Helping Create a Level Playing Field

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Helping Create a Level Playing Field

When Gowri Advani, at an early stage in her life, decided to take up law as a career, she was also quite firm about fighting for women’s causes. She got this opportunity after joining Diageo India where she is now the Vice President and Senior Legal Counsel. Along with finding her own space in a highly male-dominated industry, she is now helping young women make a career in the alcoholic beverages and other industries.

Hailing from a family of doctors, it would have been but natural for Gowri Advani to tread on the same path. But she discovered her passion for law early on and thus became a first-generation lawyer in her family.

She moved to Pune to study, which gave her an opportunity to live independently and be responsible for herself, an experience which she thoroughly enjoyed. The move also taught her a valuable lesson of embracing inclusion and diversity as she interacted with friends and classmates from diverse backgrounds, diverse viewpoints and varied experiences, thereby fostering empathy and broadening her perspective. While working in a small law firm ingrained in her a strong work ethic and provided her a lifelong mentor. Later, a 1.5-year maternity break brought personal fulfilment for her but also anxiety about re-entering the workforce.

With unwavering support from family, Gowri successfully returned through a consulting opportunity with Diageo. Over 12 years, she has found that beyond its iconic brands, Diageo stands out for its valuable human connections. “Here I have developed some lasting friendships, done super challenging work, become a better professional and have had many occasions to celebrate with our iconic brands,” she says.

Taking her Own Stand


From her childhood, Gowri’s parents encouraged her to take her own decisions, be responsible for the choices she made and to not let failures be a dead end. Therefore, from early on, she has believed in the power of independent thinking and resilience. Her commitment to these individualist values has helped her create a life that she is proud of and it also serves as a reminder of the privilege that she is blessed with which she believes she should pay forward.

“Being a woman leader and a mother, I feel the responsibility to encourage and support other women to build independent thinking and not let failures or obstacles be a hindrance in creating a life of their choice,” is how she puts it. To this end, she mentors young colleagues and family members and leads the advocacy arm of the Spirited Women’s Network, an employee resource group at Diageo, which is a platform for women colleagues to voice their opinions and help guide them. Gowri also works with NGOs in her personal time to help empower girls to make their right choices and create a better life.

Finding her Space

Gowri has been lucky to have worked in teams which have had a significant women presence. However, as she admits, this is not the norm in India, especially in the legal and alcoholic beverage realms. Both these worlds are predominantly male-dominated and have had to make significant mindset shifts to recruit and retain women. The shift although has been slow but the needle has moved and needs to continue to move.

While the representation of women is increasing in the sector and companies are able to recruit more women, Gowri points out that “there is a need to make concerted efforts in retaining women employees and help them build enriching careers,” in the Indian alcobev space

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