The Elephant in the Room Podcast is a curated safe space to have uncomfortable conversations about the pervasive inequalities in society and our workplaces.
The idea of the podcast was born from my sense of conflict about identity, self and the concept of privilege and fuelled by my own need to understand how my overlapping identities and experiences had impacted and would continue to impact my life chances.
Two years ago I decided to ‘opt out’ to find my own purpose and focus on passion projects including learning about the systemic biases that are endemic in business and society. The Podcast is my very own listening project, a step towards being more intentional in my learning.
The Elephant in the Room Podcast is for people who want to be a part of the change, for those who want to step up & speak out, for those who want to learn more about biases, barriers and best practice, for business leaders and for individuals, anyone who is interested in a fairer, more inclusive and compassionate society and workplace.
Each week I will interview inspiring speakers from across the world on issues that are taboo and deserve to be mainstream including(but not limited to) systemic and institutionalised racism, discrimination based on further eight protected characteristics, poverty, mental health, climate change. The podcast will also talk about cognitive inclusion, culture, purpose, ethics and the importance of empathy, cultural intelligence and how conversations on identity and disadvantage would be incomplete without considering intersectionality.
With the podcast I hope to share stories of people with lived experiences, stories that may have never been told, stories that galvanise us to take action for change and keep the conversations alive by raising the decibel on issues of inequity, inequality in our search for a fairer and more inclusive world.
75: Prison reforms: Decongesting Indian Prisons: Justice Madan B Lokur and Sugandha Mathur
75: Prison reforms: Decongesting Indian Prisons: Justice Madan B Lokur and Sugandha Mathur: For the 6th episode of The Elephant in the Room podcast in partnership with India Justice Report - we focused on the overburdened Indian prisons. For a very long time India’s prison system has been known for overcrowding, unhygienic conditions and the disproportionate number of under trials in the prison population.
The covid-19 pandemic led the Indian Supreme Court to issue directions to the High Court for decongestion of prisons in order to prevent the outbreak of the epidemic in closed spaces. The court directed the constitution of High-Powered Committees (HPCs) at state-levels to oversee the decongestion efforts, while also directing the Under trial Review Committees (UTRC), a district-level body mandated to review cases of prisoners, to meet every week.
However, despite several measures to decongest prisons overcrowding has remained a serious issue, along with a shortage of staff and medical officers. The level of vacancies at the National level means 1 in every three posts has not been filled
When we were thinking of the focus for this episode - it was about culling out lessons from the pandemic. Lessons that could help support the drive to sustainably decongest Indian prisons.
Is it training for the police to prevent indiscriminate arrests, or is it giving more power to the prison authorities to refuse to intake a prison when maximum sustainable number have been reached?
It was also about understanding whether magistrates who know the conditions of local prisons shape their remand powers to ensure that there is no overcrowding.
What is the role of legal aid in solving this problem?
Most importantly, central to the conversations is the role of multiple stakeholders - whose actions and frequent inactions contribute to the overcrowding. How can they be corrected and made accountable, what processes and systems need to be put into place to enable positive action.
I was privileged to speak with Justice Madan B Lokur, a former judge of Supreme Court of India and Sugandha Mathur from the Human Rights Initiative to get their insights on progressing the agenda of prison reform. Thank you Maja and Valay for your support and insights.
74: How leaders lead? A conversation with Liz Sweigart, Chief Product & Strategy Officer, Safe Kids AI
74: How leaders lead? A conversation with Liz Sweigart, Chief Product & Strategy Officer, Safe Kids AI: My guest on The Elephant in the Room podcast this week is Liz Sweigart, PhD Chief Product & Strategy Officer, Safe Kids AI. Liz serves on several boards, is a frequent author and speaker on mental wellness and mental health.
In the episode we explore leaders, leadership, conscious, moral, ethical, moral leadership. We also spoke about her journey to discovering who she is and separating that from what she does.
👉🏾 The imperatives for leaders to lead differently
👉🏾 What it means to be an authentic leader - eliminating the gap between who they are and how they present themselves to the world
👉🏾 Conscious leadership
👉🏾 The concept of the leader as a moral integrator
👉🏾 The inherent contradiction between moral leadership and capitalism as we know it.
👉🏾 The double bind for leaders in today’s world to deliver returns for shareholders and their obligation (as perceived by society) to act ethically and in the wider interests of society
👉🏾 Female leaders and trust
We also spoke about the people who inspire her.
“And where I think that leads into this whole question of leadership, is how is the view in the world changing, around who it is, again when the music stops, who it is that deserves these returns. And so I think leaders are being pressed to negotiate between this evolving view of shareholder capitalism, this evolving view of stakeholder capitalism.” Liz Sweigart
73: Reclaiming my identity and life a conversation with Ruchika Singh
What do people think of as they are coming to the end of their college/University degree? The future, a new life, new job, new friends, travel, and new adventures. And most people step into this beautiful but messy world full of hopes and dreams.
My guest this week on The Elephant in the Room podcast Ruchika Singh, had to press pause on the life she was looking forward to when she fell ill suddenly during exams in the last year of her engineering degree. Life ground to a halt as she was diagnosed with CNS Tuberculosis Meningitis. It meant fighting to survive and catastrophically losing vision as a side effect. The road to recovery has been a nearly decade long uphill battle and the social stigma and pressure has delayed her entry back into the life she dreamt for herself.
In spite of having one the highest percentage of people with visual impairment in the world - India is woefully ill prepared with the requisite training, support, job opportunities, networks, infrastructure, accessibility to enable people to live a normal life - a life that most of us take for granted. There are systemic barriers to inclusion for people with disability, including lack of knowledge about visual impairment and outdated attitudes/perceptions amongst most people and potential employers.
Stigma around any form of disability means millions of Indians are hidden, have no voice, no power and no decision making authority. Other people decide for them, choose for them, what they can or cannot do, about their passions and abilities - they are robbed of their identity. The struggle is everyday, to compromise on what you believe you can do and the reality of what you are able to do. Ruchika has not given up her ambition to have a fulfilling career. Like she says, ‘In another life. I may have joined some tech firm after completing my engineering. I deserve an opportunity to have a career and a fulfilling life.’
Ever the optimist - she is dismayed by the lack of support from corporate India. Her attempt at employment in the behemoth that is the Indian tech Industry has been deeply demotivating and demoralising. - lack of response, zero engagement and an attempt to obfuscate on what disability actually means for the companies. She has a question for global and Indian tech companies - why talk about inclusion when you are not inclusive. And what use is technology innovation when it cannot enable her to live a better quality of life.
Every person deserves to be able to live life to their fullest potential - what can we do to make the world more inclusive for people who do not conform to what is considered the norm. I know Ruchika is brilliant, smart, intelligent, well read, ambitious - her visual impairment should not become a barrier to living the life she wants. And I am here ask - @Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Infosys, HCL, IBM, Dell, CISCO, TCS, Accenture, Wipro - what does inclusion mean to you?? It is time to show up and be counted - move beyond the tick-box.
“I am going to keep trying on every day to live the life which I wanted to and which I deserve to. And you know, I'm not my disability, I'm smart, intelligent, and capable”
Full disclosure - I know Ruchika since she was a child (she is a part of my extended family
Memorable passages from the episode:
👉🏾 Thank you. Thanks a lot for inviting me
👉🏾 Let me tell you about Ruchika. I was a very normal girl, who loved dancing, singing, styling, reading. And hailed from a tier 2 city of India. I also followed a very normal and very standard career path, as many youngster in India, choosing science as a mainstream and then opting for engineering. Everything was very normal until in final year of my engineering, my life took a sudden turn and I got diagnosed with, you know, CNS TB, Central Nervous System, Tuberculosis Meningitis in December 2012. I had to drop out of college and I was in treatment for several years and in the process I lost my...
72: Building a humane prisons in India: A case for reform: Prof Murali Karnam and Mr Somesh Goyal,
72: Building a humane prisons in India: A case for reform: Prof Murali Karnam and Mr Somesh Goyal: The core purpose of the partnership between The Purpose Room and The India Justice Report is about helping raise awareness and understanding of the Indian justice system and also getting ordinary citizens to understand, be aware and curious about the justice system. The aim of course is to discuss how the delivery of quality justice must be seen as a priority and become real in the lives of everyone.
In the first episode Maja Daruwala, Chief Editor of the India Justice Report, and a barrister from Lincolns Inn and Valay Singh, Project Lead of the @India Justice Report spoke about the purpose behind India's first ever ranking of states on their capacity to deliver justice and what that means
Episode two with Surya Prakash B S DAKSH a civil society organisation working on judicial reforms and Radhika Jha, a lead researcher for the Status of Policing in India Report series from Common Cause focused on on budgeting in the justice system, the availability of funds, underutilisation, prioritisation or lack of it, access to justice, the quality of justice and more…
The third episode focuses on the status of women in policing in India. My guests Meeran Chadha Borwankar and Devika Prasad spoke about the systemic issues that hold women back, and what actions can be taken to reach the target numbers.
In episode four Jacob Punnose ex-DGP and State Police Chief of Kerala and Jayanto Choudhury ex-DG NSG and ex-DGP Assam Police talk about the systemic issues that ail India policing - conditions of work; budgets; internal culture; accountability; public perception etc.
This week my guests Prof Murali karnam, a research scholar on Prison Reforms and Penology and Mr Somesh Goyal, Former dg Himachal Police and former Director General of (Prisons) speak about what can be done a) to make the administration of prisons stronger so that prisons are not places of violence and violation of rights b) what needs to be done to - to turn prison administration away from the warder-lockup-control-punishment mode to that of genuine reform and rehabilitation of prisoners.
Whether it is the UK or India it is important that all of us understand the contours of the system that governs us and not just for the sake of accountability!
Listen to this episode and catch up with previous episodes here👇🏾👇🏾👇🏾
71: Using gender sensitive communications as a tool to build an inclusive culture
71: Using gender sensitive communications as a tool to build an inclusive culture: The language we use often reflects the widely accepted socio-cultural values, norms, and beliefs that society holds, including roles men/women and non binary people play. For as long as we know language has been used to undermine people making them seem less competent, confident and places an expectations on what people can aspire too. The constant use of such language reinforces assumptions.
E.g. Assumptions that all members of a category (Director) share a gender or that all members of a gender share a characteristic (women prefer to look after children)
E.g. Using gendered pronouns/nouns when you don’t know the gender or using he/him/man as the default
However, language can also be used as powerful tool to help reshape culture and challenge stereotypes. In this episode of The Elephant in the Room podcast I spoke with Parijat Ghosh and Souparno Chatterjee from PRADAN on the journey and learnings from the past 10 months to building a more equitable and inclusive organisation.
I am super proud to have been invited by PRADAN to support the organisations in unravelling the layers and discovering who they are as an organisation and the gap that exists with who they aspire to be. In the last 10 months, I have run numerous workshops, listening exercises, audits, and had people share 100s of examples on how our culture, upbringing, the books we read, the movies we see, our lived experiences colour our usage of language.
We are nearly at the end of the discovery phase, the next phase will be about mindfulness, and putting all the learning into action - in how we use language to engage with our peer group, with teams, with people on the field, the communities we work with, donors, governments, in the manner in which we write our reports. The measure of success is not that everyone will suddenly be inclusive, but that most people are conscious of the impact of their words, are willing to learn and build an inclusive organisation.
And most importantly it is important to remember that language is not static, it changes and evolves every single day; like it has done since the start of spoken language many moons ago.
Want to know more about the why and what of the gender sensitive communications initiative at PRADAN - listen here 👇🏾👇🏾
70: A conversation on Gihan Hyde on ESG communications
70: A conversation on Gihan Hyde on ESG communications: It is phenomenal to meet with women who refuse to conform to stereotypes, are not averse to risks and are very confident of the space they occupy (or seek to occupy). As a Black, Arab, female founder of an ESG Consultancy Communique. Gihan A.M Hyde جيهان هايد wants to use her skills to work on what she is passionate about, challenging stereotypes is not why she does what she does.
Was it necessary or important to mention her race/ethnicity instead of just talking about her expertise? Yes it is…..because people from diverse backgrounds are still not recognised for their capabilities but are more likely to be rejected for what they look like or sound like.
It is widely recognised that ‘racism’ is an ESG problem but the bigger problem is that there is very little diversity amongst the ESG fraternity - the people who advise on ESG (Technical or communications). So, It is great to see Gihan carve out her own space as an ESG communications expert.
As an advocate for equity and inclusion I like to celebrate every win (big or small) so it was great to discover our alignment on things that matter to us and how we can contribute to making a difference. In the episode of The Elephant in the Room podcast we spoke about Gihan A.M Hyde جيهان هايد's journey to ESG, what the 'S' in ESG stands for, the importance of ESG for business, why stakeholders should ask for it, triple top line, social impact, skills for communicators and the people who inspire her.
#sdgs #ESG #esgreporting #inclusion #equityforall #TheElephantintheRoom
Engaging and useful
Extremely informative and interesting podcast around the area of diversity, inclusion, and improving the corporate world, a must listen for anyone who cares about these topics!!