Arundhati Bhattacharya: More women needed in corporate boardrooms; requires mindset change, determined action: Arundhati Bhattacharya

Arundhati Bhattacharya: More women needed in corporate boardrooms; requires mindset change, determined action: Arundhati Bhattacharya

The representation of women in corporate boardrooms needs to be “far more”, and it will involve a change of mindsets, determined action and focus, Arundhati Bhattacharya, the top boss of Salesforce India and former Chairperson of SBI has said.

Bhattacharya smashed the glass ceiling in 2013 when she became the first woman to lead State Bank of India (SBI) in the bank’s over 200-year history. She retired from SBI in 2017 and went on to reinvent herself with a brand new career innings at the helm of cloud-based service provider Salesforce India in 2020, as Chairperson and CEO.

Speaking with PTI, she said Indian businesses need to see digital transformation as a “must have” and not merely as something good to have. Organisations that have inefficient processes, data residing in silos and manual processes, or skill gaps will fall behind, unless they adopt tech and digital, she advocated.

Every single sector – be it healthcare, automotive or manufacturing presents an opportunity for Salesforce, she added.

In a free-wheeling chat that touched on various aspects close to her heart, including women’s issues, Bhattacharya said that a “broad brush approach” to getting women back to workplaces as normalcy resumes, may not work for all, and asserted that flexibility, understanding and empathy would be the key.

Her comments assume significance as there have been industry concerns that the end of work-from-home could push industry attrition among women workers in certain cases.It is pertinent to mention that earlier this month, India’s largest tech company TCS said attrition among its women employees has raced past the same for men, hinting that the end of work-from-home may have a role to play in it.Bhattacharya also advocated for greater representation of women in corporate boardrooms.

“Absolutely, there need to be far more women in corporate boardrooms. I think it is a question of changing mindsets,” she said.

She pointed towards the progression of C-suite executives later towards boardrooms, and felt that since the number of women in C suites are limited, it ultimately tends to reflect on the overall representation in the boardrooms, as well.

“Most often I have found that a lot of people in the boardrooms are people who were from C-suites earlier. Now, there are not that many women in C suites… Mainly because the number of women have been limited…it will happen over a period of time…but at this point of time, it’s definitely skewed towards men. Now when the C suite men retire, they tend to get into boards,” she said.

Calling for an open-minded approach, the Salesforce top honcho said including more women with strong execution and strategy skills, into the boardroom, will add a lot of value.

“My own feeling is that people need to be open-minded about allowing women into the boardrooms. Once they allow women who have been executing well, who have been planning well, who have a good reputation behind them, no matter if they have reached the C suite or not…once they allow them in, they will realise that they are bringing a lot of value,” she said.

Bhattacharya said all this requires action and determined focus.

“So I think again, it is a matter of time, but it is also a matter of ensuring that we take actions…That all of us are deliberate about getting more women in, about bringing in more diversity whether in workplace or boardroom. There has to be a deliberate focus on this and if there is a focus it’s going to happen,” she said.

On the industry’s return-to-workplace policies facing resistance from tech workers, and in some instance leading to higher attrition among women, Bhattacharya contended that where broad brush regulations or approach is unlikely to work, flexible and sensitive approach may be more suitable.

“One has to have some empathy and understanding as to what is it that is preventing them from coming back. If there are adequate reasons for the same, I think we need to have that flexibility,” she said.

That said, a lot of women are quite enthused about coming back, as it allows them to strike a balance between work and home, she pointed out.

“I don’t think these are things that can be decided with a broad brush, one needs to be flexible, one needs to understand with empathy, what is the situation a person is going through and take a call accordingly. And again flexibility is the name of the game,” she explained.

Her advice to women professionals – do not to give up in the face of reversals or setbacks.

“In time of reversals, giving up is the easiest way out. Don’t do that, you need to hang in there…you need to be patient when you are faced with adversity and you can overcome it,” Bhattacharya said.

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Author: Shirley