Building Future Women Leaders in Impact: the time is now

Nandita Das at ILSS Event
Nandita Das at ILSS Event

New Delhi,

Mentoring networks and support emerged as a critical lever in the leadership journey of emerging women leaders in the Indian development sector, according to the recent research report “The Emerging Women’s Leadership in the Indian Development Sector” by India Leaders for Social Sector. 84.7% of the women surveyed vocalised the need for having an active support network of senior women leaders as mentors would positively affect their career growth; in the social impact space.

ILSS Emerging Women Leadership Program
ILSS Emerging Women Leadership Program

The research brings to light the unique challenges women professionals face in the social impact space. ILSS unveiled the report at the launch event (IHC) on 4 November, Friday, along with the launch of the intensive 7-week hybrid learning Program for emerging women leaders in the social sector.

The launch had prominent voices in the gender space from diverse walks of life. Key speakers at the event were Nandita Das, Retd IPS Manjari Jaruhar; Natasha Zarine, Director of Ecco Sattva Environmental Solutions Private Limited; Sudarshan Suchi, CEO, Save the Children India; and Zubaan founder, writer, activist, Padma Shri awardee Urvashi Butalia, amongst others.

The event included a thought-provoking panel discussion on “Leadership Catalyst for Emerging Women Leaders”. The panel discussion brought out themes like potential challenges in women’s leadership journey, lacunas and solutions, especially in the development space and to create an enabling environment of support at the ecosystem level for emerging women leaders to thrive and grow.

Actor, director, and social activist Nandita Das was the keynote speaker and chief guest. Nandita, during her speech, opened her heart to the challenges faced by women leaders and highlighted the vulnerabilities felt by the women while embarking on their professional journey.   She said, “After becoming a mother at 40, it suddenly challenged my thoughts…thoughts of what I thought and what I knew, what I had thought I had internalised and was capable of. I started observing myself and the other women around me. I realised that until we individually, in our hearts, don’t change, the cumulative change will not happen as fast as we want it to. We are here because we need to hasten that change. After all, it is just taking too long, and many lives are perishing while we still think, feel, and understand our self-doubt and vulnerability.” 

Addressing the audience during the event’s welcome address, Anu Prasad, the Founder and CEO of ILSS, said, “Women comprise 50% of our population. We should have at least 50% of the voice. In terms of numbers, we are a force. Yet we see that women have little or no voice in places of power, be it as representatives in Parliament, titans of the industry, the civil services or even the development sector.” She also highlighted that for gender parity, India holds the unceremonious 135th rank out of 147 countries worldwide, adding that a lot needs to be done in building an enabling environment to support women leaders”. 

Author, publisher and Zubaan founder Urvashi Butalia, during her address, stated; “Even the poorest of the poor woman has a fierce desire to make their, and her, loved one’s life better. I can bet that if given a good chance, a woman would fight the world to make that happen”. 

IPS (Retd) Manjari Jaruhar is one of the first five women officers in India to qualify as an IPS candidate and the first from the state of Bihar. She talked about women’s representation across industries.“We have a long way to go, and our numbers remain minimal. There is 33% reservation in all the police forces, but our numbers are less than 8% to 9%. Though the government is pushing hard, the numbers have yet to rise. According to a news report, many women lost their jobs and to achieve the target of a $5 trillion economy, India must have 45% of women working in some sector or the other. Therefore, it becomes a non-negotiable aspect of our financial requirement.”

The Emerging Women’s Leadership Program (EWLP) is an intensive 7-week program designed to support the leadership development journeys of emerging women leaders in the social sector. The Program equips leaders with the knowledge, skills, and tools to advance their leadership journey and create an impact in the social sector.

It aims at nurturing women to lead India’s some of the most prominent organisations in the Indian social sector and create a far-reaching impact. 


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