Manage Better with Anshuman Tiwari

Podcast # 5 - Women's Day special episode - Geetha Kannan of Wequity

March 16, 2020 Anshuman Tiwari Season 1 Episode 5
Manage Better with Anshuman Tiwari
Podcast # 5 - Women's Day special episode - Geetha Kannan of Wequity
Manage Better with Anshuman Tiwari
Podcast # 5 - Women's Day special episode - Geetha Kannan of Wequity
Mar 16, 2020 Season 1 Episode 5
Anshuman Tiwari

In this episode we talk to Geetha Kannan, founder and CEO of - a forum dedicated to bringing equality through equity. We discuss at length how we can make the world more equal for women in tech. While the discussion is around women in tech the discussion is relevant for all men and women who want to make a difference and manage better.

This podcast and a transcript will be available on my new website 

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode we talk to Geetha Kannan, founder and CEO of - a forum dedicated to bringing equality through equity. We discuss at length how we can make the world more equal for women in tech. While the discussion is around women in tech the discussion is relevant for all men and women who want to make a difference and manage better.

This podcast and a transcript will be available on my new website 

spk_0:   0:00
Hello, friends. I'm Anshuman Tiwari and this is my podcast ManageBetter.  This podcast is dedicated to helping all of us ManageBetter. In my last episode, we spoke to Carmit Berdugo Cohen, a leading voice of quality in excellence in Israel. I hope those who listened to it enjoyed it.  Just in case you missed that episode, please check for a link on my website

spk_0:   0:45
I can be blamed for a lot of things, but never for lack of speed.  All of us are impacted in some way or the other with the current Coronavirus Covid 19 issue and have been distracted or preoccupied by by this. But in all these crazy times a important event passed by last week. A reminder off how important 50% of our global population is. On 8th of March we had the International Woman Day and this was celebrated across the world as a reinforcement of the power of women and more importantly, a reminder that the world is far from equal even now. I wanted to address this topic and bring to you a very special person who's doing a lot of work in this space.  

spk_0:   1:43
Geetha Kannan is a leading voice for women in technology and is a co-founder and CEO of Wequity. Geetha is a known name in the Indian IT industry and across the globe as well. Geetha has over 30 years experience in IT.  More about Geetha at 

spk_0:   4:09
I have the great privilege and honor to bring to you to Geetha, to share her story.  Welcome Geetha, we are all very eager to hear your story

spk_1:   4:25
Wonderful. And thank you Anshuman. It's really a pleasure to be here. As more and more people hear the story, it will have a ripple effect or domino effect. Just sometimes we tend not to think of things because they don't stare at us in the face. And, in a way, that's how my whole story started in the space of women in tech. I predominantly worked a long time at Infosys, and while I was there I must say I never saw any gender discrimination. And I didn't feel that from any of the bosses that I had. HR started an initiative called the Infosys Women Network - iWin, and I was privileged to become a member of it.  That was an eye opener. Not everybody goes through life the same way that you do. And I think that was a really, you know, the third eye opening kind of phenomenon. Because then I realize that women are really having to struggle to get to do what they have to do so that they can get to be seen in the outside world, as equally performing with men so far, says the struggle, and then secondly, then their outcomes are not equal for men and women, as we've seen with multiple research eso ways that show that you know there is no parity and a, um, there's no parity in promotion on dhe, so it's not only that we struggle to get there, but the outcome of the struggle doesn't even equal what the other gender gets. And this is not a real feminist kind of approach, but to see see, But everybody does get equitable opportunities so that their outcomes equitable. So when I joined, I went as it was called in, enforces on dhe, talking to many more people. It came up with this whole idea off that we should probably focus a lot more on the gender story. And if we could get the gender story right in terms of diversity, then it would be easier to get the other stories right for other forms of diversity, because gender is that much more visible. Um, and um, and this recalls to me a story that I had with an Australian boss of mine. His name was seen and he was saying, You know, um, of course, probably in the global context, if somebody from Mars did come and visit us, what they would see his probably differences in terms of color in terms of height and weight. But the second difference that they would say, probably is the gender factor, because we are physically different on, he said. If Ma's first recognizes the fact Martian who comes to visit really recognizes the fact that there seems to be a difference in the physical attributes of men and women. Then, he said, even if they could recognise it, why can't organizations recognizing him? And that's and that's like kind of incredible, because it's like you don't really think of it on a day to day basis. But, yeah, there are differences. And, you know, there there has been a feminist philosopher, um, in the early 19 hundreds who actually wrote a book called The Second Sex and that, you know, brought to questions off who decides who's the first sex and who's the second sex. Who decides then this is stronger sex and which is the weaker sex because it's based on attributes that who decided those attributes. So this is like interesting thinking, um, and got me drawn into the whole space off. You know, why is there this whole question of I don't feel included in the workspace? And that's where my journey started, right? And the first thing, of course, it was done, as all things are done is we try to have a conference that enforces a coasted it, and we did get 96 participants in 2006. But since it was hosted by enforces. But then Chairman Nazareno Marty told me that you know not many of the other I T companies would come if it's hosted by a tech company on its own tough. So he suggested that we moved the whole diversity initiative to NASCAR. And that's so nice NASCAR drivers. The initiator was born

spk_0:   9:20
no fascinating. So and I remember that because I was there at that time. I

spk_1:   9:25
remember the

spk_0:   9:25
conference. So it's been quite a journey on. Um, thanks for sharing this.

spk_1:   9:31
Of course.

spk_0:   9:32
I think you put it very well that who decides who is the stronger and beat it sex because we all worry about the the

spk_1:   9:40

spk_0:   9:41
or the result off the analysis. But who said the criteria so give the criteria selfless, fashionable, or can question that in the hole story changes. So time to thank for this. Um, this is a little bit off how you born in today's and what were your drivers and motivators. But, um, having more specifically Gitta uh, and this is not a gender question because, you know, I have seen discussed earlier as well that, you know, there are multiple. I've never really a portly gender wanted more liberal, more cruel, maybe more unequal and in fact, half off of humanity. Um, but if you're not on down this addict Oh, this. Ah, from gender to even women in Becca. What would be, you know, maybe some unique challenges. Maybe a few top ones which you feel women in tech have compared to men. Andi, I'm not undone. Disappear. They said the topic to women intact for you. What would we do? Challenges.

spk_1:   10:49
Yeah, Um and I know you're nattering it to women in tech, but one of the things that I like I like to say it. Every speech of mine is that when women it says, struggle to be born, it's an achievement that we're talking about women in tech today because, you know, with female invented side happening, you're really the chances of you being born itself is great. The chances of you being going to school is greater than you know, the chances it keeps dwindling. So it's It's just that you are facing a force that against you even before you're born. Um and and I think these preconceived notions are some of the things that especially women in tech have because they they are perceived as hard workers. But not, you know, that they're not ambitious, that they're complacent. So there is some preconceived unconscious bias is already running in people's head about women in Tech and saying that they're really know, truly geeks. And they don't focus on the tech aspect of it. Um um, and are not really smart workers. So that's one of the things, and it's basically an unconscious bias. That happens. The 2nd 1 is, um, the challenge that women face is that when we don't multiple hats both living, you know personal as well as professional lives were actually unable to develop. Devote enough quality time to stay a Brett abreast with the latest skills and technology. And this really sets us back a little because we're not. They're in those forums and those spaces where we're needed the most. And we've seen enough jokes about, you know, I have a women as a boss, though I know 100 men. You've said that you've had women bosses, but people all say you know what? I have a women boss, and it said in such a phone because they feel that the women boss doesn't add any value. So I mean, it does tie up with the preconceived notion. But women themselves struggle to stage a live in because you're balancing act on the third large thing that relieves rooms at us is in a home When, in 2006 when I did the first conference that enforces, we struggled to get somebody to Kino, and we actually had to fly down someone from Australia. Ah, one of our client, you know, sitios to talk. So because we didn't have anybody in the A in force the space at that point, I'm sorry in the Indian space itself who could keynote in 2006. And I think I struggled with that every time that I really look out for somebody who heads an organization who is a technical women and who can keynote. And so those role models are not out dead, and even if they're out day, they're not visible enough. And so it's It's so much better. We have a role model who's been there, done that, seen it and can inspire and influence more and more women to join. So I would see say that the dream most things are preconceived notions that people have their women on orders geeky and then that women themselves stubble to stay relevant because they they have the whole multitasking looming in front of them in terms of personal and professional, and they don't have strong role models.

spk_0:   14:05
No, I think they're even somebody because I I'm sure all the listeners and people were listening to this now would realize that much of this is their story. As much as many women story because we wear men are either's cool. It must be in a good way or in a bad way to create the environment in which women then find the struggle more on this a little bit personal story as well, because Allman men have a minute home on dumb, you know, if it she's looking and look him in check, it is not even tow A, You know, a cadet with all of this, and it is no less important for women to stay a prettier than that. So the challenge is equal for both. And why should then be depresses me any different, right? I think I I can clearly related with this and you brought up my bottles and I can't a man a moment before women, but I've had were the most fabulous ever had, and I never saw that as a gender issue and Well, um, because they were just working, so Oh, this is fantastic. I think the unique challenges part and would, you know, I kind of share. And you brought up this role model thing. Maybe one or two good old models are enough story off stations that you can share. Uh, then get obviousness piece.

spk_1:   15:33
Yeah, s. So I had a very interesting conversation with some of the students in triple I t b. When I had gone there on dhe, they said, you know, they they wanted to hear more stories from women in tech. Um, and and those of you who have seen my the general that I am, um, agree head very senior women who've been in the industry for about three decades now. And they said, You know, we don't really want to hear from you because, you know, with the time that you were there and how you struggle, those were different times. So we need to hear from people who are more, like, you know, accessible to us, who we can relate to in terms of Yeah, they've gone. They're going through the story in the same like the generational context or in the same, you know, time like for example, I remember a time that we got so excited that we all got access to our own email ID's. I mean, and that's doesn't seem that I live in the trolling in today's context because everybody has a dream and we had to queue up to make an international call. So seems so irrelevant. People coming so they said, Give it to us. So that's the whole context of the success story of a role model is I feel that anyone who's just been in that journey just even a step before you, is your role model. And that was that was something that reply T b student start me right that they don't You don't need anybody like to be the president of the country or the prime minister for you to say, Oh, he's my role model. He has to be a Gandhi, or she has to be, um, someone who's really been a mother. Three suffer every but it doesn't matter. It's just that one step ahead so that I know if that person could have taken that step, I can also take that step and and there are multiple women there who have even started their own companies. And of course, we're grateful to people like you and my gender and mean agonies. You shown the entrepreneurial way. But there are so many small success stories that we've that I've seen well interacting with women, entrepreneurs and women in Tech and I and we actually ran a recent campaign for giving out awards to people you recognizes women in Tech. And, of course, it went self nominations as well as people out other people nominating. But this is the first year we did it and especially my PR person actually came back to tell me that, you know, don't get disheartened if you get two or three applications for a nomination because you know this is new. People will not recognize it. But it was amazing that we got about 100 and 15 plus applications. Um, just for these four awards that we had given for women in Tech and some of the women. If you do go look at a our awards thing under equity, which I'll talk about a little later with an tremendous that these are women, you would have never even got into the spotlight unless they had been given this award. And some of them, especially, is the tech anus award, which is given to somebody who has 100 more statements. So I don't think many people know that a women has got 100 plus patents, So, um, I'm not really names, but every women who has taken that step before you is your role model.

spk_0:   19:03
I think this is fascinating. And then I shouldn't even know that, you know,

spk_1:   19:08

spk_0:   19:08
I can't really name a man also with more than 100 patrons. It's not again agenda in which this mine limited knowledge. Um, but I understand top leader. You know what we're trying to say? That, uh, every four women, basically every women was taken one step ahead either role model, and be on Sometimes, you know, look for that uses larger than life role model. And the difficulty of a larger than life role model is that you can't really do anything about it. You can't really a 1,000,000 of them on a day to be mrs so moving on. I you know, before we get to have equity, which is something that I do want you to talk about for our listeners. 11 very simple question is what the thing men can do to help or

spk_1:   19:58

spk_0:   19:58
in Tech

spk_1:   20:00
s. So it's, um I mean, this is my favorite part saying that, you know, though, we talk that everything has to be done for women in Tech. If we improve the world and make it more inclusive, it benefits everybody. It's not just women in tech, but one of the things definitely went 50% of the population on sometimes much more because has been asked on. So they 34% are women in Texas than the rest of men. And without them, then how can we achieve what we have to achieve? So, um, the whole thing is about the support that men can do. Um, and the first thing I would definitely be to see how they can really look at their behaviors, because sometimes that unconscious bias creeps in without. That's why it's called unconscious, right, because it creeps in without us knowing. Um, and one of my favorite examples is that, you know, sometimes when I'm driving down the road, I see somebody put her left indicator and then turned right. I myself been in the space for so many decades. Sometimes they oh, it must be a women driving on DSO If if I can call out myself at that point and say hello, you can't think that way. Um, and I think that's probably calling all that behavior at 1.1 way that women kept the mental health of women. And the second, of course, is being stand ward colleagues and amplifying any women's colleagues. Point of view, because sometimes that's what women face that they're they're not ableto, you know, be heard. Um, and if if if men in the workplace can actually amplifier women's colleagues point of view and ensure she gets credit for the same and that would be a great help. And the third thing is if If and men are in a position, a part in many organizations that Bacon come forward and sponsor Mento deserving women candidates is nothing like this, you know, to improve them in their career trajectory. So just look at your behaviors. Call yourselves out. If you think that there is a bias out there, help amplify women's Khalid point of view and, of course, come forward is a sponsor and mental for women tended as in money. Now

spk_0:   22:22
totally apart. You understand? Nothing. 11 part. I can relate. Oh, get eyes on. Maybe in a

spk_1:   22:29
slightly different

spk_0:   22:29
way that my wife, I could write and write it better than I do. So I have not had the joy off making that comment that, you know, must be woman. Because in my kids she's actually a far better on driver and maybe a barber today between us that you do but put together a point that you know, as men network places. Um, if we are just a little bit more sensitive, understanding off the challenges and nobody left him for a favor off course, nobody's asking for any, Um, I would say unequal treatment of different treatment. It's just

spk_1:   23:07

spk_0:   23:08
give the same opportunities, make the rules of the game same, and then then let everybody manage them. Uh, fine, I think I think we are. No, a detour toward the end of the or cost get and I would like you to mention share whatever. They could be about a little bit so that our listeners can watch. I decide and be part of the platform. The revolution The woman that you're trying to pay You wanna talk about the war and got a little bit more? We'll help before we grow long,

spk_1:   23:45
right? So I started where quickie in. I mean, as recent as 2019 dissemble onda whole intent of setting where quick setting up equity was based on two principles. The first principle, a za name suggest, is the W stands for women and equity stands for ways in which, um, you know, women can get incredible outcomes because I've seen in my experience, everybody talks about equal opportunities. But you know, very often they're not just giving somebody could opportunities is not good enough because what I need might be different from what someone else needs. And I think that less so. That's what equity is about saying that each person needs is so different. And so for us to get equitable outcomes, it's necessary to focus on the process on dhe. Then equality will follow kind of automatic T. That's one principle. The second principle was that you know, a lot of organizations are working towards tryingto get equality for everybody and try to make the world itself more inclusive. Space and where Pretty believes that we should collaborate with everyone, um, and so that we can. All of us can actually jointly get together so we can actually push the needle. And one of my favorite things, my team that I say is that I want to see that needle move in my lifetime. Um, and the needle has to move in my lifetime. Other ways. A lot of things that we're doing is so fractured and disorganized, it's not really like giving the punch that it truly deserves. So a lot of the programs that at equity that we'll do it is all will be on a collaborative more. For example, when we did our first conference called Influence, which served not only an inauguration off equity as, ah as a company, but it also served, you know, the first ever awards were given then, but it was also we retired A with women in product in the US that we could bring, um, in a specific sessions around product management, tow the women in tech, and that was so well received by everybody who attended on. And that's the first of our collaborations. And I'm saying that there is no competition. It's all collaboration of the two principals, of course, that we believe in so strongly equity and collaboration.

spk_0:   26:17
Fantastic. I think so. I quite like the way you put the equity part and equality. Equality is, of course, an outcome. And equities today you don't do anything today about this. Most of what we say remains a pipe dream or only lectures or lip service, as most people say. So thank you very much for your time today, Geeta and very engaging session. I quite love their turn, and this is a very relevant topic. Be multiple shire from this and think it's somebody else's problem. It is not somebody else. We are part of the whole about place. And even if we limit this conversation to workplace, um, men women have to work whether have to succeed together, and none of them are. Either of them can do any better without the other. So this is more of a partnership, and, uh, supporting each other is definitely the way to go. And we can already see that. You know, you're suggesting the space and the way you yourself are a role model, and I know you're very humble about this. But you yourself are a role model for many and now taking the story and it's not home, and the process to others through the cookie is definitely worthwhile. And I'm sure many listeners will check the websites or people. If you wanted Jack around, I could leave a link in my, uh, both burn. It is w e u r u I t y dot Check. So, Rick, pretty dark. Get the website name and you'll find much more so hungry. That site as you go and check with this We bring this session to an and thanks for listening, guys. And beat up was the thank you once again And I didn't want a small help from all your listeners. If you've bean lighting what I've been putting out there informed of this the Parkers, please like us on Linden common share to, like most of what I put out, will also care for their own beyond managed better dot in which is my new reflect the time for listening and my best wishes for you in the next one.  

spk_0:   28:37
Till then, manage better.