GENDER Kristin Engvig, founder of Women International Networking, on initiatives to create better opportunities for Indian women at the workplace
Recently in New Delhi, a clutch of women achievers from a variety of fields gathered to deliberate on strategies and skills required by women to succeed in creating a better business environment for them.
Leaders from media, government, corporations and civil society added their bit to the three-day deliberations that took place under the banner of WIN (Women International Networking). The WIN Conference, held for the first time in India, is an initiative by Kristin Engvig that offers women leaders from across the world “a strong vision” to help succeed in their respective fields through workshops, coaching labs, networking sessions and social events. The New Delhi conference was supported by Stree Shakti and CEQUIN, both local NGOs working for equity and inclusion of women in workplace. In an email interview, Kristin Engvig elaborates on what WIN can offer to Indian women. Excerpts:
On the need for a WIN Conference in India
When my friends from India invited me to come to Delhi, I was curious. I thought, what does a modest and practical Viking girl from Norway and a global team from Lausanne do in a sophisticated neighbourhood of Delhi? The answers, I believe, lie in the exchange, in putting together our hearts, in gathering women from all around the world. Because as we collaborate to make the workplace better for women (and for all), as we inspire each other to better our careers, entrepreneurship and communities, be more human and less corrupt, we improve our own individual lives too. And as we stay open, anchored to the ground and connected to the sky and each other, we feel strong to follow our dreams and we find the courage to never accept the unacceptable.
On her vision for India
The World Economic Forum places India on the 105th spot (out of 135 countries covered) on its Global Gender Gap Index of 2012. This incorporates the economic participation and occupation ratio of women and men, educational attainment, health and survival, political empowerment, etc. However, there are huge opportunities of growth and expansion in India, with highly educated and inspirational women leading the way. We do see a future with a diverse and inclusive workplace, political and social environment. We are also looking at permanently integrating development projects such as the WINGirls (education of girls) as one of our many projects in India.
On the deliberation at the first WIN conference in India
We are extremely happy with the response we have received in India. It was surreal to hear from amazing women whose careers shine and through their courage, perseverance and feminine touch have moved ahead and also paved the way for others. We also explored the Indian work environment within the current global context to identify emerging trends, and discuss the opportunities and challenges that women encounter daily both in life and at the workplace. We have hopefully inspired many companies and major corporations to embrace women in business, to create diverse and inclusive environments and how women are impacting business models including the bottom line from a larger perspective, also taking into account happiness and quality of life.
On challenges for India
India is extremely diverse in terms of cultures, gender and perceptions. You can see a harsh distinction between the various classes and is extremely challenging to bridge such a gap. Prompting a change and seeing it take its effect could be a very gradual and slow process in a multicultural country like India. One way to look at eradicating exploitation between classes is not only does it requires educating and cultivating awareness amongst women but more so enlightening men, neighbourhoods, communities, workplaces, corporations, etc. Also by inspiring women frontrunners to channel their power to self-assurance so that they are able to reach out and help others.
On plans to connect women from different countries
Each year at the Global WINConference we welcome 80 nationalities. WIN attracts professional women and men with a strong sense of responsibility, influential decision-makers or opinion leaders, company executives, entrepreneurs, independent professionals, consultants, academics, artists, thought leaders, government and NGO representatives, international business school professors and students.
WIN also attracts more men every year. We have initiatives like the Regional WINConference, WIN Corporate Network Group, WIN Development, WIN Woman’s Fund, etc. to connect people and learn from each other.
SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY