Men as Allies Towards Gender Inclusion

India’s high corporate and economic growth is not seeing significant women’s contribution– women contribute only 17% of the country’s GDP. The most recent workforce participation rate for urban women in white-collared jobs is at 20.5%,a shockingly low number compared to countries at the same level of economic activity. The gender gap in many organizations thus represent a significant missed opportunity for businesses in India.

One reason for this could be the one-sided focus on women without engaging men as partners and champions in the journey towards inclusion. Increasing women’s participation and involvement at the workplace is not just a women’s issue or men’s issue. It is a business issue. Diversity and inclusivity are both business issues, and human issues. It has been established that businesses profit in several ways from the immense benefits that diverse perspectives bring, particularly when it comes to innovation and competitive edge. Reality is that men currently (and natively) hold a majority of formal and informal positions of power across organizations in various sectors. And they have a great deal of influence on the organizational set-up - in subtle everyday interactions and in inspiring change in larger systems and processes. In fact, in a conventional organizational set-up, men are often in a better position to influence organizational dynamics by using their formal or informal power compared to most women across various levels or hierarchies. And so, for the success of every gender-balance agenda and goal, it is imperative that organizations bring men into the conversations related to gender diversity.

Being a Male Ally entails working towards changing the culture in the organization, by being a role-model, by creating more role-models. It is not limited to men advocating for or helping certain, specific women. While advocacy efforts might sometimes involve supporting specific women, it involves much more than that. Male advocacy is all about bringing in systemic change. Male allies relentlessly work towards changing the prevailing mindsets and attitudes. This involves eliminating subtle biases – both conscious and unconscious in job descriptions, interview practices,performance evaluation criteria and task or project assignment patterns. This also involves structuring flexible work policies and practices, mentoring, coaching and sponsoring. Typically, the processes in organizations are developed over time around the needsof the majority group and hence subtly disadvantage employees forwhom those systems were never really intended for. And ushering inchange can be challenging. But despite these challenges, many successful male allies have had the courage, conviction and a solid game plan to invest their time, energy and resources to work towards bringing forth this change. They were never overwhelmed or intimidated by enormity of the task. Rather, they looked at it as a business and human imperative which needed execution with utmost focus and commitment.

Male allies had the desire and commitment to dream and make gender inclusion a reality in their respective organizations. Most importantly, they listened to the issues of women employees and understood their professional challenges at grass-root levels. They understood how it feels for a lot of women to feel like a minority ina majority environment. The male allies realized that while it can be exhausting to work towards bringing forth systemic change, negative reactions could be converted as opportunities to drive understanding and empathy about gender related issues. Despite the threat of being subjected to negative stereotypes, they approached this whole challenge with a growth mindset. And that is precisely why it is important to recognize the efforts of these exemplary individuals who are spearheading this movement across organizations; their vision and execution driving forth change in the gender landscape in corporate India!

2017 Male Ally Legacy Award

In recognition of the unparalleled commitment of such male allies, Avtar partnered with Working Mother to bring yet another first to India this year – the 2017 Working Mother & Avtar Male Ally Legacy Award. The inaugural edition of the ‘Male Ally Legacy Award’, the first and the only one of its kind, recognized three such senior male leaders who have mentored women professionals into leadership. From over 100 nominations we received for this award through the 360 registrations we received for the 2017 BCWI, an expert jury panel chose the winners after a very rigorous review process.

The recipient of the Male Ally Legacy Award along with the two ‘Choice of Jury’ awardees were publicly announced and felicitated at the Best of the Best Conference on November 16, 2017 at ITC Grand Chola, Chennai.

And the winners are….

Male Ally Legacy Award -Winner

Mr. Krishna Murthy SV

Sr. Director & India Leader for Industry

Applications, Pega India

Believing in the core value that diversity primes high performance & creativity and that all the threads are equal and important in an organisation - for about two decades now, Kris SV, has successfully led large IT transformational initiatives that helped Pega achieve better results. One of these key initiatives is sponsoring & promoting mentoring for the Women Talent within his team. He believes that a gender diverse workplace is the key to creating a great organization & hence has always promoted hiring a more diverse workforce in his team. Pega started out with a 22% diversity ratio, which stands at almost 28% now and Mr. Kris ambitions this at around 30% by end of the year. He mentors & coaches the potential women leaders in his team on a very regular & structured basis and monitors their progress frequently. With equal pay parity, continuously increasing number of women leaders in his team & focus on more diverse hiring, his team is an epitome of inclusive and entrepreneurial culture. Kris and his team are on a mission to build a strong diverse organisation at all levels that empower enterprises to dream big and prepare for the future!

"To me, mentoring means giving back. I was fortunate to grow in the shadow of great leaders who taught me what’s right. I see many talented women in Pega grappling between personal and professional worlds. I believe that little guidance and support will help unleash their professional talent."



It has been quite an exciting journey for me last few years because of being a working mother, to say the least. Thanks to Kris, it turned out to be a journey filled with experiences to cherish. He has been influential in changing my perspective to start to treat these as opportunities. I can’t thank Kris enough for standing by me, & guiding me as I walked what is purportedly a difficult path for a working mother

RajithaPatlola, Manager – Financial Services, Industry Applications

Choice of Jury Award - Winners

S.V. Nathan

Partner and Chief Talent Officer,

Deloitte India

Mr. S.V. Nathan is a strong advocate of diversity and believes that women bring in unique strengths to the workplace which must be amplified and unlocked to their fullest potential. Right through his illustrious career, he mentored young women managers who are successful senior leaders today. Through inspired leadership, Nathan established a framework to view and support women professionals in a holistic manner. This involved understanding the unique needs of women professionals at the various stages of their careers and supporting them with relevant tools, programs and benefits. Nathan also plays an influencing role in social media by sparking conversations and contributing across virtual panels as a thought leader on the subject of issues faced by women in the workforce.

"Each one of us has a story on how we need to foster gender advancement and of inclusion. It is in the support of this experience that is distinctly by Deloitte."

Nathan has been a strong anchor for me in my career growth and transitions. I have seen and learnt from him on being consciously inclusive in meetings, ensuring all voices are heard. His personal investment, commitment and attention to people despite the busy schedule he keeps, is inspiring.

Director, Total Rewards leader, Deloitte U.S. India

Mr. Sushobhan Dasgupta

Managing Director, Johnson & Johnson Medical India and Vice President Orthopaedics Asia Pacific, Johnson & Johnson Medical

Sushobhan Dasgupta is a longtime advocate of diversity and inclusion and is one of the key sponsors of the Diversity & Inclusion Council and Women Leadership Initiative at Johnson & Johnson India. Putting his passion to work, he has taken a lead in identifying women leaders internally and mentored them to take on leadership roles within the organization. Under his leadership, the company has embarked upon various initiatives to champion women and give them the resources, and opportunities to build a Career Identity and become leaders of tomorrow. Under his guidance the women employee base at leadership levels has significantly grown in the organization.

"In today’s rapidly changing world, embracing gender diversity is a critical step to progress a winning culture in any organization. This certainly helps to bring in the optimal balance in organizational thinking, outlook, strategies and actions for it to be truly an Employer of Choice."

Sushobhan believes in getting diverse perspective in the organization which would challenge the status quo and enable the organization to move ahead in its leadership journey. His guidance and mentorship have been crucial for me in my journey as a Strategy & Business development head to currently leading a Franchise as a Commercial head at J&J.

Payal Agrawal, Business Leader – Middle India business, Johnson & Johnson Medical India