If you’ve read out earlier feature which covered the top 10 Indian businesswomen last year, then you’ll find this post to be more of an extension of the same. What are the qualities that what have gotten Indian women to the top spots of India Inc? Is it just about having a tough facade, compromising on family or having IIM/IIT degrees that allow them to skyrocket? No, there’s much more to that. Let’s find out.
Accepting that you will not be a star at work and at home
It’s only natural for women to not be able to give their 100 percent at their households and their workplace. If there’s an important board meeting the next day for which you have to prepare through the night, you simply can’t juggle entertaining your husband’s family for dinner simultaneously, for instance. As Business Today reports, Naina Lal Kidwai, HSBC’s India Head believes that this attitude is missing in urban women who still attempt to do-it- all. It’s okay to set up an alternative support system, ask for help and start by admitting that you can’t handle both equally if not less or more. That way, Indian women at work can start setting their priorities easily. These top Indian businesswomen affirm this quality:
"Shared responsibilities are the only way more women will pursue careers."
– Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairman and Managing Director, Biocon [Source]
“It’s better to spend quality time with your child, than spend the day after work cooking.”
– Renu Sud Karnad, Joint Managing Director and Member of the Board of HDFC Ltd[Source]
Not to accept or ask for any pity as a woman
Bunking work on the day of an important presentation in order to attend your child’s first annual day is probably not an option for women who want to climb that corporate rung. Although paid maternity leave / arrangements are arriving in India slowly, corporates don’t allow for extra time or a loose hand being given to employees just because they are female. Take for example, ICICI. Quoted in a Business Today report, K. Ramkumar, Head of HR at ICICI Bank says
"We do nothing. There is no chivalry, no kid gloves, there are no affirmative action committees. Your system has to be a pure meritocracy. No woman can play the woman card’.
Be on the top of your game
"My passion lies in the pursuit of excellence – can I do it very well, better than others?"
– Chanda Kochhar, Managing Director and CEO of ICICI Bank [Source]
This lady who can also ‘command an army’, as Business Today reports, is a perfect example of what focus and excellence are all about. As the CEO of ICICI Bank, each second of her day is scheduled for and planned, including the time taken by the elevator to reach her floor. K V Kamath recalls that when he newly hired Kochhar, she achieved her annual target in the very first quarter.
On the other hand Mallika Srinivasan, Tractors and Farm Equipment CEO recalls that whilst she was studying for her MBA from Wharton, she used to have her young daughter in tow, and would study in the laundry room because the hum of the washing machines helped her to concentrate.
Anjali Bansal, Managing Director, Spencer Stuart India, thinks that women who are poised to be successful have a killer work ethic and according to Shailja Dutt, MD, Stellar Search, "Letting anything slip is not an option", as reported by BT. These examples only point towards the fact that being a master of your expertise/area is a critical quality to have.
Don’t expect to please everyone
One quality that most top women in the Indian corporate space acknowledge is that woman needs to lose their nurturing side of obliging to keep everyone happy. You’ve got to be hard as nails and be ready to the extent of making some enemies in the workplace. For one, women in corporate India still face the wrath and envy of many men if they are climbing the ladder too quickly and secondly, trying to subvert the stereotype of being soft and submissive may tend to make female employees extra aggressive and hence piss people off.
Don’t give up easily
Most women in the corporate space give up when they have their first child in the age group of 25 to 35. The overwhelming workload combined with unsupportive families becomes a quick and easy reason for them to lose their cool and call it quits. But most of the top women you see in the Indian corporate space today are married, have children and yet have survived this tumultuous phase in their lives. The best way to deal with this is to think about where you will be in the next 5 years. Your responsibilities for your children would have decreased and you would be 5 years richer of work experience and perhaps a senior position. Would you want to let all of this go because of a hasty decision?
Vinita Bali, MD, Britannia has the last fair word:
"I think this gender thing is a bit overplayed. Ultimately, it is competence, skills, attitude and ability to lead that matter."