This Women’s day Medianews4u.com is acknowledging some women leaders of the Media, Marketing, and Advertising fraternity who have given more than expected.
Presenting to you Women Leaders from across the spectrum, who share their experiences of breaking the gender stereotypes and how they continue to inspire many other women who are true leaders in the making.
Neena Dasgupta, CEO & Director at Zirca Digital Solutions
My life and my career so far have taught me many things for which I shall be eternally grateful. The top 2 of these life/career lessons are one, always look ahead, no matter how tough the current situation is and you shall find a solution or an opportunity to come out of that sticky situation and step into a better future. Second – Always be agile when responding to market needs and expectations. And I keep telling my teams the same thing. Once you
My only message to all women professionals and not just my women co-workers is “Value yourself and love yourself. Don’t let others tell you who you are, what you should do, and where you should be in life. Make your own choices and be courageous to live with any outcomes they bring.”
Females are not in any comparison lesser professionals than men. We are purely outnumbered. Zirca’s workforce is more than 40% women, we encourage women who are looking to come back after a career break. We constantly endeavor to incorporate gender and cultural diversity in the company.
Leena Lele Dutta, Business Head, Sony Pictures Networks India, Kids’ Genre
From the beginning of civilization till even modern-day, women have traditionally taken the stoic position of a caregiver, nurturer, homemaker, and many such ‘designations’ that one knows of. For me, it was always more than that.
My inspiration and my raison d’être – my mother, instilled all the attributes of what was traditionally expected from being a woman to following your own path and breaking the glass ceiling.
My journey of these 25 years in media has been nothing short of being inspirational and full filing. While I may have much left in me to pursue and break the shackles of a traditionally male-dominated industry, I have often wondered if there were any career opportunities lost that I had to sacrifice due to personal conflicts – and thankfully there were none. I have been extremely fortunate to charter my own journey that has been rewarding from all aspects.
I urge all women colleagues and co-workers to be confident of one-self, defend the privilege of being a woman and put yourself first before anyone else. It’s important that you create your own self-worth first because if you don’t hold yourself in high esteem, don’t blame the world for having a misplaced perspective of you.
Tarunjeet Rattan – Managing Partner, Nucleus PR
When I started out in the PR industry, in a short span of time I started to excel at it…that is provided I first sent an email and with the power of words was able to convince the other person. In hindsight, I now realise this could be because I was called Tarun or Tarunjeet or Tarunjeet Rattan and not the more conventional TarunjeetKaur giving away my gender.
As a child, I was a reader and grew up understanding that the world will not be fair to me till they are gender blind and work towards meritocracy. As a good girl who was told not to be too argumentative (unless it was a recipe) or debate (Except in competitions) or express my opinion ( unless it was on some frivolous topic) I wanted to find a way to start my rebellion. When filling the first official forms for my board exams I omitted the suffix – Kaur …much to the dismay of my parents. I could not understand why an institution, job or bank wanted to know my gender and not look at giving me admission based on my marks, qualifications or earning capability. How did my gender define it? It still stumps me. I wanted to encourage everyone to drop the prefix or suffix that defined their gender. I started with me.
Almost every phone call or meeting in my initial years (and it still happens today…) started with ‘ Oh! I thought you were a guy !’. It always opens up an interesting conversation that pushes people to answer questions that they normally wouldn’t. It gives me a chance to understand who I am really going to be working with … or not.
To all the women in the industry and beyond I encourage you to work towards making it a better place for all of us and the ones that come after us. We are here today because the ones before us paved the way. We owe it to them to continue the karma cycle. Pay it forward. You will be called difficult, bossy, PMS-ing, argumentative. Ignore it. Encourage as many women as you can to stand up for themselves and speak up. The more of us that join this tribe… the more difficult it will be for naysayers to ignore all of us. If you are in communication, use every opportunity you get with conversations, meetings, industry events, panels, articles, client campaigns to change the image of women in leadership and women in the industry. Question every brand on the reality of the communication campaigns they create for women’s day. YOU have that power.
While I was a rebel from the core…when I entered the industry, it was overwhelming. The work pressure and stress take over away any strength you might have had to fight that snide remark, chauvinist campaign, or unseemly look. You just want to get the work done. I owe it to the strong women I worked with as colleagues, mentors, and bosses who showed me how this is not something I can compromise about. In fact, I owe it to them for encouraging me to leverage the power I hold to voice these concerns, start new conversations and challenge the status quo. I encourage all women in my circle to start that fire within themselves. If I can provide the spark…then I would happily do so.
The workplace is temporary. But the learnings are forever. In the almost two decades that I have worked in the industry, I encouraged women working with me to find their path and be true to it. When you find your truth, you are empowered by it to speak up not just for yourself but everyone around you. As a company, we have a zero-tolerance towards gender discrimination, abuse, and harassment of any sort. We aim to provide a positive working environment for all our team members so that they can thrive. If you can’t handle that, counseling is provided. If you refuse to change then you are asked to ship out.
Sapna Desai, Head Marketing & Online sales (ManipalCigna Health Insurance Company Limited)
Be bold. Be brave. Be fearless. Authenticity will always win out!
While every day is an important day to celebrate women and champion inclusion, but all through the month of March, every year brings greater visibility around women’s history, achievements, and equality.
I have always believed that that gender diversity at all levels is important – as is an inclusive culture where everyone feels their unique perspectives and ideas are valued. This year’s International Women’s Day theme “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” is a reminder to all of us to be true to ourselves and to remember that it’s critically important to speak up and act with courage and confidence in all that we do. As American author and educator, Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all,” and “We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.”
The year 2020 has been a completely different environment for all of us. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted people from all walks of life and has been described as non-discriminatory. The virus can be carried by and transmitted to people of all countries, regions, ethnicities, cultures, religions, ages, races, belief systems, socioeconomic statuses, professions, and genders. Women, however, are being affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 in less obvious ways. For women, this has meant juggling multiple roles and often involves having to manage the pressures created by family, children’s homeschooling, and work-related stress.
But this pandemic, I think has also drawn the best in all of us. As a woman and a mother of two young daughters, I completely understand how stressful life’s many unpredictability’s can be for working women. The experience has also taught us the importance of Resilience and Agility. Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties; it’s the ability to spring back. This is a skill we need to instill in all of us regardless of gender. The second one ‘Agility’ – is the ability to quickly change directions with a purpose to reach the goal. So, personally, this pandemic has certainly taught me the importance of chasing my dreams, no matter what the circumstances are. And I continue to encourage my two daughters, friends, and fellow women team members to have their own goals and to remember that against all odds, their hard work and a positive attitude will help them scale new heights. If they set their minds to something, have a sense of purpose, and let it drive them, then nothing is impossible.
Being in a position of leadership myself, I believe in every organization and at every level, we have never needed inclusive leaders more than we do now. Leaders who connect with people on a radically human level. Who lead with their head and their heart. These are leaders who will influence and inspire change. They will bring teams together for a common purpose. They will listen to all voices and include everyone in the discussion.
So, I think one of the best ways to see more and more women in leadership positions, is first to unlock our individual potentials and second to support, celebrate and promote each other loudly. When you see another woman doing something inspiring with her business, share it. If you notice an opportunity that you think someone would be a great fit for a woman, pass it along. If you have two women in your network that you think should meet, make the introductions. As clichéd as it sounds, the power of women coming together is incredible. If you have an idea that you love, share it with a woman who can contribute and help you. Women working together will slowly change the narrative that business is all about competition, pure money-making, and no humanity. Building your business based on your energy, skills, and natural instincts for creation, sustainability, and life itself, is essential for building brands that truly matter and create value for all. If you share the same values with another female entrepreneur, reach out to her. A small Zoom call or a short meeting over a cup of coffee can change the course of everything for both you and her.
All in all, I’d say, follow your gifts, and do not allow yourself to be considered a number, a quota, or a statistic. In this country, we are blessed to have tremendous freedom and free will to become the human being that you are – regardless of gender.
Poonam Nikam, Global Communications Manager, ByteDance
I began my journey in an advertising agency 17 years ago. After my post-graduation in Communication from Xavier’s Mumbai, working for an advertising agency was close to doing the best thing. Until I was asked to be next to the xerox machine 7 hours of the 12 hours I would put in. At the same time, I saw Public Relations as a vertical brewing and knew a few of my close friends exploring the field. I too decided to give it a shot and now, 17 years 35 days, and a few hours in, I think it has been the best decision ever! The agency life was my learning ground, it taught me the basics and I was trained under the best leadership. I yet have a few from my agency as my closest and go-to buddies advising me at every step. Moving to corporate was sure, not easy, the onus shifted from delivering stories to building a brand narrative. I learned on the job and throughout my corporate tenure, and even now, have always be given the carte blanche – allowing me to learn and unlearn!
Being from an army background it sometimes feels so innate, so natural to me that I find inspiration in many places and spaces. I truly believe that everyday things inspire me. From waking up to my son’s energetic screams, husband’s financial updates, friends’ surprise hug emojis, father’s news updates to looking through the daily work calendar, video calls and so much more. I think the pandemic has made me realize to not take everyday things for granted, I am sure I speak for a lot of us! I’m also inspired by all the people who take risk – witnessing people go for something new, doing something that could lead to failure; these get my heart and creativity pumping.
I have also started to understand that one’s line of work also has something to do with inspiration. Along my way, I have met so many colleagues; journalists who have made me look at things differently. And above all, the surest way to inspire me would be the word ‘cannot’ as that instantly gets me into action J,” To ensure the ‘impossible becomes possible and to tackle a problem and never give up, no matter how challenging.
I am equally inspired when I hear other people’s stories of creating the possible from the impossible when someone has overcome the odds, worked hard, focused, been relentless in achieving their dreams – I feel unbelievably inspired and uplifted. Closest to home and the most recent example I see this is in Miss India runner-up Manya Singh, who fought all odds to achieve her dreams. Big kudos to her!
We cannot choose when we feel inspired; neither should we leave it to chance. Inspiration has the ability to drive us forward over the course of our lives. By choosing to be positive about life and embrace possibilities, we can create the fertile conditions in our minds that promise to make our experience of inspiration more frequent.
Barack Obama “I am absolutely confident that for two years if every nation on Earth was run by women, you would see an improvement across the board on just about everything – living standards and outcomes.”
While women are slowly gaining traction in the workplace, women can only do so much to promote themselves; organizations and their leaders must step in and begin eliminating bias while supporting and empowering female employees.
A few steps organization and leaders can take: Gender Diversity should be a Priority – if leaders accept this is a critical issue that needs to be addressed, the rest of the organization is likely to follow in the footsteps and begin to correct this issue. Also, establish goals for improving gender diversity.
Diversity in top Management – Having talented women in leadership can help foster and grow aspirations for those just coming into the workforce or those looking to move up the ladder. Encourage women to pursue opportunities at every level.
Champion Success – Instead of just communicating action items or criticism, praise your female team members when it is deserved as well. Celebrate their strengths and accomplishments.
Close the Pay Gap – Women are often seen as caregivers, and the gap in pay becomes even more noticeable if a woman becomes a mother.
A simple thought I would like to leave you with… “Everything you can imagine is real.”― Pablo Picasso…
Don’t stop imagining!
Tripti Gusain, Account Director, Ruder Finn
When I joined the world of communications about 11 years ago, I started off like we all do. Young, passionate, and ready to take on the world. Being the third employee at Ruder Finn Delhi, I was given the task of almost everything – thrown into the deep end, expected to wear multiple hats – like all us women usually have to do in our personal and professional lives!
During the course of my professional life, I have met and worked with women leaders across the board and globe. And as a woman, I know what kind of obstacles we face in our day-to-day lives. So my natural instinct is to always empower women in my team. This is imperative in the workplace – whether it’s by giving them the opportunity to apply to any position, giving them the freedom to hone new skills, or even take on powerful leadership roles. From hiring to mentorship, there are myriad ways to support women at the workplace, and personally, I make sure that all my colleagues are welcomed, included, and supported (irrespective of gender). When they feel empowered, they are likely to have stronger job performance, job satisfaction, and commitment to the organization. Often women aren’t taken as seriously at work and I want to change that. This perception that women are the “second gender” so to speak – is a perception we collectively have to fight against.
This year has already moved me when I saw Whitney Wolfe Herd from Bumble taking her company public with a baby in her hand. That message was strong and clear. Women have the power to do everything they want. That picture that went viral changed something in me and I want all the women in the world to feel the same way. Empowered, independent, free.
On this note, let’s all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality and support equality and freedom. We need to celebrate women’s accomplishments and together we can create a change and make the world that’s inclusive and break those glass ceilings. Mind you, they’re utterly breakable!
Ambika Sharma, Founder & MD, Pulp Strategy
Fear is temporary. The regret is permanent. That is a nutshell is everything that I have leaned on for inspiration or for motivation. As a science student who went on to study Shakespeare, a software developer who studied advertising, a lifelong love story with communication and its strategic arts. I grew up in small towns in India, a fauji brat I lived where my father an Army officer and aviator was posted, went to a mix of schools, and traveled the country. Enjoy the outdoors and love adventure sports, which led me to be an advance open water diver, a sport I share with my husband, and motorcycling which is a passion I share with my father. Professionally I am passionate about marketing and I spent all my career in advertising. Currently on my most thrilling journey yet as a strategist turned entrepreneur.
For women professionals I would say, “Never apologize for being you. Work on being the best version of you at all times, do what makes you proud of you, others will follow”. I also believe that women today do not need inspiration but need focused self-goals uncluttered by social conditioning or someone else’s version of them. Work hard, really hard, and surround your selves with people who are self-driven and success-focused. If your goals for yourself are high enough you will not need any external motivation. Pulp Strategy is a diversity-certified workplace with 43% women. It is our goal to reach 50% with the right professional talent mix. I believe that talent should be the focus and there should be equal opportunity in spirit and letter. I encourage colleagues and co-workers to take charge of their own narratives and focus on being the best professional version of themselves.
Soumini Sridhara Paul, Senior Vice President, Hungama Artist Aloud
I was born in Chennai but after living in Tarapur, Maharashtra for the first seven years of my life, my family and I moved to Mumbai. I come from a family of 4 siblings that include 2 brothers and a sister who are all older to me. While I was never pampered, I did have a voice and was always heard both when I sang as well spoke when I was with family. However, when I was in school, I was an introvert and didn’t have much faith in myself. The only time I received any positive attention was when I sang in the school choir or when I played in the sports team for my school in the 10th Grade. As I went into college, music continued to be a constant friend and companion.
Although I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Science with Statistics, music turned out to be a permanent fixture in my life. That became obvious to me in 1994 when I met a job consultant who introduced me to a Fashion Choreographer with whom I started doing shows along with other performers. Performing for shows across the country gave me the confidence of interacting with people which led me to sign a contract as an Indi Pop artist with a record label. However, fate had some other plans for me and my singing career came to a halt almost 4 years after it began. I was left stranded with nowhere to go and no experience to take up a job.
It was by sheer chance and luck that I sent out my resume to Universal Music and they called me in for an interview. I joined them as a Media Executive and within two months got offered a job in Channel [v] where I worked for almost 5 years. Post by Channel [v] stint, I took a break for 6 years from a regular job and focused on making a family. However, the drive-in me to do something and get back into the music industry did not die and so I continued representing talent and managing them as a consultant and the moment I could get back into the scene full time, I was lucky enough to find work with Gajendra Singh who gave me the opportunity to work on television shows and gain experience as an executive producer.
However short-lived that experience was, it left a burning desire in my heart to build something that would help talent and give them an opportunity to freely express their creativity and that is how Artist Aloud was born with Hungama Digital Media, the company that shared my vision and gave me a chance to give flight to my dreams.
As a woman, I have never faced any discrimination at home or outside and I believe that is only for two reasons:
- One – I have never compared myself and my status with anyone else
- Two – I have never stopped learning, applying or feared the chance of being heard
I was not such a confident person when I was in school, pursuing a career as a singer or just a working professional. I became confident after I became a mother. After having a sabbatical for 6 years, when I got back to work, I was able to handle work and home only for two reasons – I would never let work pile up and this I would do so by ensuring I would respond to things on time and even when I was at home, I would multitask to ensure that nothing is left undone. It does only when you get things done you realise that it can be done. Most of the time work piles up due to the fear of doing it or thinking about the time it will take to get it done.
My aim has been to empower any gender at my workplace because I think, at a senior position; you need to be gender unbiased. However, I believe that whether you are a woman or a man, your work should define you and allow you to grow. There is no reason for anyone to highlight one’s gender if the work is getting done. I have always ensured I understand the situation that a woman colleague may be going through and try my best to empathize. However, I do not excuse using gender to justify the lack of performance. Everything is manageable if you put your heart to it. One thing that I always tell my colleagues is that if I can do it, so can you.
Vaishali Sarwankar CEO & Director, Carnival Motion Pictures
VaishaliSarwankar comes with over two decades of a wide range of experience in various business fields. Her well-established network with stakeholders and technical know-how of the business has laid the foundation of her entrepreneurial spirit and success. After a long career stint in Singapore, Vaishali moved to India in 2019, and in her current capacity, she is spearheading Carnival Motion Pictures as CEO & Founder Director. An alumnus of NMIMS, Ms.VaishaliSarwankar has spent her majority career in international commodity trading and trade finance in the overseas markets.
Due to my background in trading, I have always been great with numbers. I firmly believe that planning is the key to success for every organization. I spent the last one-year redesigning Carnival Motion Pictures business model, hiring young talent to roll out some exciting projects in India and globally. I can say with great pride, I bring the numbers game into a very entertaining industry. I have been associated with the Carnival group for a long time now; I handled the distribution and worked on a new format for the APAC market, as well. People feel it’s quite strange jumping from trade to the entertainment industry, but trust me when I say this, every industry deals with numbers and I am A-game at it. I am a big movies buff and I don’t think I’ve missed any Bollywood movie! I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to experience the magic of making movies.
Women around the world have paved the way for an inspiring style of leadership that is confident, authentic, and highly effective. It is evident that the countries led by women leaders seem to have been particularly successful in fighting the Coronavirus.
I feel one doesn’t need to compete with anybody neither a man nor a woman. Nobody should be treated as a threat. One needs to be the best version of them. Your success and your journey are all about how much effort you are able to put into achieving your dreams. Life is not a race but a journey that sometimes may not be fair. So, the only way to overcome challenges is to keep working hard, without worrying about rewards. I have built a wonderful and dependable team of some bright young women and men at Carnival Motion Pictures in the last year. I believe, it is imperative to maintain a healthy work-life balance. For me weekends are sacred, where I spent time with my family, explore my culinary skills, read and write concepts, and of course watch films. I have instilled the same in my team and we do not disturb each other over calls or emails unless it’s an emergency. I would just like all my co-workers to know that according to me, patience and hard work and the two virtues that can lead you to fulfill all your dreams.
For me, all employees are superheroes! We do not need to specifically empower only women. Yes, but to say, women don’t need an opportunity to manage any situation, they are on their toes 24X7. Women are not here to gain power rather they are the power! Multitasking is the most important quality of a leader and women are inherently blessed with it. Additionally, communication across all levels and departments is essential for a company’s growth and for the well-being of the employees. I enjoy spending time with my team members and listening to them. People open up more when conversations are more informal and probably outside the cabin. For me, a leader’s success is gauged by not the awards one wins in a year but how you overcome challenges or difficult situations together as a team.
Arneeta Vasudeva, National Head, PR & Influence, Ogilvy India
There’s never a dull moment! several challenges came my way, in personal and professional growth, like it is for most of us, isn’t it? That is normal for anyone who gets to evolve in their space. It does take a lot of grit and positivity to fight it all, but that’s my outlook from the very start. ‘Never say die’. Cause, every failure means a huge leap forward, so there’s no looking back, but looking on the back of it to say, here is the opportunity!
Career-wise, some of my best learnings came along as I transitioned from corporate to the agency world. I loved every bit of what I did in my early days, especially, movie marketing at Warner Bros. Pictures. It prepared me well to think 360, and the integrated way. In my current role, it’s a very important aspect for me to see how Public Relations &Influence, should complement and collaborate with all our other marketing functions. Integration is a very dynamic process and according to me, there’s no conclusive, set view on how it should work. But what it does, is to keep you thinking of what more can be done to maximize, for brands and products. That’s where I am today, looking to build more value, and contribute towards maximum growth. I am a thinker and a doer…trying my best to get more creative. It is the Ogilvy influence for sure, and am loving it! J
I’m driven by outcomes. There’s a lot more to do and achieve I believe. What inspires me to keep the appetite growing is the free-spirited culture of Ogilvy, its underlined prowess in creativity, and our stalwarts and our people.
In my view, the best source of motivation is ‘YOU’. But if you are waiting for someone else to drive you, you will never be able to realize your full potential. This is true for men and women, equally. Or at least I think so.
It’s all in the head. We can be as empowered as we want to be. It is very important to have a point of view and belief in what we do. Again, as true for men, as it is for women.