Several leading technology employers, HR and domain experts met on Wednesday to discuss their ideas for saving livelihoods and jobs even as businesses struggle to sustain themselves during the ongoing pandemic.
The discussions were held at SPARK, a day-long virtual conference organised by Women in Technology India Forum (WiT-ACE) today. This one-of-its-kind virtual conference was organised in partnership with Optum, Tata Motors, Citius Tech, Freshworks, Axis Bank, Jubilant, NASDAQ, UiPath, MorningStar, Macquarie, Walmart, and Whirlpool.
The conference featured distinguished industry stalwarts, including Anu Aga, Founder, Teach for India, Ameera Shah, Promoter and Managing Director Metropolis Healthcare, Neelam Dhawan, Head of Advisory Board, IBM, Board Member at Royal Philips, Netherlands, ICICI Bank and Yatra Online, CP Gurnani, CEO of Tech Mahindra, Ritesh Talapatra, Managing Director of Optum Global Solutions (India) Pvt. Ltd., Ashu Suyash, Managing Director and CEO – Crisil, Sunil D’Souza, CEO & Managing Director at Tata Consumer Products, Srikanth Velamakanni, Co-founder, Group Chief Executive and Executive Vice Chairman – Fractal Analytics, Karan Bajwa, Vice President, Asia Pacific, Google Cloud, Pratik Pota, Chief Executive Officer – Jubilant Foodworks Ltd., S Sivakumar, Group Head, Agri & IT Businesses – ITC Limited, Anjali Singh, MD at Deutsche Bank, National President-WICCI Banking Council, Rajkamal Vempati, Head of Human Resources – Axis Bank, Pankaj Bansal, Co-founder and Group CEO – PeopleStrong, Shalini Kapoor, IBM Fellow & Director for AI – AI Applications, and Ashok Sethi, Chief Executive Officer Publicis Groupe Resources AMEA; CIO Emeritus at Publicis Groupe, and Nischae Suri, President Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa – EdCast, among various others. It was aimed at driving innovation, inclusion and impact in shaping lives of women in the pandemic and giving them an opportunity to engage and learn new skills.
Talking with Ms. Anuranjita Kumar about bracing for an uncertain future, Ms. Anu Aga said, “This pandemic has, in a way, levelled all of us whether you are rich or poor. There are things over which you have a little bit of control, but you don’t have control over external things. However, you do have control over how you respond to them. So I would say, learn to be at peace with yourself, learn to stay with equanimity, because things will go up and down in your life, that is just the nature of life.”
On the subject of the declining numbers of women in the workforce due to the pandemic, Ms. Ameera Shah said, “The onus lies with all of us – as women, as corporates, as family members to really let a woman adopt and embrace a corporate role, a professional role even more seriously. If we take it seriously, others will. It starts with us.”
Talking about innovation in healthcare, Mr. Ritesh Talapatra said, “Healthcare sits at the exciting intersection of technology and talent and my hope is that the new generation of technologists will increasingly choose opportunities where they play a leading role in anticipating future pandemics, enabling drug discovery with analytics and thus experience a very direct impact of their work on the lives of people around them.”
The online conference was held with the goal of sparking an industry-wide ideation to define the future of sustainability, and generation of impactful action plans through this ideation. SPARK also aimed to act as a catalyst in inspiring change, and in paving a brighter, more diverse future through its theme of ‘Inclusion, Innovation and Impact’.
“Spark is our annual leadership conference, through which we try and refine our purpose, thereby contributing to thought-leadership, and refining your purpose…as we do this, we need to let go of the past, especially in recent times, where we have all been hit by some miseries of COVID. Today’s conference is focusing on the present – about Inclusion and Innovation, which will create the right Impact,” says Anuranjita Kumar, Founder and CEO, WiT-ACE.
Key voices at the conference spoke about the importance of building diverse and inclusive workplaces in helping businesses survive and thrive, and protect jobs and livelihoods in turn.
Speaking in a panel discussion on Inclusion and Innovation in the workforce, Neelam Dhawan said, “The world of e-commerce, digital presence and transformation is here to stay…The jobs have also changed. If people think that they can just go back to what they were doing before, it ain’t happening. We talk about unemployment touching 12% in India right now, whereas when you look at the jobs available, we don’t get the right talent for it. So it has become a skills issue.”
Talking about the future of technology, CP Gurnani said, “Technology today is inevitable and it binds all the vectors of the society and the pandemic has only accelerated the adoption of technology.”
Speaking in a panel on gender biases, Gopi Bahl, Associate Director, Head of Technology for BFS, Macquarie, India, said, “The first step in riding biases strongly away is to acknowledge that they exist, and then tackle them and the associated behaviours absolutely head on…subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle calling out of such prejudiced behaviours can fix them.”
According to a recent survey conducted by WiT-ACE, to ascertain the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Indian female workforce, 65% of the respondents agreed to their career being negatively impacted by the pandemic. Therefore, Spark was conceived as a one-of-its-kind, future forward conference, which can act as a powerful catalyst in safeguarding livelihoods, especially for women who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and by engaging them to learn, up-skill, and grow to build a strong network for a better tomorrow.
Women in Technology (WiT India)-ACE (Accelerated Career Experience for Women) is a platform focused on increasing women participation in the STEM workforce. WiT partners with organisations and works with communities of women at workplaces, colleges and schools to ensure that women talent transitions into a capable workforce. The platform aims to be a change agent for more gender-balanced workplaces with a mission to bring a pivotal change in individual mindsets and at workplaces that enable women to be in 50% decision making roles.