It will arguably go down as an evening to remember showcasing a genuine corporate solidarity and oneness of purpose in supporting women entrepreneurship.
The Express Awards for Women Entrepreneurs (or ExpressAWE) announced on Friday saw a tidal wave of entrepreneurial success. But what also added glitter and weight to the memorable evening were rich and insightful conversations between industry veterans with takeaways for life for the many leading and budding women entrepreneurs.
The evening began with a keynote interview of Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Meta, by Anant Goenka, executive director, Indian Express Group, which covered the entire changing landscape of women entrepreneurship.
The author of ‘Lean In’, a milestone book for working women, Sandberg urged the growing number of women in Indian colleges not to “leave before you leave”.
Congratulating the Indian Express Group for instituting ExpressAWE and for engaging in conversations that matter, Sandberg reminded that while the proverbial glass ceiling still needs to be shattered by more women, there was also a broken rung that needed fixing.
Or to quote a snippet from the interview: “Even before we get to that glass ceiling there is a broken rung and it is that first promotion to manager… men are promoted and hired based on their potential, women have to prove it… So the inequity starts few years after college.”
This was followed by a free flowing and engaging discussion between industry veterans and the members of the jury who chose the awards in the organisation/established business segment.
Each of them a lodestar for many budding entrepreneurs (both women and men) – Deepak Parekh, chairman of HDFC and also the jury chair; Arundhati Bhattacharya, CEO and chairperson, Salesforce India; Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, executive chairperson, Biocon and Biocon Biologics; Preetha Reddy, executive vice chairperson, Apollo Hospitals and Zia Mody, co-founder and managing partner, AZB & Partners.
They discussed what was enabling and hindering the ‘power of Her’ and tried to address some crucial questions around the changing landscape of women entrepreneurship in India, their advice to budding women entrepreneurs, what industry could do to enable this, what government and policy makers could do to facilitate it even more. They also spared a few minutes pondering on what they would do differently if they were to start all over again today. The message that stood out in the discussion was that it was imperative for women entrepreneurs to stay the course, not to give up and to remember that their time has come.
A highlight of the evening was a delightful and engaging conversation between the Newsmaker of the year award winner Falguni Nayar, founder and CEO, Nykaa, and the lifetime achievement award winner Anu Aga, former chairperson, Thermax. Looking at a range of issues women leaders grapple with and how they sort them out and carve out a niche. From the nurturing ingredients that they build on to the role that spouses and families play, the way inheritance is viewed and how merit really counts. This and a lot more emerged from the discussion between the two — one, a leader who emerged as an icon of entrepreneurship and leadership in adversity and then go to institution-building while the other made news and inspired others with a deep entrepreneurial ability to spot an opportunity and ensure wealth creation for the stakeholders while staying focussed on brand building.Watching the evening unfold, one could not help but agree with Deepak Parekh who in the name of Harry Belafonte said “let us conclude that women of today are smarter than men in every way!”