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

The #MeToo campaign has helped accelerate a cultural change.

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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.
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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 Oneself
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Eminent women suggest what you should do to put yourself first.

In pic from left: (Shikha Sharma, Diana Hayden, Aditi Mittal)

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

Shikha Sharma, Former MD, Axis Bank

My advice for women has always been, ‘Believe in yourself.’ Do not overcompensate by being aggressive or being like anybody else. You never win by playing someone else’s game. You only win by playing your own game. So, play to your strengths. Make sure you are learning every day.

Shikha Sharma, Former MD, Axis BankMy advice for women has always been, ‘Believe in yourself.’ Do not overcompensate by being aggressive or being like anybody else. You never win by playing someone e..
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Diana Hayden, Miss World 1997

To put yourself first, you need to change your thought process. It’s all in your head and that’s where it starts. Understand and truly get self-confident. You need to treat yourself well. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Diana Hayden, Miss World 1997To put yourself first, you need to change your thought process. It’s all in your head and that’s where it starts. Understand and truly get self-confident. You need to tre..
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Namita Thapar, Executive Director, Emcure Pharmaceuticals

We need to learn to be a bit more selfish. We always tend to put others before us and I think we need to take the time out to pamper ourselves. Whether it’s going to the salon or going to watch a movie, do certain selfish things and schedule it. And also, choosing the right man to marry is important. While you can use your head and heart for other decisions, I would recommend going with your gut for this one.

Namita Thapar, Executive Director, Emcure PharmaceuticalsWe need to learn to be a bit more selfish. We always tend to put others before us and I think we need to take the time out to pamper ourselves..
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Namrata Joshipura, Founder, Joshipura Designs

Never feel guilty. As working women and mothers, we do our best. When my daughter was much younger, I would often feel guilty that I’m either in the office or when I was with her, I would feel guilty about not being in the office. Today, I feel I gave my child, my home, and my work as much time as each needed. I did and am doing my best.

Namrata Joshipura, Founder, Joshipura DesignsNever feel guilty. As working women and mothers, we do our best. When my daughter was much younger, I would often feel guilty that I’m either in the offic..
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Rashmi Shukla, ADGP, Maharashtra Police

If you want to maintain a balance (between work and life), be mentally prepared to accept responsibilities. In my case, I had tremendous support from my late husband. What is important is to know your limitations. Once you know your limitations, they can become your strengths.

Rashmi Shukla, ADGP, Maharashtra PoliceIf you want to maintain a balance (between work and life), be mentally prepared to accept responsibilities. In my case, I had tremendous support from my late hu..
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Aditi Mittal, Comedian

Women are often conditioned to think that the needs of others come before their own. So, put yourself first. We normally put other people first at the cost of ourselves. Like the emergency mask on the flight, you need to put yours on first before you help the child. That’s so you can breathe enough before you empower the child.

Aditi Mittal, ComedianWomen are often conditioned to think that the needs of others come before their own. So, put yourself first. We normally put other people first at the cost of ourselves. Like th..
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Fawzia Koofi, Member of Parliament, Afghanistan

The first thing is setting goals for yourself. And the second thing is to stay committed to what you believe in. Often for women, it’s not easy to stick to what they believe in and what they want to achieve. During times like these, you need to keep your focus.

Fawzia Koofi, Member of Parliament, AfghanistanThe first thing is setting goals for yourself. And the second thing is to stay committed to what you believe in. Often for women, it’s not easy to stick..
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Vidya Shah CEO, EdelGive Foundation

It is this feeling of ‘I am no different’ and seeing humanity in yourself, not just as a woman but as a person. We are no different from anybody else, so I don’t know why we (women) get into the thing that I’m a woman so I won’t be able to do this or won’t be able to access that. That is vital. A lot of us on the panel were raised in ordinary homes but we were raised to believe that we are no different.

Vidya Shah CEO, EdelGive FoundationIt is this feeling of ‘I am no different’ and seeing humanity in yourself, not just as a woman but as a person. We are no different from anybody else, so I don’t kn..
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