The International Women’s Day on 8th March 2013 is most likely to be remembered by the ladies at Hyderabad as The SEGUE SESSIONS day. The journey that started in Chennai (2011) reached Hyderabad after travelling through Mumbai (March 2012), Bangalore (March 2012), Jaipur (September 2012) & Gurgaon (October 2012). The 6th edition of the SEGUE SESSIONS was held on the International Women’s Day in Hyderabad at ITC Fortune Select Manohar Hotel.
SEGUE SESSIONS, India’s first large format skill-building initiative, aims to provide career-transition to the over 1.5 million educated urban second-career women. The word ‘SEGUE’ is a musical word meaning transition from one stage to another. The objective of the SEGUE SESSIONS is to enable women who are on career break to learn from top-ranked experts on skills essential to make a career come-back. Close to 200 women participated in the event seeking answers and opportunities that will enable them to move forward in their career once again. Google’s ‘Women Entrepreneurs on the Web’, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Naturals, Vodafone and GENPACT were the partnering organizations at the SEGUE Sessions, Hyderabad. Mr. Umasanker, Co-Founder, AVTAR Career Creators presented the event to the audience which comprised of women aged between 28-50, with around 3-20 years of work experience and having taken a break in career.
Ms. Saundarya Rajesh, Founder-President AVTAR Career Creators & FLEXI Careers India inaugurated the 6th edition of the SEGUE SESSION. A career comeback women herself – her passion, commitment and conviction has led to the conceptualization of the SEGUE SESSIONS and the concept becoming a reality. In her inaugural address, Mrs. Rajesh likened the career of an Indian Woman Professional to a game of Snakes & Ladders. “Marriage, childbirth and the creation a family are wonderful things to happen to a woman, but as far as her professional life is concerned, she needs many ‘ladders’ which will help her continue her career”, she said. Describing the 8 year journey of AVTAR I-WIN, India’s first career service for women professionals, she said that the low workforce participation rates of women in India, currently at 28%, were impacted greatly by the fact that they did not have the required support to manage the many speed-breakers which arose. Providing second career opportunities to the over 1.5 million women in India would add Rs. 150 billion to the Indian exchequer, she said.
The panel discussion that followed the Inaugural Address delved on India Inc’s focus on women as a talent priority and how returnee women professionals can be a sure answer to the skill gap faced by the organisations. The discussion was moderated by Ms. Jyothi Muthappa, Vice President – Human Resources, Wells Fargo India Solutions. “It is wonderful to see the energy of women professionals participating in an event like this”, said Ms. Muthappa, overwhelmed by seeing close to 200 women in the conference hall. Mr. Upinder Aggarwal, Director, Microsoft IT, Mr. Pravin Laghaate, Head Vodafone Business Services, Vodafone India and Mr. L Prabhakar, Vice President – Human Resources, Agri-Business Division, ITC Limited participated in the discussion. Mr. Aggarwal spoke in detail about Microsoft IT’s Springboard program for women returnees. Microsoft IT’s recently launched program provide opportunities to women professionals to come back offering attractive monthly compensation and flexibility through the duration of the project work and join as a full-time employee at the end of the program. Mr. Laghate, Head, Vodafone Business Services – Andhra Pradesh, who spoke at the panel discussion, said, “SEGUE SESSIONS are a great initiative which gives corporates like us a first-hand opportunity to understand the challenges faced by women professionals trying to make a come-back”. Mr. Prabhakar speaking on the importance of being current and updated during the break advised the participants to state the work / activities / hobbies / courses that they pursued during their break in their resume while applying for jobs.
The workshops that followed the panel discussions are an important feature of the SEGUE SESSIONS. It enables women who are on a career break to learn from ‘role-model’ experts on skills essential to make a career come-back. Presenting the first workshop on Networking for a SEGUE, Ms. Ratnamala Palepu, Vice President, IT Managed Services and Global End User Computing Leader at Genpact stressed the importance of networking with anecdotes from her own career. Ms. Rajita Singh, Head – Human Resources, Broadridge Financial Solutions (India) Pvt. Ltd moderated the workshop quoting snippets from Hindu Mythology. Ms. Swati Narang, participant said “The way Ms. Rajita took example from “Hindu Belief” to explain difference between bookish knowledge and practical knowledge was awesome.”
The second workshop that followed after the lunch break focused on Managing Internal Stakeholders via New ways of working. The workshop was presented by Ms. Vishnupriya Saksena, Head – Corporate Sustainability, Wells Fargo India Solutions. Ms. Saksena, a second career women professional, urged the participants to inform the stakeholders at home about their plans and involve them in the decision making process. The key to this is to communicate …sharing ideas/goals/problems with family members and reach out to them for help. Ms. Rekha Narendra, Vice President Human Resources and Talent Development, Kantar Operations facilitated the workshop ensuring lively discussion on this topic.
After an engrossing session on Managing Internal Stakeholders, participants were ready for the 3rd workshop on Women on the Web by Ms. Pooja Srinivas, Manager, Product Quality Operations, Google & Co-Lead for WeOW and Ms. Meghana Musunuri, Founder and Chairperson, Fountainhead Global School, Hyderabad. Ms. Srivnivas explained in detail about Google’s Women Entrepreneur on the Web (WeOW) program for women that help in promoting women entrepreneurs. She spoke about the need for building an online presence and how WeOW can help women with the necessary infrastructure. Ms. Musunuri, one of the beneficiaries shared her experience on how the program helped her to build a strong online presence for her school and enabled her to reach out to parents, students and vendors.
The 4th and final workshop of the day, Entrepreneurial Opportunities was conducted by Mr. C K Kumaravel, Co-Founder & Director, Naturals & Ms. Madhuri S Bhaskar, Franchisee Partner, Naturals. Mr. Kumaravel enthralled the participants with his personal story of becoming an entrepreneur and the growth of Naturals as a trusted brand in the Beauty and Personal Care Industry. He emphasized on the economic independence and empowerment of women for the country’s future. The purpose of the workshop was to create awareness about entrepreneurship as an alternate career choice for women. Ms. Bhakar, an IT professional and a successful entrepreneur after the career break spoke about the risk, challenges and the opportunities of becoming an entrepreneur.
Mr. Karthik Ekambaram, AVP – Consulting Services gave the Vote of Thanks thanking the participants and the organisations that sponsored the event – Google, Microsoft IT, Wells Fargo, Vodafone and Naturals.
“I was delighted to be part of this event. Thanks AVTAR and FLEXI for having put together an event like this. I felt like Sridevi in English Vinglish!”, said Ms. Dimple Patra one of the women who participated at the SEGUE SESSIONS. Another excited participant Ms. Bindu Abbaraju echoed “You had a good blend of professionals to address the gathering”. Segue Sessions at Hyderabad not only witnessed the excitement on the participants’ face but the speakers too were equally excited. “Excellent event! Great to see such an active & interactive crowd”, said Mr. Upinder Aggarwal, Director, Microsoft IT at the end of his session. Mr. Prabhakar’s feedback encapsulated the whole session “Felt humbled. Enhanced my sensitivity to gender issues”.
The next SEGUE is planned to be held in Pune in July 2013. It is remarkable that in just 15 months this event has segued across India 6 times in 6 cities. This would not have been possible without the active support of the organisations that have partnered in the SEGUE SESSIONS and the enthusiastic participation of returnee women.