Home / Companies / News /  Diageo seeks to promote more women at senior executive levels

Mumbai: Diageo Plc’s Indian subsidiary Diageo India Pvt. Ltd mixes wine and women in an altogether new and interesting way—its top team is dominated by women. Part of it is a function of ability—all the women at the top have proven themselves—and part, design. Diageo—which has strengthened its presence in India by acquiring a controlling stake in United Spirits Ltd —wants to increase the proportion of women in senior executive positions in its Asian operations from the current 23% to 30%. Worldwide, women account for 40% of the company’s senior executives.

The result of its efforts are evident in India where Abanti Sankaranarayanan is the managing director of Diageo India; Kaveri Kullar is the marketing head (reserves and Scotch); Sarah Walton is the head of the human resources department; Shalu Ahuja oversees compliance; Krishna Guharoy heads the information technology cell; and Michelle D’Souza is the head of communications.

Not since the days when ICICI Bank Ltd’s senior management was composed almost entirely of women has an organization had as many women in top positions.

“Gender diversity facilitates any organization the resource pool to look at issues in different perspective so that the decisions at the leadership level are often more informed...," says Aditya Narayan Mishra, president, staffing, and director, marketing, at human resource consultancy firm Randstad India. But the British distiller’s plans aren’t restricted to its workforce alone. Its Plan W has several strands: creating more women leaders within the firm; nurturing 1,000 women social entrepreneurs; and training women to address the shortage of key skills in the hospitality business.

“The woman leadership within the group, the activities to promote women professionals and entrepreneurs will help change our image from (just) a liquor maker to a respectable consumer goods company," says managing director Sankaranarayanan.

Last week, Diageo, in partnership with the British Council, launched its Young Women Social Entrepreneurship Development Programme, in India. An Asia-wide initiative, the programme is committed to empowering two million women in 17 countries across the Asia-Pacific region by 2017. It aims to train women in the area of social entrepreneurship by providing them with the necessary skills. In India, Diageo is looking to train 1,000 participants in management, finance, communication, leadership, marketing and fund-raising—all key skills required to run a social enterprise.

“With 50% of the population under the age of 25 and 65% under 35, India will be a country full of young leaders for many years to come," said Rob Lynes, director, India, British Council.

First, Diageo will identify 20 young women master trainers, assess their development needs, and develop and impart a training module based on novel methods and best practices to increase their knowledge and capabilities. Thereafter, the company and its partner (British Council now) will support the 20 master trainers to coach 50 other young people, to hone their creative skills and entrepreneurial capabilities.

“This kind of initiative has two key positive outcomes. On one hand, it leads to women empowerment, which is an important social need in India, and the other is certainly the economic and social progress created by social entrepreneurs, who act as the change agents for society, seizing opportunities others miss and improving systems," said a corporate adviser on social development with a foreign consultancy firm. He didn’t want to be identified. In India, several other large organizations including public and private sector banks, private equity firms and real estate groups have women leaders, although not many have programmes such as Plan W that are focused not just internally, but also outside the company. “One billion women will enter the global economy during the coming decade, many will not have received proper education or the opportunity to develop professional skills," says Sankaranarayanan.

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