#ProgressiveWoman: Challenging the status quo

That gender equality and a safe work environment for women is still being discussion in 2019 is itself a worrisome reflection of the status of women in society. However, the scenario is not so bleak as there have been significant changes in the status quo, and more importantly, in people’s thinking and attitudes.

Adgully’s drive to bring women empowerment to the fore with its Twitter Panels spread across three days – March 6, 7 and 8 – is being deeply appreciated across social media.

The Twitter Panel discussion today will centre on the Urban vs Non-Urban divide – how does geography define the meaning of progressive, challenges on both the sides, media consumption patterns and much more.

Our esteemed panelists include:

  • Moderator - Rashmi Putcha, Co-Founder & Director, LIQVD Asia
  • Priti Murthy, CEO, OMD India
  • Shavon Barua, Chief Client Officer, PHD India
  • Sujata Dwibedy, EVP & Head of Buying and Trading, Amplifi India
  • Deparpita Banerjee, President - North & East, FCB Ulka
  • Srija Chatterjee, Managing Director, Publicis Worldwide India
  • Heena Tickoo, Director Client Servicing, DCMN India

For Priti Murthy, CEO, OMD India, Women’s Day means challenging the status quo. While the change in industry is slow, there is a move towards positive growth and acceptance of woman as leaders and sitting in boards.

Shavon Barua, Chief Client Officer, PHD India, believes that Women’s Day will serve as a reminder to everyone about the importance of equality, respect and opportunity for all. She added, “While I eagerly wait for the day, you don’t need a particular occasion to celebrate women and give them some cheesy discounts in salons and cafes.”

According to Srija Chatterjee, Managing Director, Publicis Worldwide India, Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the “real you – your achievements, your ambitions, your work, your family…just about everything that involves you”. And this celebration should not be limited to just March 8, but all 365 days in a year, where women are constantly on the go to make their dreams and also of those around them, a reality.

For Rashmi Putcha, Co-Founder & Director, LIQVD Asia, Women’s Day marks the celebration of progress and emancipation of women as they become empowered with freedom of speech, thought, feelings and action. While on the one hand, Women’s Day evokes respect and admiration for our inspirational role models, on the other hand, it is also a sad reminder that so many girls and women remain trapped in the darkness of oppression and inequality.

Putcha emphasised that women’s equality is not a goal, but a journey on an often unmarked road. “How do we tell the difference between an empowered woman and an oppressed one? One wins awards for her work, but is a victim of abuse at home; another who sweats over a cooking fire in some village, enjoys respect and equality in her community. The only way to overcome this obscurity is to encourage both women to speak out and amplify their experiences, so that women, and men everywhere may measure their own progress,” she added.

Sujata Dwibedy, EVP & Head of Buying and Trading, Amplifi India, is more optimistic when she says that International Women’s Day has played a significant role in raising awareness about gender equality and celebrating the success of women in all walks of life. “I am looking forward to the times when each day would be celebrated for gender equality, freedom of expression as well as success, when there’s no section of women deprived of their rights,” she added.

“You celebrate your birthday once a year, but you live, or at least try to live life to the fullest all the other days of the year. That’s what Women’s Day means to me,” reflected Heena Tickoo, Director - Client Servicing, DCMN India. Continuing further, she called it a day to voice opinions, recognise women in all spheres of lives, embrace what one stands for, a day to remind young girls of all the possibilities that are in store for them, a day to inspire and be inspired by all things good. “It’s a day to remind the hitherto ‘weaker sex’ of their strengths and how patience, perseverance, determination and hard work can help them achieve whatever they set their eye on. The remaining 364 days of the year then, they just continue to live life to the fullest,” Tickoo remarked.

Women capturing the work domain

Srija Chatterjee highlighted some prominent changes, such as the scales being tilted in favour of women when it comes to occupying important roles, maintaining fine gender balance at the workplace, more decision-makers coming to the forefront, and most importantly, addressing the fear of being repressed/ harassed at the workplace. “The last bit could essentially be the best thing to have happened to women in our industry in a long time,” she said.

During her career, Shavon Barua has seen some serious changes in the way women are treated in this industry, with change shifting from just lip service to now a place at the boardroom table. “I now see women leading from the front, their voices becoming stronger, their actions being recognised and achievements applauded by their peers! It’s still the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a significant improvement and step forward to a brighter future,” she observed.

Reflecting the same optimism, Heena Tickoo said, “A few good changes have already started happening, slowly and steadily.” At the same time she felt that there was still a long way to go. “What is important is that we are heading in the right direction. Be it gender equality at work, anti-harassment guidelines, maternity benefits or equal pay, some baby steps have surely been taken,” she added.

Citing her own experience, Deparpita Banerjee said, “I have been fortunate enough to not face any gender discrimination in my 22 years of work, even though mostly AFTER I had proved my efficiency. What has changed in the industry exponentially is gender sensitivity – we have become more sensitive to what and how we portray women in advertising, thanks to women rising to management roles. Besides, the more recent #MeToo movement has made it absolutely okay to not be okay with many things.”

“Can you believe that in 2019, a safe and equal workplace for women is still a work in progress? That laws and policies are still being debated? We should have crossed this divide 50 years ago!” exclaimed Rashmi Putcha.

Still it is heartening to see companies make positive strides towards women’s safety and equality. Government interventions like the POSH Act of 2013, and companies rewriting their policies towards gender equality are making workplaces safer than ever before.

Putcha observed that the advertising and media industry has always been synonymous with Mad Men, and perhaps most rife with incidents of the abuse of women’s rights. “With a few exceptions, women have been mostly silent participants, and even more silent victims of their bosses and colleagues. The last decade has seen this changing at a fast pace. The tail is wagging the dog, Social media and mainstream media have amplified the voices of oppressed women – both openly and anonymously. These voices are inspiring many others to speak out and demand safety and equality. The recent #MeToo movement is a testimony of the changing times,” she added.

Concluding on a positive note, Putcha said, “We’ve got a long journey ahead of us, but I see positivity and hope that women, men and all other genders will live in an equal and mutually supportive environment someday.”

Chatterjee wrapped up with an important message, “My message to women would be: No role comes with prerequisites to change your personality. You are what makes you special, don’t lose that.


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