In a world grappling with gender disparities, the WomenIN Forum at IGF UAE 2023 emerged as a beacon of inspiration, shedding light on the experiences of trailblazing women who have defied norms in various sectors. The discussions highlighted the complexities faced by women in traditional industries, the urgent need for gender equality, and the pivotal role played by supportive male influences.
Billionaire businesswoman Sima Ved, Co-founder and Chairwoman of UAE-based Apparel Group, shared her journey at the event, underscoring the transformative support of men, particularly her father and husband, in shaping her illustrious career. Ved emphasized the impact of familial work ethics, stating, "I became a retailer by watching my father who passionately worked day in day out. So, when you come from a family with that work ethos, you can't go wrong." She expressed gratitude even for encounters with gender biases, acknowledging that they fuelled her determination to succeed.
Ved stressed that gender inequality is not solely a women's issue but a human one, citing compelling studies on the economic and strategic benefits of gender diversity in leadership. She urged businesses to tap into the untapped potential of women, saying, " Like it or not, we are half the population. It’s honestly a waste of your time not to tap into the potential that’s out there. We are a talent pool just waiting to be utilized to the maximum." However, she cautioned women against letting others dictate terms, urging them to take charge of their destinies.
Shefali Goradia, Chairperson of Deloitte India, said the gap between leadership styles of men and women is starting to blur thanks to the new trend wherein leaders are no longer afraid of showing their vulnerability. “It’s more of an evolving trend. Today, the leadership style even when men are leading the organisations, it is different from when it was before. I think now leaders are far more open to expressing vulnerability, which was not the case earlier.” She also said a lot remains to be done to achieve gender equality at work. “I don’t think we’re there yet. In the Indian context, most companies have women on the board to the extent of mandatory requirements. But other than that, the voluntary directors are very few yet,” she pointed out.
She also said that for women to be effective in the boardroom, there should at least be 30 per cent representation. “One woman in the board is not sufficient. Then the woman is not able to openly voice out her opinion, or ask the questions. You need a little critical mass. You need at least two to three women to effectively function on the board,” Goradia said.