If you have been following us on FB you know that I was invited by Working Mother Magazine to come to India and stage the first ever Best Companies for Woman in India award ceremony.
I’m back, still a bit jet lagged, still taking my malaria pills and still sorting through my experiences. That sort has become an interesting journey, particularly in light of the situation in which our own nation finds itself. I’d like to share some thoughts.
As I met and worked with my Indian counterparts I began to think about my definition of an emerging nation. What did that really mean? At its most basic, I have come to believe it is not about industry and finance, but about the heart of a people, their industry, their ingenuity, their will to move forward. No country can emerge, with a stable base, without the support of the people. In a country with such a dense population the people are indeed the greatest resource and it works best when the people themselves understand that and know how to use it.
In India this is no where more in evidence than in the laundry people who collect, wash, dry, iron and return 150 lbs. of laundry per person a day. They do all this without using traditional reading or writing. The same is true of the lunchbox people, (I want to recommend the movie, The Lunchbox) who are part of a delivery system that collects hot food in lunch boxes from the residences of workers (in many cases several hours away from the city) in the late morning, delivers the lunches to the workplace, using bicycles and the railway trains, and returns the empty boxes to the worker's residence that afternoon. It is estimated that 175,000 to 220,000 lunches a day are moved by 4,500 people with seldom a mistake – and no help from technology!
I began to wonder. Are we not still a developing nation ourselves and have we lost sight of that? I look at our inability to pass equal pay for equal work and I wonder what that is really about? We have been fighting this battle for as long as I can remember – literally and I’m old! As I look at India’s entrepreneurial spirit I am reminded of the thousands of us that went to work to create work for ourselves and others when we were “downsized” from the corporate world in the 1990’s. Rea and I are proud of the work we have created not only for ourselves but many others. Have we lost sight of the impact one person (or in our case two) can have on the lives of others and a nation? That brings me to the second Indian lesson I learned.
You may not be aware that 8 of the most influential people in banking in India are women. I recently heard the story of five of them. They were mentored by one man who decided that when he retired as head of one of India’s top banks a woman should be given the opportunity to replace him. He set out to mentor 5 women he felt capable of achieving that level of expertise. When the time came to retire his successor was one of those 5 women. Eventually the other four were named heads of other banks. One man’s action is helping change the face of a nation. I’m still thinking about that one. A shout out to the men who have joined the Men as Allies movement in our country.