World Trade Center Mumbai organized a Program on ‘Gender Diversity and Inclusivity’ on the occasion of International Women’s Day to discuss challenges in attaining gender equality and also to exchange inspiring success stories of accomplished women.

The session was addressed by women from diplomatic missions, Indian Revenue Service, media & entertainment and medical profession. Ms. Nirmika Singh, Executive Editor, Rolling Stone India moderated the session.

In his welcome remarks, Dr. Vijay Kalantri, Chairman, MVIRDC World Trade Center Mumbai said, “WTC Mumbai is committed to the ideal of gender equality and as a testimony to this commitment, the Center is headed by a woman. Every organization should promote the cause of gender equality by encouraging women to take up positions in senior management.”

Earlier in her opening remarks, Ms. Rupa Naik, Executive Director, World Trade Center Mumbai pointed out, “Women are inherently multi-talented and their contribution to the economy is paramount, even though it is not accounted in the official measure of GDP. A lot of women contribute to the economic and social progress of the country by working as unpaid caregiver and workers in family farms and business. Empowering women to participate in economic activity at par with men will increase world GDP by USD 28 trillion by 2025.”

The panel session generated engaging discussion with the speakers that moved the audience to tears as they narrated their inspiring personal journey that is laced with struggles and accomplishments.

Ms. Anna Lekvall, Consul General, Consulate General of Sweden in Mumbai highlighted the progress made by Sweden in promoting gender equality at diplomatic mission. From only one woman member across its worldwide diplomatic mission in 1969, today, the Swedish diplomatic cadre has 47% women staff. The country is one of the pioneers of women-focused foreign policy in 2014, with emphasis on equality, diversity and inclusion. There are around 200 Swedish companies operating in India, which are also championing diversity in their workplace. The Swedish government is also implementing gender sensitization project to promote women’s involvement in economy, education and politics.

Ms. Lekvall concluded her remarks by quoting studies that found that gender equal societies are more healthier, peaceful and prosperous than societies with gender gap.

Ms. Caroline Rietveld, Deputy Head of Mission, Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Mumbai remarked that true gender equality does not exist in any country today despite several policy initiatives. Narrating the challenges faced in her personal life, Ms. Rietveld pointed out that her quality of resilience, positive mindset and the belief in herself got her through tough times.

She suggested women to develop qualities such as sense of self-worth, positive attitude about one’s abilities, courage and mastery over circumstances.

Ms. Rietveld closed her remarks by pointing out to the close link between gender equality and climate change and how a gender inclusive approach can lead to a sustainable future. Climate change disproportionately affects women who depend on natural resources, food, water and fuel. Therefore, it is essential to adopt a gender inclusive approach in climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Ms. Pritee Chaudhary (IRS), Regional Director, FSSAI - (Western Region), Government of India pointed out that if women can give birth to another life, they can as well give birth to their own life. She narrated her personal struggle and explained how she overcame challenging circumstance through persistence and adaptability. She said the most important factor for success is ‘Adaptability Quotient’, rather than ‘Intellectual Quotient’ or ‘Social Quotient’.

Ms. Chaudhary also suggested that every family needs to change its mindset about women by considering every person, whether man or woman, as an asset and by promoting the inherent potential of a woman that is suppressed by age-old customs of the society.

She raised concern that even though ‘Equal Right’ was the founding principle of our nation and equality is guaranteed by our Constitution, we are still far from achieving the goal of gender equality.

Dr. Jaishree Sharad, Internationally Renowned Celebrity Cosmetic Dermatologist narrated how her mother supported her, despite unfavourable household circumstance, by giving education. She credited her achievement as a renowned medical professional to her mother, who despite not well educated, aspired her daughters to get good education. Dr. Sharad is the founder of the 26-member women team of cosmetic dermatologists in Mumbai.

She emphasized that the change in mindset towards gender equality should begin at family and every mother, sister, mother-in-law and other women family members should stand up for each other.

She pointed out that women are multi-taskers and super-human being, but they fail to understand themselves and love themselves.

Ms. Anuradha Sengupta, Consulting Editor, CNBC-TV18 raised concern about the series of events in the last few years such as Afghan political turmoil, Ukraine War and anti-abortion legislation in Texas (USA) that have adversely affected gender equality. She also expressed concern about the growing incidence of violence, sexual assault, rape and other incidence against women in India.

Amidst these challenging circumstances, Ms. Sengupta informed that there are some favourable conditions impacting gender equality in India and one such factor is the growing influence of women voters in shaping electoral outcomes in the country. She also expressed satisfaction about the growing representation of women in media and entertainment industry, although she concurred that there is still long way to go to have equal participation of women in jobs such as video-editing, camera operations, creative designing etc.

Ms. Sengupta concluded her remarks by emphasizing that every woman should stand up for herself by fighting for her right without giving up.

Ms. Urmin Vijayakar, RJ – Fever 104FM & Content Creator shared her inspiring career journey where her passion and self-belief helped her become a renowned radio jockey, influencer, content creator and artist. She remarked, “It is very important for every woman to stand up to what she is, believe in herself and go ahead to live her dream.” She concluded her remarks by pointing out that she is what she is not because she is a woman, but because of her passion.

Ms. Priya Saraiya, Bollywood Playback Singer and Lyricist shared an inspiring Hindi poem that encourages women to fulfill their dream through grit & determination, instead of being upset about ups and downs, gains & losses, which are natural in the course of life.

Ms. Nirmika Singh moderated the session with her remarks, “The biggest battle women face is the battle within – with our own dilemmas and fear. It will take another 140 years to bridge gender gap completely, according to an estimate by World Economic Forum. We all can help bridge the gender gap by creating more opportunities for women, instilling ambition in little girls, ensuring representation on all levels and acknowledging that little things go a long way in effecting a positive change.”

Ms. Singh concluded by saying that we should all try to change the world in such a way that everybody is empowered.

The session ended with a lively Q&A session with the audience where the participants shared their experience and perspectives regarding gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The event was attended by more than 200 delegates, including women entrepreneurs, representatives from women-led social organizations, women professionals, consular corps and members of media.

(From left to right): Panelists at the session Ms. Nirmika Singh, Executive Editor, Rolling Stone India, Ms. Anuradha Sengupta, Consulting Editor, CNBC-TV18, Dr. Jaishree Sharad, Internationally Renowned Celebrity Cosmetic Dermatologist, Ms. Caroline Rietveld, Deputy Head of Mission, Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Mumbai, Ms. Anna Lekvall, Consul General, Consulate General of Sweden in Mumbai, Ms. Pritee Chaudhary (IRS), Regional Director, FSSAI - (Western Region), Government of India, Ms. Priya Saraiya, Bollywood Playback Singer and Lyricist and Ms. Urmin Vijayakar, RJ – Fever 104 FM & Content Creator, Ms. Rupa Naik, Executive Director, World Trade Center Mumbai