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AmEx, PepsiCo, Microsoft, PwC and Tata to bring 31 top women leaders under common mentoring programme

companiesNEW DELHI: Corporate giants American Express, PepsiCo, Microsoft, PwC and the Tata Group are bringing 31 of their top women leaders under a common mentoring and training programme.

This is the first such initiative and multinational companies involved in this hope to export the program to their global parents.

Besides mentoring women leaders through this eight-month program named Reach Out, companies also hope to share and learn from each other’s best practices on diversity and inclusion. This is a brainchild of American Express

These 31 women leaders – all working at one to three levels below the CEO – will be mentored by leaders from the five companies and will be taken through group workshops, leadership dialogues, online communities, peer learning circles, and a concluding learning summit.

“When you hit senior management, everybody is good. How does the CEO decide who is the person who should be brought forward…So lean in, be heard, seek mentors and peers. That’s what this programme is all about,” Sanjay Rishi, president, American Express South Asia told these leaders. Participants include Puja Batra, director, legal, foods at PepsiCo; Vani Gupta Dandia, director, marketing, Kurkure, at PepsiCo India; Rashmi Upadhya, director, strategy at PwC; Renu Basu, global head of sales for Indian Hotels CompanyBSE -2.46 % ( Taj Group); and Kashmira Mewawala, head of business development at Tata Capital.

Learning from Other Cos 12

CXOs will lead these women in structured 90-minute group workshops in June, August and November, giving them the opportunity to engage with leaders outside their respective companies.

Mentors include Bhaskar Pramanik, chairman, Microsoft India; Sanjay Rishi, president, American Express South Asia; D Shivakumar, chairman and CEO, PepsiCo; Russell Pereira, executive director, assurance, markets and industries leader for PwC; Harish Bhat, member of the group executive council, Tata Group; and NS Rajan.

“When this initiative came up, it gave us a chance to interact with others and see what others are thinking. Depending on how it develops, I hope to get this to roll out in other PwC territories globally,” said Deepak Kapoor, chairman, and territory senior partner, PwC. Till now, the firm was only benchmarking itself internally and against the global PwC network.

Peer learning circles under Reach Out will be moderated by an external diversity and inclusion consultant and leaders will dialogue on topics relevant to the group, share career and life experiences and build networks. Moderated online, Yammer communities will keep discussions alive through HBR articles and blogs, chats, discussions and opinion polls on subjects relevant to the group.

“What got us excited was to have a team of five companies expose their top women talent and help learn from each other,” Rohit Thakur, head of human resources for Microsoft said. “Over a three-year period, we hope to have a bunch of finely exposed and trained women leaders and I hope to take back some of the learning to implement back in my organisation at a much broader level.”

India Inc has been keen to promote gender diversity, but it has not been an easy journey. Some like Samik Basu, chief people officer at PepsiCo, see this as an opportunity to share and learn from other companies.

Even though companies are trying to improve diversity, women leaders are still small in number. Vani Gupta Dandia, one of the 31 leaders in this programme, says just being able to connect with like-minded peers across industries is in itself comforting, as breaking into the boys club can sometimes be very difficult.

American Express’ Rishi hopes more companies will join in as the pilot progresses. “We hope to establish an important network of women leaders who continue to exchange ideas and best practices and personal dynamics will also go beyond best practices.”

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By ET Bureau