Smriti Irani, union minister for Women & Child Development and Minority Affairs, along with Rajeev Dubey, editor-in-chief, Fortune India, presented awards to leading businesswomen at Fortune India Most Powerful Women In Business Awards ceremony at the Jio World Convention Centre in Mumbai.

The star-studded event saw two riveting discussions on corporate India's unconscious bias and women entrepreneurship.

Vivek Pandit, senior partner, Mckinsey & Company; Ritu Arora, CEO and chief investment officer, Asia-Pacific, Allianz Investment Management; Pavitra Shankar, managing director, Brigade Group; Daisy Chittilapilly, president, Cisco India and SAARC, shared their views on a panel discussion on “unconscious biases” in corporate culture.

In an another panel discussion, Vinati Saraf, MD & CEO, Vinati Organics; Ghazal Alagh, co-founder, Mamaearth; Akshali Shah, board member & executive director, Parag Milk Foods; Guneet Monga Kapoor, producer and CEO, Sikhaya Entertainment presented their views on ‘Women Entrepreneurship Uninhibited’.

In the first panel discussion on ‘Corporate India’s Unconscious Bias’, experts reiterated the importance of providing equal opportunities and creating a supportive framework for women's advancement. Key points raised during the discussion included the involvement of men in designing inclusive programs, challenging traditional biases within families, and fostering collaboration between men and women as allies in the workplace.

In the second panel discussion on ‘Women Entrepreneurship Uninhibited’, industry leaders agreed that this is the era of women entrepreneurs. Furthermore, they said that while working hard as a woman entrepreneur is one aspect of building a business, getting validation helps in recognition of work.

Speaking on the event, Union Minister Smriti Irani said that corporate India is not stepping up to empower women even though the government has provided a framework. The minister also launched a White Paper on ‘Women Leadership in India Inc.’; a collaborative effort between Fortune, Confederation of Indian Industry & SPJIMR SP Jain Institute of Management & Research. This exploratory study supported by the Ministry of WCD & Gates Foundation India, engaged 130 industry leaders, with a balanced representation of 54% female and 46% male CEOs, in 16 roundtable discussions across Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bengaluru.

“I believe what is alarming is that White Paper reflects on the realities of women and their positions in corporate India vis-a-vis the perspective of how they are positioned in Fortune India 500 companies. There has been for too long a presumption that SMEs or mid-level companies don't know better and that is why women don't have enhanced opportunities with regards to career advancements in such companies,” said Irani.

“The other presumption is that most Fortune 500 companies know better because they are not only erudite, they have had global experiences and they know that there is a legislative framework so that career advancement is equally distributed irrespective of gender within the company," she added.

Meanwhile, Marcella Wartenbergh, Global Group CEO, AWWG, which owns brands like Pepe Jeans London, Hackett and Faconnable, shared her views on the importance of dreams. “All good leaders have them. We need to turn dreams into reality. It’s about believing in ourselves, realising our success, and celebrating. To succeed in this world, men and women need to work together,” she said in her address. Wartenbergh was the Guest of Honour at the event.

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