A Community Business Initiative

In Her Own Right with Soni Bhattacharya of The Painted Sky

DIAN Professional Series - Highlight of the Month

>> Find out more about Soni Bhattacharya of The Painted Sky who is running a DIAN Professional Series workshop titled ‘In Her Own Right’ on 2 September in Bangalore.   Click here for more details and to register for this workshop >>



Why are you passionate about diversity and inclusion?

Diversity, to me, is a reality of our world and Inclusiveness is a human and business imperative. We all have the data about the changing nature of our workforces around the world – from gender to generation, differently abled to different in sexual preferences. And the arc that connects them all is the power of human potential. When we work with people across the world, we see diversity in all its beauty, and also realise that societies and businesses that can access and accommodate the beauty are the ones that flourish. That is what inspires me about diversity and inclusion – worlds that are truly inclusive towards diversity are that much richer, empowered and productive.

What experiences have led you to do the work you do today?

I have always had an entrepreneurial bent of mind. I have been on my own for twenty years, and started off in the training space in 2006. I love working with people, and also appreciate the opportunity and the privilege to have them share their journeys with me. And to see them transform and flourish as a result of the work we get to do together.

That is greatest gratification in the work I do, as a facilitator and a coach. The positive strokes of the appreciation aside, it is the realisation that what we get to do, in our humble way, is significant and can help people look at their worlds, their work and their environments differently.

Can you tell us more about your experience in Asia?

The sheer variety and richness of Asia is both inspiring and humbling. I have had the privilege of working in the Middle East with participants from different parts of the region, and in South East Asia and China where the profile and personalities have been markedly different. Not to mention the extensive work I do in India.

Asia is a fantastic world of its own, with energy, potential and wisdom that draws me in, and uplifts and enriches me. In this is energizsd, complex and colourful world, working is a joy, because we learn immensely in every interaction. That learning is priceless – it is what keeps us curious and motivated to do better.

When it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion, what area of your work are you most proud?

I do a lot of mentoring and coaching for women leaders around the world. And I find that experience most inspiring is to see how fellow women have battled the odds of bias and discrimination and have strived forward to excel in the work they do.

Coaching is a journey, and in my experience, it benefits both the coach and the coachees. And when I get to work with these remarkable women, the energy and the positivity I receive from them help me improve myself. Undoubtedly, this has been my most cherished work in the space of diversity and inclusion

Which workshop have you chosen to be a part of the DIAN Professional Series and why?

The workshop is called “In Her Own Right”. The reason I have chosen this is that the workshop helps reflect on the role of women in the workplace and their internal and external power relations. It helps them identify and work across sabotaging behaviours and beliefs.Besides that, this topic also helps address stereotypes that exist in society and in the corporate world. It is important to look at the existing obstacles and opportunities, so that through this understanding we can enable a space of equal opportunity and empathy for our work force.

What do you think participants will gain from attending your session?

This session will be experiential. Several activities have been adapted from Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) which is a form of social theatre that looks at generating insights and alternatives. Through these activities, participants will gain insights on their key motivating and sabotaging thoughts that help them. Last but not least, it will help highlight the difficulties that women have been facing due to expectations from self and others and help boost women managers’ confidence.

What is one of your favourite books/TED talks/research relating to D&I - and why?

For TED Talks, I would like to recommend: “Did you Hear about the Iranian-American?” by Maz Jobrani, “The Paradox of Diversity” by Dr Marilyn Sanders Mobley and “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

There are many books I consider inspiring in the space of D&I. Recently, I have read “Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Diversity in Global Business” by Charles Hampden-Turner, which was great! In addition, I also find children’s books (which I read to my kids at home) inspiring for D&I, and for tolerance and acceptance as a whole. Books like “All Kinds of Families” by Mary Ann Hoberman and “Mostly Monsterly” by Tammi Sauer are great ways to implant the values of D&I in both children and adults.

As for research, the McKinsey’s 2015 report “Diversity Matters” is a good read. Also, I would also like to recommend the TCS Survey, “Benchmarking Gender Inclusion in Corporate India,” by the People Matters survey in 2011 called  offers great insights into the ground realities in India.

What do you think is the next big thing in the D&I space in Asia?

I think we have made significant progress in the last two decades. And motivations are changing – from being a top-down management-driven approach to more genuine, empathetic and understanding based thinking among colleagues. To me, again, as a woman leading a business across the region and beyond, I think we still have some ground to cover to change mindsets. And in Asia, I think we have to look at being more open and supportive towards the differently abled, to allow them more space in the workforce, and also adapt our existing thinking and systems to be more inclusive towards them.

What is your single piece of advice for diversity and inclusion professionals working in Asia?  

I think we are living in historic times, a momentous age. As I write, America is considering a woman to be her president. Our journey is not easy, but it is exciting and enriching. My advice to all is this quote from Mark Twain that I love: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Click here to register for Soni’s DIAN Professional Series session ‘In Her Own Right’ on 2 September in Bangalore.

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