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Aim to eliminate hidden biases in the leadership - Dr Usha Mahadevan

According to a report released on 2nd March titled "Women in Leadership: Unequal Access on the Journey to the Top" shared by SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management), several women attempting to advance in their careers face a number of obstacles, including less tangible support from their managers to foster deserved leadership growth and reduced access to promotion opportunities. The report's research also reveals an alarming trend in which women become increasingly disillusioned with equal access as they advance up the ladder, whereas men are more likely to feel included and taken seriously as a leader.

As we celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8, it’s important to take notice of detrimental organisational trends such as these, and repairing this broken rung on the career ladder for women should be a top priority for all organisations. Several studies have found that organisations with a higher proportion of women in leadership have better business outcomes, including greater innovation and productivity. In recent years, due to the scrutiny of the print media, widespread awareness among organisations has been picking up. But at the same time, this is turning counter-productive due to the adverse effects of the pandemic. More women are dropping out of work and being let go as compared to men.

To combat these effects, Dr Usha, Chief Scientist at Molecular Connections Pvt. Ltd., a Bengaluru-based data science and big data solutions company, tells us, "Organisations should aim to eliminate all hidden biases in the leadership pipeline in order to ensure equal access for men and women to advance to the top of the ladder and access growth opportunities. The most impact can be made by setting both realistic and meaningful goals in terms of business objectives and instilling them within the work culture. Organisations must regularly audit their practises and policies, from recruitment and hiring to performance and development, promotions, and advancement to leadership ranks, to ensure that both men and women are equally supported as they move up the ladder.”

With over 30 years in the wet lab and in silico research, Dr. Usha made a switch to the informatics domain. When asked what made her make this shift, she replied, "I was immensely inspired by Mr. Jignesh Bhate, Founder and CEO of Molecular Connections, when he came over to give a talk at an organisation that I was working at at the time. Although Molecular Connections was a new company with a very small team, I was inclined to join it instantly, and up until this day, I am so glad that I did. Over the last 18 years, the care and support that I have received from Mr. Jignesh and the company have been so endearing. Being a mother at that time to a young son, the work culture that was set up at Molecular Connections helped me create a perfect balance between work and my family. Even as early as 2003, the organization's care policies aimed at women were a testament to the organization's forward-thinking, as was its commitment to gender inclusivity. It gives me great pride to be the woman I am today, and I have also seen women around me at work excel in their careers, with zero compromises on their responsibilities.”

Further on in the interview, when we asked Dr Usha to mention the real challenges for women who aspire to break the glass ceiling in the workplace, she responded, "In my 44 years of experience as an academic and working in a corporate set-up, women around me have been facing various kinds of barriers, whether it may be in securing jobs or holding onto jobs cornered with male scrutiny or having a desirable work life, salary, and other work-related benefits. I believe, in times of adversity, it is important to voice your challenges in a constructive way and bring them forward to the concerned. Also, it is about time that women stop remaining silent and begin demanding what is rightfully theirs. There will be multiple barriers along the way, and it is critical that women find their own voice and break free from male-dominated norms. Prior steps should be taken when choosing an organisation, such as conducting extensive research and evaluating the work culture, benefits, and gender inclusivity. It is also in the women’s power to invoke change in organisations, by raising a voice against biases and garnering support from men with respect and a rightful attitude. It is important to always be strong and fight these barriers with all the grit that one has and soon these very same barriers will cease to exist.”

In conclusion to the interview, we asked Dr. Usha to give advice to all the women who are navigating work and family post-pandemic. She says, "Striking a balance should be a ‘priority’ and, in unfavourable circumstances, initiating a dialogue with the organisation’s management and family to work out a desirable and suitable plan, should be an action step. ‘Complaining’ and suffering the plight cannot be the answer and will only further deter your growth and journey. I always believe that seeking out solutions is very important because it is up to you to take the lead and not depend on others to save you. The pandemic has caused several setbacks for women across the world, and there will be many more possible circumstances in the future that will do so as well. Remember, to always prepare your mind and initiate constructive conversations with the concerned. There is a huge community to back you up. Seek their help out and use it to your advantage. "

About Dr Usha Mahadevan:

Dr. Usha Mahadevan is from Bengaluru and has worked as an academic at the Cancer Research Institute in Mumbai, the National Institutes of Health in the United States, Harvard University in the United States, and the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru for over 24 years. With her remarkable experience, she made a transition to the corporate world and joined Molecular Connections Pvt. Ltd., as a Chief Scientist in 2003 and she oversees MC’s content business closely. Dr Usha has published more than 30 research papers in scientific journals of repute. At MC, she has actively engaged in training, mentoring and grooming young scientists.

About Molecular Connections:

With over two decades of experience in Big Data and Data Science Solutions, Molecular Connections (MC) has been using AI-powered proprietary models to help customers achieve digital transformation. We have been able to successfully build a data-driven decision-making strategy for our customer’s digital transformational journey. MC leverages AI, ML, and the Linked Data Store to build efficiencies in various verticals and generate new revenue streams for its customers.

MC’s decades of industry presence and a strong focus on innovation have led us to work with the world’s leading pharma and STEM industries to offer end-to-end software development and data insights powered by proprietary workflows and platforms, enabling content engineering across multiple domains. With over 70% of its workforce being women, MC is ranked among the top 15 best companies for women to work for in India.


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