Women leadership is not interested in the whatsapp forwards of pictures of roses. Or animated gifs of smiling contended ladies of many hues. And while we’re on the topic is it ok to say “wish you the same” to men who send such images? After all what’s good for women leaders is good for the world, right?

Indeed we have made progress on the fronts of diversity and inclusion. Things are way better for many women than they were 20 years ago when I received a red rose from a security guard in honour of this day. There is much more dialogue and understanding of the requirements of a more inclusive society among corporate employers.

Are women leaders there yet?


Women’s workforce participation in India is at a paltry 20% and had fallen even further during the pandemic. In contrast, Singapore is at 60% and rising. However, even there female presence on the Boards of the top 100 companies is just 17.6%.

What’s the block for women leaders?

Many companies have policies that encourage women in the workforce. So do countries. But do societies have the same enthusiasm? Do families make it easy for women to enjoy financial independence?

Why should women make money

Everyone does not have to be employed. But adults should be financially independent.  One of the routes to that if you are not blessed with a trust fund is to work. So if we reframe the conversation, are we all doing enough for the women in our world to be financially independent? What does this mean in practical terms?

  • We would have to equally share the load of managing the household
  • We would have to actively campaign for a safer public environment – one where women and children can commute without physical danger
  • Schools and support services would have to create a process where they can manage without either parent being easily available during working hours

Women leaders are constrained by the environment, not just society

When I was working on the launch of Bhartiya City, a 125 acre development in Bangalore, the Chairman, Mr Agrawal was very keen to create a community where kids could walk to kindergarten or school without an escort. He felt that it would reduce the pressure on parents to fetch and drop.

I was a panel discussion hosted by Dell where the founder of a social enterprise said that the women employees loved the fact that they offered a creche – suddenly they could be employed without guilt. I’d love to see this kind of thinking scaled.

Many of us employ helpers at home – can we pay them a bit more than subsistence? Help them fund a house? Buy insurance? Can we pay forward a better environment for women?

Change starts with you

Before you send out that forward, think about how you can enable the financial independence of someone.

And if you’ve already done that, then yay, and send me that gif!

Why no vodka?

Oh that’s just symbolic. I did a quick google and discovered most vodka isn’t really Russian at all! Stolichnaya is from Luxembourg and Smirnoff is owned by Diageo. It is however a cautionary tale of how country branding can inadvertently hurt (or help) your business and why brands should spend more time thinking about it. I think it’s a super important topic in these volatile times – so much so that there is a whole chapter about it in my book, Marketing Without Money.

And if you’d like to know more about my book – and why modesty is a business handicap – here’s a piece in Mid Day about it 🙂

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Jessie Paul is the Founder and CEO of Paul Writer, a firm she founded in early 2010 to raise the bar for marketing in India. Previously, as Chief Marketing Officer of Wipro’s IT business and as Global Brand Manager at Infosys, Jessie has been recognized for her contribution towards putting the Indian IT industry on the global map. With over 18 years in services marketing, including a stint with Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, Jessie is considered an expert in brand globalization and has been named one of the most influential business women in the Indian IT industry.


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