Women at the Top

Prof. Sahana Ghosh, Academic Consultant (Professor), IQ City United World School of Business, Kolkata   Is there a glass ceiling at the top of the leadership ladder? Many women believed so in the past but “the times they’re a changing”, as Bob Dylan sang. Geeta Gopinath’s appointment as the First Deputy Managing Director (FDMD) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) makes history for Indian-origin economists, whether male or female. Born in Kolkata, Gopinath studied Economics at Lady Shriram College in New Delhi and Delhi School of Economics and went on to do her Ph.D at Princeton University in the USA. She has been the first woman Chief Economic Advisor of the IMF. Her elevation to the second highest position of the most powerful global financial institution of the world adds another feather to – not only her own cap – but that of all Indians as well as women leaders. IMF, of course, is used to have women leaders. The current Managing Director and Chairman of the Executive Board is Kristilina Georgiva from Bulgaria, who replaced Christina Lagarde, from France, after the latter’s tenure ended in 2019. On the same day when IMF announced Gopinath’s appointment as the FDMD, Walt Disney Co’s Board elected Susan Arnold, who has been a Board Member since 2007, as its Chairman. Arnold is the first woman Chairman of Disney in its 98 year history. In the world of business, we know that Indra Nooyi, another India-origin leader who, incidentally, studied at Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, had been the Chief Executive of Pepsico. Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Meta Platforms, was the first woman to serve on Facebook’s Board when she was elected to the position in 2012. Forbes’ list of most powerful women over the years has included those who have fiercely fought the patriarchal ladders in the world of business and politics. It includes Kamala Harris, first woman of color Vice President of the United States, Angela Markel, German Chancellor, Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Oprah Winfrey, the entertainment Czarina, and many others. The sub-continent has been much ahead of the West in matters of women leaders. Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister of India when it was almost unthinkable in the West. Now, too, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman does not carry any gender baggage. Pakistan had Benazir Bhutto as the Prime Minister as does Bangladesh, whose Prime Minister is Sheikh Hasina. The Indian business world has many exemplary women leaders, with Arundhati Bhattarcharya, former Chairperson of State Bank of India, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairperson of Biocon, and many others. Phalguni Nayyar recently made news when her company, Nykaa, became the first woman-led start-up to join the league of Unicorns. It is time for all women to charge ahead like the mythical unicorn and dream to reach the sky. “Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now! We’re on the move!” – McFadden and Whitehead