In a world filled with constant change & complexity, Dr. Saundarya Rajesh, Founder-President of the Avtar Group, firmly believes that one fundamental element remains constant and invaluable – integrity. She passionately addressed this notion during a keynote address on “Igniting the Integrity Vibe – It’s Time to be Good”. Dr. Rajesh’s insights serve as a guiding light, illuminating the path toward fostering a culture of integrity and goodness within the business world.
Communication can come to our rescue at any point of time, she noted. Hailing from Pondicherry, she admitted she “had to depend on the integrity and goodness of many people who helped me make my reputation”.
Dr. Rajesh’s journey to becoming a renowned advocate for integrity and diversity in the workplace began with a plain observation. It was after a career break, that she noticed a significant disparity in the opportunities available to women, especially those who had taken breaks in their careers. Determined to address these inequities, she founded Avtar, a social enterprise dedicated to creating diverse, equitable and inclusive organisations. Avtar focuses on reaching out to various underrepresented talent pools, including women returning to the workforce, LGBTQ+ individuals, persons with disabilities, veterans and more.
Why is a career break often seen as a red flag by traditional standards? Dr. Rajesh acknowledges the inherent bias known as the “negativity bias” that leads people to focus on career gaps rather than skills. However, she firmly asserts that career breaks are not the end of the road. “Here’s the good news,” she declares, “it’s not permanent.” To combat biases, Avtar identified and categorised “The Dirty Dozen” – twelve common, persistent biases. Dr. Rajesh emphasises the need for individuals, particularly communication professionals, to commit to ‘debiasing’ themselves, maintaining fresh perspectives and staying unbiased.
Dr. Rajesh also highlights the power of positive gossip, a force often underestimated. Sharing some tips, she encourages organisations to create informal channels for sharing good stories and to establish small focus groups for information exchange. Employee resource groups can further facilitate the dissemination of positive narratives, allowing employees to stay engaged and informed.
In the pursuit of integrity, Dr. Rajesh underscores the importance of building allies, and presented a new angle. Integrity may stand alone, but it thrives with the support of allies. She advises organisations to establish ally networks that promote and highlight “good news”. Identifying champions for various initiatives, such as environmental sustainability, diversity, equity, governance and inclusion, is another vital step. These champions should be empowered with effective communication tools and budgets to drive meaningful change.
Goodness, Dr. Rajesh contends, spreads most effectively through intimate channels. Revisiting closely-held beliefs is another crucial step toward fostering integrity in business. She presented Avtar’s 6Es of Framework – Enrich, Embed, Enable, Experience, Extend, and Endow – as a blueprint for creating a culture of integrity within organisations.
Dr. Rajesh’s resounding message is clear: “Being good is good for business”. Integrity may run deep, but it requires regular reminders and active cultivation.
In a Fireside Chat with Vineet Handa, Founder of Kaizzen Communications, she addressed the gender disparity in the public relations industry. While women are well-represented, top management remains male-dominated. Dr. Rajesh stressed the importance of building confidence in women, offering flexibility as a crucial resource for their careers.
Integrity, Dr. Rajesh believes, should be omnipresent in our lives. For CEOs, she had two powerful messages: “CEOs are the lighthouses,” guiding their organisations toward integrity and goodness. Moreover, “the tallest lighthouse casts the longest shadows”, implying that the impact of leadership transcends organisational boundaries.
Dr. Saundarya Rajesh’s keynote address serves as an inspiring call to action – for individuals and organisations alike. By igniting the integrity vibe, we can create a brighter, more equitable and more prosperous future for all.
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