Interview: Paroma Roy Chowdhury, Head of Corporate Communications & Public Affairs, Google India on International Women's Day
By Bidisha Bagchi
International Women's Day (8th March) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women's economic, political and social achievements. The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2012 is Empower Women – End Hunger and Poverty. In many countries, International Women's Day is an occasion to honor and praise women for their accomplishments. On this special occasion WBRi spoke to Google India’s Head of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs, Ms. Paroma Roy Chowdhury about women in India and their desire for progress and achievements.
Women’s Day is a tribute to female achievement and the desire for progress. What is your idea on this?
It is good to have a day to celebrate the progress that women have made across spheres; raise a toast to our achievements and rejoice in our empowerment. But we should also treat it as a reminder of how far we still have to go.
Women are overtaking men in quite a few professions and are becoming independent, do we still need to have a day declared as ‘our day’ and celebrate it?
Actually, every day is a celebration as far as I am concerned! But still it is nice to have a milestone. Why knock it?
How would you say the situation of women throughout India, may be even the World, has changed over the years?
A lot of progress in education, female health and sanitation and empowerment at the grassroots through representation in governing bodies like Panchayats in India, has been made. But similarly, a lot is left to be done. In the Middle-East, where the women are still exposed to worst kind of atrocities in the name of religion and social mores; female foeticide in parts of India and the world; dowry issues, domestic violence and even the glass ceilings in the developed corporate world- the battle has just begun.
A lot of women in India go through quite a few hardships in life, which includes mental/emotional torture, sexual harassment etc…What is your advice to women who go through these types of hardships and how do you think we can help to fight violence against women ?
Education and financial independence are the keywords here. An educated woman can make choices and make herself independent, which itself gives her a whole lot of ammunition to fight against injustice. We also need much greater sensitization around issues like dowry, degradation of the girl child and domestic violence, through public education. Parents, educational institutions and legislative and judiciary bodies, all have a role to play.
You have had a wonderful career and at the same time a beautiful family, what would you say to the young women of today who sometimes struggle to keep both sides happy?
These are nice words, so thank you. I don’t think I have done anything particularly noteworthy. My advice for all its worth: I like what I do and work hard at it; invest in good domestic infrastructure by way of help (we are privileged to that extent in India), try to give my best at everything whether it is a strategy presentation or a party planning and most important, don’t listen to too many people . Having a supportive partner at home has helped tremendously. Plus, Google, where I work, is one of the most flexible and empowering workplaces.
Sylvia Plath, Indra Nooyi and Aung San Suu Kyi, who among these women have influenced you the most and how?
Indra Nooyi for her focus and dedication and Suu Kyi, for her commitment to a cause and her relentless perseverance in its pursuit. Plath, of course, is my favorite poet, for her sheer brilliance.
What’s your favorite quote that describes the beauty and essence of being a woman?
Tagore’s description of Chitrangada. “Nahi Debi, nahi samanya Nari……jodi parshe rakho more sampade, sankate, sammati dao jodi kathina brate, sahay hote, pabe tobe tumi chinite morey.” (I am no deity or an ordinary woman…but if you approve my rightful place, in peril and in plenty, in trusting companionship, through the penance of suffering, by your side you may then realize I for who I am )