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SOAS Professor addresses women in leadership at High Commission of India

6 March 2014

Professor Nirmala Rao OBE, AcSS, Pro-Director (Learning and Teaching) at SOAS, University of London will be speaking about women’s under-representation in leadership positions for International Women’s Day at the High Commission of India. The event will take place at the Nehru Centre on Friday March 7 at 6pm. Highlighting the importance of international women’s day, Professor Rao said: "It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, but more importantly for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await the current and future generations of women."    

“While the increasing prominence of leaders like Hilary Clinton, Condoleeza Rice, Cherie Blair, and more recently – Indira Krishnamurty Nooyi, current CEO of Pepsico, Mary Barra, due to become the first woman CEO of General Motors,– underscores the important changes in gender roles in recent years,” Professor Rao said: “Women still lag behind in corporate and elite professional settings”. For more than two decades, women have been earning about one third of the MBAs awarded in the US, yet they constitute only two per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs and eight per cent of top leadership positions. Similarly, for almost a quarter century, women have made up more than 40 per cent of new entrants to the legal profession, but they are still less than one-fifth of law firm partners and Fortune 500 general counsels.

One problem Professor Rao identifies is that women face a trade-off between competence and likeability in traditionally male roles.  Women leaders clearly navigate a different social and organisational terrain from their male counterparts, a terrain deeply rooted in cultural ambivalence.  

Professor Rao will be sharing a platform with the Director of the Nehru Centre, Sangeeta Bahadur; a senior Cardiologist, Dr Bala, and author Keshwari Desai. The event is free to attend and registration is required.

Other SOAS scholars putting on events for International Women’s Day are Meera Syal with ‘Bhaji on the Beach’ and the International Bagpipe Conference showcasing women pipers on Saturday 8 March.