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Connecting The Development Sector

Need More Men as Allies to Women Leaders – Deepali Khanna, Managing Director, Asia Regional Office, The Rockefeller Foundation

GoBarefoot, a professional networking platform exclusively catering to the Development sector, by facilitating connections and exchange of ideas and information, has collaborated with Katalyst India and Third Sector Partners to present “Leadership Conversations in the Development Sector”, a series of insightful interviews conducted by Shital Kakkar Mehra, India’s leading executive presence coach and Founder at GoBarefoot. Featuring seasoned and reputed leaders from various verticals of the social sector, the series offers a peek behind the scenes and helps viewers find answers to the most pressing questions facing the sector.

With over 30 years in the development sector, on a global scale, Deepali Khanna, Managing Director, Asia Regional Office, The Rockefeller Foundation has seen the ecosystem evolve in front of her eyes. Passionate about the sector since the beginning, she had the privileged to opt for the development sector from the beginning of her career. “While India has had a spectacular growth story over the last 15 years, the distribution is uneven,” rued Ms. Khanna. However, the landscape is changing with increased civil participation and experiences moving across the globe, offering organisations a variety of perspectives.

Evolution in the social sector 

Organisations have become increasingly professional and data driven in terms of management, and quantitative and qualitative measures are being used to identify the root cause of problems. The development sector has evolved from a symptom-driven vertical to a solution-oriented one powered by systems-level thinking and sustainable initiatives. Leaders have come to understand the importance of taking more risks for greater success and people from impoverished communities are now at the centre of the campaigns. There is greater downward and upward accountability.  

Challenges around women leadership

Women leaders are still grappling with challenges in the workplace and there is a tremendous need to ensure the presence of more mentors and coaches to help women leaders grow. Organisations must create a safe space for women to discuss issues and come up with solutions. Women are still there to be seen but not be heard – they do have a seat at the table, but it is an outer seat. Women should be prepared to assert themselves rather than take a tokenised position even as organisations create situations enabling them to thrive. Further, it is imperative that more men perform the role of allies to women leaders to actually foster change. Many women enter the work ecosystem, but few reach leadership positions so we must be intentional in providing clear career paths and level playing fields to help women handle the issues confronting them. Leaders need to be more mindful when addressing gender gap issues.

Corporate tenets for the development sector 

The development sector needs to imbibe certain tenets from its corporate counterpart, including high accountability, clear goals, focused targets and metrics. Further, the sector must use data in decision making instead of merely following intuition. However, we must remember that even as the sector adopts a result-oriented approach, outcomes cannot be immediate in the development sector. Some issues take years to resolve. Adoption of technology has been a game-changer for both sectors. We are now trying to end energy poverty and drive economic development through technology. Tech is an enabler in making sure we can achieve the kind of results we need, in more creative ways and while using less resources. Therefore, we need to be ahead of tech rather than being behind it.

Read our previous conversation with Vishal Talreja, Co-Founder & Trustee, Dream A Dream here.

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