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 ?