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Need to shift from establishing gender equality to equity: Abhinav Chopra

In a move to set new benchmarks in Human Resource policies, Viacom18 has launched a brand new women centric programme, titled WAVE – Women at Viacom18. In today’s day and age, where it’s imperative for a family to have a double income in order to keep up with the times, an upgrade in our mindsets is the need of the hour, along with the lifestyle. The WAVE programme seeks to bring in this very change in mindset.

WAVE is a women-friendly work-linked benefits programme, including the increase in paid maternity leave to 36 weeks or nine months, as well as providing additional benefits for new and expectant mothers in Viacom18 along with various initiatives focusing on the overall safety, wellness and career development of female employees of the company. WAVE has been introduced with the aim of cultivating a culture of encouraging women to grow as professionals and taking on more leadership roles.

The programme focuses on four pillars – Safety, Wellness, Life Events and Career Development, with various interventions under each.

Speaking about WAVE and its significance to the organisation, Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO, Viacom18, said, “Viacom18 prides itself in being a thought leader on several counts. We are privileged to be the home of endearing stories and leading brands. The magic we create across screens is made possible only by the tireless efforts of a team of exemplary professionals. I have always believed that our people are our strongest competitive advantage. With WAVE – Women at Viacom18 – we seek to address the importance of gender diversity in a modern-day organisation. At 38 per cent, the representation of women in our organisation is already above the national average. Over the years, we have worked to create an enabling environment to maintain this representation even across higher levels. That said, we have new benchmarks to set as we progress in our journey to become India’s most admired media and entertainment company. WAVE is one such step in this direction. The first phase of WAVE is internally-focused and aimed at institutionalising gender diversity, sensitising our workforce and building equity, over equality, for our women employees. Once we have achieved these goals, WAVE will transform into a larger platform and even surpass Viacom18’s walls.”

Elaborating on the initiatives under WAVE, Abhinav Chopra, Chief Human Resource Officer, Viacom18, said, “Our constant endeavour is to create a workplace that provides a sense of belonging and a place that makes – our employees – feel cared for. It is with this objective in our hearts we launched an exciting new initiative WAVE. WAVE is the result of intense research and a number of extensive conversations with employees, to understand their pressing needs. Based on these conversations, we have identified focus areas, which often tend to be the biggest concerns for most working women. Addressing each of these concerns, we have introduced exciting initiatives – from providing night travel to a 36-week maternity leave programme to flexible working option for 12 weeks post maternity leave – which will help us ensure our employees are provided with all that they need to be able to be happy at the workplace which will help them perform better.”

Additional benefits include post maternity leave, check-up leaves, paternity leave, as well as an upcoming day-care center.

As part of WAVE, Viacom18 is working towards creating a culture of safety which will allow female employees to focus on their work and their career without having to worry about their safety by providing them transportation in case they’re working late. Under the pillar of Wellness, the company will be providing healthcare camps for women in the workplace in addition to existing initiatives which include doctor visits at the office, therapists to help with their emotional wellbeing and annual health check-ups.

AdGully caught up with Abhinav Chopra, Chief Human Resource Officer, Viacom18, to know more about the various initiatives undertaken by Viacom18 to ensure overall safety, wellness and career development of its female employees.

What stops others from doing something like this?
You see, a lot of times, we pick up the practices – look at what works well and then copy paste it. But for us, that was not the starting point. For us, for me, the starting point was what I saw happening around me, the stories from our lives. I think the genesis was the pain and anguish felt by people close to us. For me, that came from my conversation with my sister and brother-in-law, who went to go in the same school, same college and then started their corporate lives, got married and went the family way. My sister had to quit her job. And every time I spoke to her, I felt her pain – why am I here while Gaurav’s (her husband) career is going on perfectly? What happens to my career? It is the women who have to make the difficult choices – that of having a baby, being a mother and having a successful career. It is not a this versus that conversation. While men can have both – be fathers and have successful careers, why can’t women?

The other conversation is that we don’t have to do this only for the women working in this organisation – about 38 per cent of this organisation consists of women employees. We aim to also reach out to the spouses of the men working in this organisation, after all they are also a part of this organisation.

What do you hope to achieve through these initiatives?
The one thing that I want to see is the change in the definition of and, thereby, moving away from establishing equality to equity. For the longest time corporates have been guilty of establishing equality, which is a health job-pack within the same salary, same designation. But that for me is still equality. Firstly, re-entering a job after a break is difficult. Even as the women employers rejoin, their male counterparts in the meantime have built up more experience, have learnt a lot more, have networked a lot more. So, how is that equal? Thus, if you want to make it equitable, you need to do more. We need to start looking at this change. It is not equality, but equity that we need. 

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