On the occasion of Women’s Day, Medianews4u reached out to some successful women leaders from the world of advertising, broadcast, digital, brands, and the universe; to understand how they overcame stereotypes at the workplace.
Sunila Bahl’s Koolchas Co-Founder & Master Chef
“In this society of preconceived notions about women entrepreneurs, at the age of 68, I believe that age and gender have no barrier especially when you have the required skills and passion to present your talent to the world and all you need is a chance to portray the same. I believe in turning dreams into reality and working hard towards achieving goals that lead to the start of Koolchas. I want to inspire every woman regardless of age to believe in themselves and take a step forward towards achieving their dreams.”
Payel Basu, VP, Marketing, MoveInSync
Our society starts stereotyping women fairly early on in life. “Speak, but softly”, “Don’t be too pushy”, “Oh, you must like pink”. We need measures in place to invoke interest in STEM subjects right when girls are in school. Organizations must work closely with educational institutions to help young girls discover and nurture their love for a career in technology. At entry levels, most organizations have plastered their diversity numbers and they might look good. However, dig deeper and you see the dwindling number of women as you move up the ranks, finally leading onto a dismal representation in the broad rooms.
Challenging circumstances in balancing family and career goals lead to women quitting at the peak of their careers. While organizations need to design well thought through programs that enable a flexible, supportive environment for women leaders, the onus is also on women to pull each other up, to shout-out, support and mentor younger, promising women to stay on track. Fewer female tech leaders in the ecosystem lead to a lack of mentorship for women leaders, which is crucial when you are aiming for CXO roles. Institutions should also come up with structured programs for women on a break, to transition back into work. Be it re-skilling, up-skilling, alignment programs or just a support group to enable networking.”
Shoma Narayanan, Executive Director – Group Strategic Marketing & Communications, DBS Bank India
“DBS promotes gender diversity in multiple ways, right from our HR policies to our efforts around sustainability. In fact, the next episode of our web series, Sparks tells the true story of a DBS-supported Indian a social enterprise that works in the area of providing equal opportunities to women. Featuring Sachin Tendulkar and a team of DBS bankers, the episode introduces us to courageous women who step out and realize their dreams in spite of societal challenges.”
Monisha Ajgaonkar, Founder of The Photo Diary
“ Very few women are wedding photographers and leading their own wedding photography company. It wasn’t easy for me to get into space initially as clients weren’t very welcoming of who I am, the way I dressed and my personal choices. Being myself has just helped me build a stronger identity for myself. Knowing my strengths, valuing it and embracing them helped me build a portfolio of 500+ weddings. Knowing personal style, genres, I make sure that the client is comfortable with it. Get to know clients better, match their style and my creativity, helps me capture the best candid moments.
Memories made at weddings are passed on to generations, my approach is to capture pictures that are evergreen. I like projects that I’m scared and thrilled about, not letting challenges get the better of me, they help me get creative. With the attention to detail, my goal is to have top quality captures on every small+big element of every aspect, I love working on projects that are personal to me, that support and inspire the LGBTQ+ community, to be able to spread the word, encourage fearlessness, help people come out to family&friends, overcoming anxiety and irrational fear. “
Dr. Rita Bakshi, Senior Gynecologist & IVF Expert, International Fertility Centre
“Stereotypes are nothing but indelible imprints of preconceived notions by society. The stereotypes are often scooted and rooted in us from a very young age by our family. It is very essential for the people, especially parents to keep the children away from these predetermined concepts and let the child figure out what’s right and wrong. It is very essential that our society shoos away from their orthodoxical approach and accept things as they come.
Surrogacy, IVF and Infertility Treatments have always considered as something that people look down upon. People even in the 21st century, shy and don’t speak about their reproductive needs because there is still a lot of stigmas attached which needs to be done away with.”
Purvi Pugalia, Founder, SOCH Foods LLP
“When we talk about the concept of stereotypes it is something that is been existing since ages, which needs to be crushed. I believe in the concept of putting forth my strength in the best way possible be it my personal or professional life. As women, we need to set ourselves as an example in the industry to help and motivate other women who fear the risk that comes in their way. The concept of Women’s Leadership enables to grow in the industry and also helps to break the stereotypes. It is first necessary to be a strong individual so people view you first and not your gender. Women need to seek their real allies as gender doesn’t always predict the support one receives.”
Akanksha Chaturvedi: Founder & CEO, Eduauraa
“Although tech is a largely male-dominated sector, the idea of shattering stereotypes to encourage women all over India to pursue their passion motivates me to work hard every day. Social expectations still create barriers for young women across India, through Eduauraa I hope to empower women to pave their own educational and career paths.”
Aradhana Minawala, co-founder and partner, CAI
“Fortunately, I come from a family and a background where gender stereotypes are as good as negligible. However, in India today the need to break gender stereotypes is urgent. Speaking up, reacting and learning are a few ways to do so. A woman must have the confidence to move up in a male-dominated area cause if we are completely honest stereotypes will not disappear unless action is taken.”
Smiti Bhatt Deorah, COO & Co-founder of Advantage Club
“Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster journey, with its own ups and downs. In the end, success or failure boils down to idea identification and execution. As startups, we need to constantly experiment on new ideas and find innovations in existing ones. Building a diverse team and an open culture is synonymous with success.”
Nishtha Gupta, Co-Founder, Rein Games
“If no woman was told the stories of stereotypes that women would have to deal with, they might be better at dealing with it. Working hard, staying focused, and not wasting time on over-analysis is the best way to overcome various stereotypes. But then story-telling is unique to humans. Moreover, our behavior can also create stereotypes. However, if we are more aware then we can change/reduce the conditioning.
Indian entrepreneurs also face this one stereotype that we can’t innovate and our business ideas are often described as – “We are Netflix of Gaming” or “We are the next Amazon of India”. We are forced to believe the idea that we are not good at innovation, but we are extremely good at replicating. And these stereotypes can only be broken by not caving into them, by believing that the next big technology company can come from India.”
Manashi Kumar, Chief of Strategy and People Officer, BARC India
On pay disparity
Things have certainly changed for women in the last 10 years but this conversation needs to continue since it is still far off from being equal. The issue of pay parity does not exist just in the corporate world and is more of a societal issue. Unless this changes and we have more support towards this cause, we are still far away from bridging this gap.
Breaking the glass ceiling
The role of a woman today as she rises to the top can be amazing nonetheless exhausting. In the hustle to achieve her objective, the line between breaking the glass ceiling and breaking herself in the process is very thin. Having clarity of your life purpose and the relationships within it is extremely important to make the transformational change you aspire to eventually break the ceiling. Here Anand Mahindra’s tweet comes to mind, he writes of how women have to work much harder than their male counterparts in the same role to reach the same destination.