This Is Our Everyday Fight

Srinivas Gattamneni, CEO, ADA

8 April 2021

It is now a month after March 8th. The fanfare around International Women’s Day by brands and corporations has markedly dimmed, and chatter around the topic has significantly reduced. But I must warn us that we shouldn’t reduce the entire issue of women challenges or gender equality leading up to one particular DAY. 

Since 1911, the occasion has been celebrated for the cause of gender equality, and indeed – we have seen many movements, changes and generations of women champions rise over the years. But look around you, the male perspective and experience remains the benchmark and yardstick for the universally accepted norm.  

Hence, in our bid to grow beyond that bias, we must continue to zealously speak with outrage and compassion against conscious AND unconscious inequalities within our society, workplaces and within ourselves – as we are never immune from the influences of society around us.

The world needs to be reminded about what we are fighting for every day. This enemy is unique. It cannot be seen, cannot be attacked and it cannot be hurt. However, even with the baby steps and quantum leaps over the past century to quell the beast, its damaging effects are dangerous and ever present to this very day.

Biases are all around us

Now, take moment to draw a mental picture of a human. Did you draw a man or a woman? I would posit that majority of you, men and women, drew a man. Despite of our best intentions and efforts, we still live in a deeply male dominated culture, that has been optimised for the male experience. The male perspective has come to be seen as universal, the DEFAULT, whereas the female experience is seen as niche.

Even if we do not choose to think that way, our societal exposure deems certain things as ‘common knowledge’. Just press pause for a minute and give the following some thought. Picture in your mind’s eye a policeman, a footballer, an engineer, an entrepreneur, a racing driver and a salesman. Were any of them a woman? I would be surprised if you said yes but trust me when I say that you are not alone.

Cars are designed for men, smartphones are made with a man’s average hand size in mind, the voice recognition on our technology devices is optimised for a male voice, and a basic brick is the universally sized in a way that a man should be able to hold it in one hand.

Would it really be madness to assume that the same bias applies to many more things? This is simply one small glimpse into the unfair world we are living in; but it is our world, and together we can choose to make it better by not making ‘man’ the default gender.

My personal experiences

My great grandmother was a very strong woman who in 1940’s discarded the society adorned the role of man as the breadwinner. She moved to the nearest town on her own and was the primary breadwinner and head of the home throughout her adult life. My grandmother followed that lineage of strong woman who helmed the household. Growing up in a matriarchal home helmed by strong women informed my early childhood. As the CEO, I am proud to say that we firmly stand for gender equality at ADA. By no means is that a vague ‘woke’ statement or lip-service. The world is strife with sexism and misogyny and as a collective, we constantly confront and challenge our unconscious biases. In conjunction with this celebration, we are adding new policies to ensure that ADA continues to be a considerate workplace with equal opportunity for all. The following are some of the initiatives that we have in place:

  • Flexible work arrangements to accommodate employees’ life and family needs.
  • Programmes aimed at enabling and nurturing employee growth across the board equally for both genders. These include:
    Grow Programme: where employees engage in courses and certification affiliated with leading universities and institutions.
    Mentorship Programme: where any employee can request for a mentor within the entire organisation, across all markets.
  • To drive gender equality further, we will offer better support to our staff by expanding on our existing policies like:
    – New maternity benefits include 4 months paid leave & 2 months half-paid leave.
    – New paternity benefits include 2 weeks paid leave.
    – We will roll out the Unconscious Bias module, compulsory for all employees.
  • We are in the midst of exploring child-care benefits, improvements for paternity leave and reviewing the current childbirth and maternity coverage.
  • We are working towards an improved and more diverse interview panel for more effective check and balance initiatives.
  • We now also have a new page called ‘Women At ADA’ within the ADA website for all women-related enquiries within the organisation.

On top of that, I’m also proud to say that the ADA Senior Leadership Team has signed and taken the gender equality pledge. Some of our employees have already benefitted from the newly rolled-out parental benefits too!

We are sure that this is a big step in the right direction, but I know that we, like the rest of the world, have a long way to go before true gender equality is achieved. For anybody looking to make a difference in the world, let us start by challenging the minute, unconscious biases that has taken root within today’s society. From there, things can only get better.

Finally, to the men at ADA reading this: The efforts that we partake in should not be just a matter of policies and policing our behaviour as men. But rather, it is purely about the women’s experiences in our company.  

And to the women at ADA: You make better leaders than men; there is ample evidence of it. So please put yourself out there. Discard the imposter syndrome. You might just save the world for all of us.