Deepshikha Dharmaraj, CEO of BCW India Group, looks back at her 28-year journey in the industry, and shares her key learnings and views on women in leadership roles
A woman's resolution is absolute. She can move mountains with sheer grit and determination. It is this unfaltering resilience that we celebrate annually on March 8 – International Women's Day.
Honouring the contributions of women in the PR and Corp Comm sector, exchange4media PR & Corp Comm has been running a 'Women Achievers Series'. It will feature the journey, success and achievements of some of the top women leaders from the Public Relations and Corporate Communications fraternity.
Excerpts from the interview:
Please share your thoughts on the theme for International Women's Day 2023 - DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality. This is aligned with CSW—67 theme on gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls through education, innovation and technology in the digital age.
There are two aspects to this. On one hand, we need to get more women to access technology and its benefits. Whether it is about the higher representation of women in tech or using it as an enabler for healthcare, education and overall progress, technology has a big role to play in bridging the gender gap. On the other hand, women are also much more vulnerable to abuse and threat in the online spaces they enter. They need to be made aware of and given support to address or counter that. For both these aspects, communications and advocacy can help immensely. This is also where companies, especially those in the technology sector, can look at their corporate social purpose and see how they can align these needs to their strategic vision.
A lot has been discussed on the influence of women and their leadership in PR. In your view, what has changed in these last few decades.
In my view, there have been two major changes — one is how women are coming together and supporting each other and the second is how they are making their voice heard.
In the 1990s and 2000s, public relations was still evolving and so were the women leaders in the industry. They didn’t have mentors or communities back then and had to pretty much do everything on their own and learn along the way. Today, as these women lead the industry, they have taken those learnings and are sharing them generously with those just starting out. There are several mentoring programmes for women in the industry. In WPP, for instance, the Stella initiative has women leaders from across WPP mentoring young women professionals. There are more groups and communities, like Global Women in PR (GWPR). And there is also more recognition and more celebration of women’s contribution in the industry.
In terms of making women’s voices heard, as communicators, we are highlighting women’s issues and achievements more in our work and in our campaigns.
Research has highlighted that only 20 per cent of women sit on boards globally. What's your take on the value women leaders in PR bring to the boardroom?
As an industry, public relations has a healthy representation of women in leadership positions. And in any industry, having women on the board translates into very real benefits — a broader perspective, balanced representation of gender, consumers and employee base, better collaboration, empathy and more. These lead to better a better culture and performance for the business. So if you want to improve your business, you must have diversity at the top.
Tell us about your journey. What inspired you and who has been your hero
In my 28-year career, all of which have been in this industry, beginning with Genesis and then BCW India Group, I have been fortunate to have worked with and learnt from several women leaders. For inspiration, I didn’t have to look farther than Prema Sagar, founding chairperson, BCW India Group. The path she created is one that we walk on today. Not only did she build this firm, she also played a big role in building this industry. Many mentored by her are now at leading positions in the industry —whether at the helm of a firm or in high corporate communications roles across the world. And just as she inspires me, I actively share my learnings with emerging leaders and women professionals.
Your message to future leaders.
There is a quote by Marissa Mayer, co-ounder, Lumi Labs: “I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.” When it comes to women who are leaders or aspire to be leaders, this quote fits perfectly.
The article was first published in the exchange4media