centers, Thomson Reuters. Jay is an India-based expert on inclusive leadership.
Meet: Jayakanthan M, Head of Talent & Development and Diversity & Inclusion, Global Operations Centers, Thomson Reuters, India
Women as role models: Women have always played a very influential role in my personal and professional life. My semi-literate mother’s grit and determination to provide me with a normal life, in spite of my having had polio since childhood, did much to define my personality.
A woman professor I had in college saw my potential and helped unlock it. My wife’s common sense approach to life has helped to balance out my idealistic nature. And a number of smart, ambitious, and hard-working women have helped shape my career.
Why I feel connected to the struggle for gender equality: When I see the gender biases around me, I am appalled—and I know that by not giving women a fair chance, we risk missing out on talents and skills which men often lack.
Looking back at my career, it’s fascinating to note that for the last 12 years, I have almost always had women managers. Their leadership styles have shaped mine and I have turned out to be someone who is able to balance empathy with effectiveness. I report to five different women now and, to be honest, I wouldn’t mind never having a male boss again!
Why we need more than good intentions: While it’s fulfilling to see that I can craft policies and processes to reduce the visible barriers and biases women face, it’s frustrating that there is a constant need to prove the value of a gender-diverse work force. The easiest thing is to let the status quo stay and hope that through natural processes, the gender balance may improve. Unfortunately, unless we take proactive steps, these imbalances won’t correct themselves.
I believe that real change will come in India only when the millennials enter the workplace in large numbers. Most of them come from homes where their mothers have had some form of employment. Hopefully they won’t have the burden of gender biases and will actively advocate for more gender-diverse organizations. Until then, we need to keep chipping away at inequality and winning minor battles.
Best professional advice: When I moved into management a few years ago, my then-boss told me that the greatest right I had was the right to make mistakes. I give this same speech to all of my team members. Granting an employee the right to make mistakes leads to confidence, empowerment, and freedom.
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