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Peer pressure ensures firms work at being inclusive: VP-HR, Wipro

Mar 13, 2013

Sunita Cherian, Vice President, Human Resources and Head of Gender Diversity, Wipro, while disclosing that they have no woman directors in the board said that culture and working conditions of a firm and not matrix ensure better participation of women. Excerpts from Sunita Cherian's interview with OneWorld South Asia.

Sunita Cherian

OneWorld South Asia: How can the participation of women increase in the corporate sector?

Sunita Cherian: There is a need for policies which help in removing the existing barriers lying in the path of women development. In the context of gender inclusion, this means fostering a zero bias environment, while nurturing growth.

Leadership sessions are essential for the growth of women. But, I have strong reservations against companies being driven towards the number quota. Although, women make up nearly 30 per cent of the workforce, we don’t have women directors in the board. But, I am against going behind the numbers.

It is the culture and working conditions of a firm and not matrix which is important for ensuring better participation of women. The companies should do the right things and the numbers will automatically happen. The real change does not come from the boardrooms. It will come from the kind of culture you have in your company.

OWSA: How can the corporate sector be friendlier to women?

Cherian: The idea is to build confidence in women executives by focussing on meaningful, long-term careers while also excelling in their social and familial responsibilities.

I have been in Wipro for 17 years as the company’s culture emphasizes merit and fairness. The only reason I stuck on at Wipro is because of the culture in the organisation and nothing else. If Wipro did not have the culture it had, I would not have survived perhaps. So, at every point in time, I realised the fact that my organisation was inclusive and it did not really look at my gender.

OWSA: How important it is for a woman to assert her position in a company, if needed?

Cherian: Assertiveness is a quality which every person should have. As far as women are concerned, more than assertion they should have a point- of- view. It is sad to see that in most of the meetings a woman will recline to one corner and remains silent.

OWSA: Do you think the empowerment of women can happen with only the female leaders at the helm of affairs?In that sense, what one issue needs urgent attention to truly empower women in the corporate space?

Cherian: Not at all. One should not take anything to the extremes. Everything is required in balance. I will never subscribe to the fact that if a woman is sitting at top, then everything becomes better. I think people have to change their mindset. People have to understand that inclusion is important. And, that’s why I said, I will not be a great advocate only for women. Irrespective of backgrounds like sex, age or nationality, meritorious people should be given the jobs.

OWSA: How do you think can the companies be motivated to work towards being better places for women?

Cherian: Peer pressure will make companies work towards gender sensitiveness. Business will demand that a corporate entity becomes more inclusive.

OWSA: How do you think a fair gender balance can enhance transparency in the corporate world?

Cherian: I think a fair balance of gender does help in enhancing transparency. In fact, gender sensitisation should start from the school level.

OWSA: How important it is to include men as we strive to empower women?

Cherian: Role of men is indispensable when we work for the empowerment of women. This year, we at Wipro are celebrating what we call, ‘men as champions of change’ which salutes the champions of change irrespective of their gender. We are making them part of our celebrations. If you don’t have men supporting the cause of women, you have no cause.

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