|At the end of The Segue Sessions, Ms. Kimsuka Narsimhan, CFO of PepsiCo India and inaugural speaker was asked a question – “What made you buy into the concept of a forum for returning professionals?” Pat came her reply, “It makes amazing business sense to invest in a talent pool that is not just smart and trust-worthy, but one whose energy is simply infectious!” Coming from a functional head of one of the world’s most competitive FMCG multinationals, the words hark home a powerful message – women might leave the workplace for family and childcare reasons, but when they decide to return, their focus and determination is unmatched and more importantly, Corporate India is keen on engaging with this passionate group.
"We have several initiatives to make our workplace more welcoming for women, but participating in The Segue Sessions gave new meaning to the term gender balance! Here is a population that could actually be the catalyst to India’s growth story", says Kalpana Veeraraghavan, Workforce Diversity Manager, IBM. Besides PepsiCo, Deutsche Bank Group and SCOPE International, the other corporates who participated in The Segue Sessions were IBM, CavinKare, Cap Gemini, Kraft and HCL.The fact that the 300 plus audience at Chennai was put through skill-building initiatives led by this diverse set of corporates in this large-format exercise – the first one of its kind in India, established beyond a shred of doubt, the business case for second careers. Often considered as one of the earliest voices to speak of flexitime in India, Saundarya Rajesh, Founder-President of AVTAR Career Creators and FLEXI Careers India, the brain behind this endeavour, has been a strong advocate of creating sustainable careers for women. When AVTAR I-WIN (Interim Women managers Interface Network) was launched by her in 2005, there were just a handful of corporates who believed in the concept of the returnee woman professional. "Today, things have changed dramatically", says Karthik Ekambaram, AVP – Consulting at FLEXI Careers India, "We had over 25 corporates participating in various capacities at The Segue Sessions, inaugural edition at Chennai. It was a true win-win. Women who attended the forum had strong educational credentials, significant work experience and high energy levels. They are great potential hires for any competitive organization. The Q&A was racy and engaging, the audience exhibiting unbeatable enthusiasm about returning to work!"Precisely because they have been away from it for a while, the audience that The Segue Sessions addresses itself to, are excited and determined about getting back to work. Also, this talent segment provides great return on investment to hiring employers. It is about the life stage that these women belong to – fewer or no maternity leaves (they’ve probably done that already), fewer spousal relocations, and a more mature perspective. Besides, the numbers of women who are available for a re-entry is quite significant.
An AVTAR study places this at around 1.5 million women in just the major metros and sub metros. Which is why The Segue Sessions are going national with editions planned to be run at Mumbai(Feb 2012), Bangalore (Mar 2012), Hyderabad (Jun 2012), Pune (Aug 2012) and Gurgoan (Sep 2012). "It is fantastic to see the investment of time and dedication by corporates in this skill building forum", says Saundarya, "The Segue Sessions allow the woman to take the first step towards regaining her economic and intellectual potential!"
While corporates have proven their commitment to developing second career women, it is equally important for the woman to take that crucial step towards a new beginning. Says Sandhya Vasudevan, Managing Director and Head, India Service Centres, Deutsche Bank Group, speaking at the inaugural session, "If women want to come back to the workplace they should understand what they really want, what relationships they need to take care of and what opportunities are out there and therefore how do they match the three of these". "When the woman realizes the importance of returning to work, she will begin to build skills that will enable her to make a difference. The Segue Sessions are an option to allow the woman to empower herself to make the right choices", says Anuradha Challu, Senior Director – HR, PepsiCo Beverages. Adds Kalpana, "There were no Segue Sessions when I came back to a career after a break. This is a first of its kind program and I am hoping that AVTAR I-WIN and Ascent will conduct this in all metros!."Says K.Umasanker, Co-Founder of AVTAR Career Creators, "’Segue’ is a musical term depicting seamless transition – it is what would be called the ‘interlude’ in operatic words. Women at The Segue Sessions, who have taken a break in career and seek to transition back to a meaningful role in the workplace learn how to segue to a different stage in their lives. And they learn it straight from women role models and icons who have been there, done that!"
At the end of the program, Priya Rajagopal, one of the participants, made a different resolution for the new year – "I have decided to put to practice the skills I learnt at The Segue Sessions today – 1. Networking, 2. Managing stakeholders at home and 3. Negotiating. I am confident that by employing these skills, I will bridge the gap in my career!". Here’s to a New Year filled with promise not just for the Priya Rajagopals of the world, but for India Incorporated itself.The Segue Sessions are next moving to Mumbai and tentatively scheduled for Friday the 17th February 2012. An audience of 300 professionals drawn from a large pool of skilled second career women will be selected using an algorithm based on the sponsors’ requirements. For sponsorship and speaking opportunities, please contact Karthik Ekambaram at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on +91-9840725333.