December 14, 2012 — At a 2012 World Economic Forum session entitled, “Changing Mindsets: India’s Missing Women,” The Wall Street Journal noted that “there weren’t many minds present.” Only 100 people attended the session, which was held in a room large enough for 1000. The session title aptly captures the reality—that women are surely missing—and the newspaper’s comment raises a pertinent question: where are the men who will lead and drive change and get us past stuck?
I was recently at the Mumbai airport, taking an early morning flight to Bangalore, and so were several other women—young, energetic, with their computer bags on their shoulders, ready to get to their meetings. The ladies’ line was so long, it felt like walking on the Sea Link! I guess no one was expecting all these women to show up for early morning travel, and with just as many computers as the men to go through the x-ray machine.
Meanwhile, the line for men was moving along, despite the fact that there were just as many computers to be screened. Needless to say, there was more than one line for men. The thought did cross my mind to join that line—I am sure it crossed the minds of several other women as well—but we refrained (one practical reason being the presence of male security personnel!).
India Inc. is no different from anywhere else—it is also not ready to acknowledge the rapidly growing female talent pool. It does not have the ecosystem that moves women along and ahead—there is only one line, separate from the line for men. Meanwhile, men have many options and opportunities to move along and ahead.
We need the men from the other lines to play a game of “look and lead”—look around and see what is wrong with the picture, then think about what they can do to fix it, and do it in a way that works for India Inc. The end result will be a win-win for all, from more efficient security screenings at airports to more amazing talent in the workplace.