BBC debates gender equality

There was gender equality in its panel –  three women and as many men.  The BBC World Debate in New Delhi  focused on the question whether gender equality is achievable in work place ? Consensus  was,  ‘ yes, but not anytime soon’.

Panelists : Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi ;  ICICI Bank chief  Chanda Kochhar ;  Obama’s envoy for global women’s issues  Melanne Verveer ;  and  Suhel Seth,  said to be New Delhi’s much sought after party guest,  and,  presumably,  most-invited  TV panelist ;   Renault and Nissan CEO  Carlos Ghosn ; and show host BBC’s  Nik Gowing,  who  gave equal opportunity for them to address the issue. What they said:

Ms. Nooyi:  What do we mean by gender equality ? Is it men-women employment on  50-50 basis,  or  equal recognition of their work?  Does it refer to peer respect for women in work place? Gender equality  is hard to define. She reckoned that  in many societies women are not given a choice  to work.

Ms Kochhar:  Employers need to address issues such as  maternity benefits. This assumes importance in ICICI bank,  where  80 percent of  women employees are below 30. As a woman, and working mother,  she says she considers  it  a privilege to be able to handle both roles. It is a 24 hr. job.

Mr.Ghosn :  Gender equality entailed men sharing responsiblities on the home front as well. Why not encourage male employees to take care of baby  by granting paternity leave and other benefits ?  Yes,  gender parity is achievable in the long term.

Mr Seth:  In the long-term we are all dead. To get anywhere on gender equality we need to look at the status of women beyond their work place. Viewed in this light the issue relates to gender respect.  There can be no gender equality without a mindset change in society.

Mr Vijay Malya:  Kingfisher commemorated the International  Women’s Day with flights that had  all-women crew.  He saw it as a matter of visibility of women in male-dominent fields. He refers to car racing says it would serve as role model for others, if we can identify  a woman Formula 1 driver.

Those of us who watched the debate may not have become any wiser on the status of  gender parity.  But then it is an  issue  that perhaps  needs to be hammered in,  on an ongoing basis in seminars, workshops and  TV talk shows.

At the end of it my thoughts were : 1) Can we  think of a women who can match up  to  Suhel Seth in TV appearances  as a  stock panelist ?   Kiren Bedi, maybe  ?

2) And why can’t  BBC think of holding a gender issue debate in Saudi Arabia ?


Mallya brings ‘Gandhi’ home

What were  your thoughts  when you heard of  Mr Vijay Mallya’s  acquisition of  Gandhi’s metal rimmed glasses and a few other belongings? gandhi1I, for one,  wondered what the mahatma would have made of the Mallya deal. We have some Gandhiwadhis hailing Mr Mallya for bringing our ‘heritage’  back to India. Never mind, if Gandhi’s things were paid for with a liquor baron’s money.  Whatever happened to the Gandhian thought about putting ‘means’ above ‘ends’?  Does the end, however lofty, justify any means?  Of course there is a school of thought that believes there is no such thing as tainted money. 

Mr Mallya may be an honourable man,  but a businessman nonetheless, believing in making sensible investments.   Imagine the publicity mileage he can milk out of his Gandhian acquisition. Not long ago, he bought Tipu’s sword in auction, and brandished it during the last poll campaign ,when Mr Mallya was working president of the Janata Party.

We have another election round the corner.  It comes after another prized acquisition by Mr Mallya.  Is he  still with the janata Party ?

For the record, he is  reported to have paid  $1.8 mill to retrive  for India prized artefacts auctioned in New York.  The items that came under the hammer were Gandhi’s pocket watch, a pair of sandals, his metal-rimmed glasses, and a plate and bowl.