A veteran from the area of Strategy and Management, Prof Shobha Das, Area Chair – Strategic Management, IFMR GSB, got on a Zoom call with an Ethnomusicologist, Prof Sumitra Ranganathan, Senior Assistant Professor of Music, SIAS. What followed was an exchange from worlds intersected, in stark contrast yet drawing the parallels.
Prof Shobha and Prof Sumitra got together for a special exchange of ideas and perspectives on the occasion of International Women’s Day, tracing the similarities and differences in their lives as academics and as women from diverse fields. Paving the way for an interesting dialogue, Prof Shobha Das drew attention to how arts and management are considered to be siloed as two different worlds but yet share deep commonalities. In agreement Prof Sumitra explained how this is innate to the consciousness at Krea, how habits of the creative mind come together in almost all domains.
Drawing on her life as an academic, Prof Shobha spoke about how academia is synonymous with her identity, more so than being a woman. Academia has allowed her to explore, interact with different people and learn about things, about how it affirmed there is no ‘me’ in academics. While Prof Sumitra pondered on her identity at the intersection of arts and academics, her journey from being a theoretical physicist to the world of IT and finally to the shift in academics, and how it made the most sense in a space such as Krea University. She expressed how she felt closest to home in academia, where the active churning rarely stops, and spills over.
“The artist in me expresses it in this way, my shift into academics happened following a song, it was a beautiful dhrupad I learnt from the Maharajas of Bettiah, composed by them. And following that song is how I decided I will do my PhD in music and then I made a transition and there I have stayed ever since.”
Prof Sumitra expressed her amazement at women artists from traditional communities who have always had to manage their time and demands made at them as a person. Prof Shobha drew the analogy to the field of management, to what is labeled ‘The Great Resignation’ in the post pandemic era.
“More women have resigned than men because women have realised if now they go back to the workplace, all things they have adapted to will feel astray. The onus is on them to now continue the new role but apparently the men aren’t that affected by the change in role because they probably were able to partition it still and continue to do so. The Great Resignation is greater for the women, post pandemic. We will have even fewer women in the workforce.”
Continuing the thread, Prof Sumitra spoke about the pressure women face as caregivers and how it comes into play when she seeks employment, cloaked as questions and qualms. Prof Shobha pointed out how the top 500 Fortune Companies in the United States had 8 percent women as CEOs and the top 500 companies of NSE had 5 percent as CEOs and the buck didn’t stop there, a study by IIM-A showed that the gender pay gap increased as women climbed the ladder instead of the other way round. This led to contemplation over the takeaways from the pandemic on how to bring women back to the workforce, of the awareness and the solutions.
Prof Shobha stressed on the fact of inability to delve deeper into metrics, incentives and motivation to keep higher education equally excitable for men and women. On how if one lesson from the pandemic is accessibility, the other is a question on digital divide. In Prof Shoba’s words, “A chakravyuh we need to emerge from.”
Retracing a Mnemonic for woman empowerment, something she had coined for an event in the year prior, Prof Shobha expanded STREE- Support The People Who Are Around You, the women and community members. Talk about the people and what hardships they have, stories are never hidden. Raise awareness in every forum you can. Educate yourself and others of opportunities available for women. Empower women, put power back in their hands.
Prof Sumitra added how there is a huge opportunity to bring the quality of a woman that is associated with the aspect of ‘care’ to the classroom. A need to feminise the workplace, to bring in the idea of care to the classroom where everyone cares for the other, making space differences and acknowledging that they come from various backgrounds and do not face the same challenges, to inculcate the ethics of care into enabling students, workers and colleagues.
The short conversation concluded with a pause, refraining from a full stop. With a promise for future collaborations, exchange of novel ideas and building of continuous bridges.
Please click here to view the engaging dialogue.