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Gender biases don’t let women reach the boardrooms: Shradha Singh

We, at Adgully, have always saluted and honoured women managers and leaders across diverse fields. Last year, we launched our unique and distinct program, called WOMEN DISRUPTORS, which drew a lot of attention and was highly appreciated by the industry. W-Suite is a special initiative from Adgully that has been turning the spotlight on some of the most remarkable women achievers in M&E, Advertising & Marketing, PR & Communication industry. In the refurbished series, we will find out how women leaders have been managing their teams and work as well as how they have been navigating through the toughest and most challenging times brought about by the global pandemic.

Shradha Singh, National Programming Head, 104.8 ISHQ FM, doesn’t believe in mincing words when it comes to turning the spotlight on the deep-rooted biases that women still continue to face in the work place.

How would you define today’s woman leader?

Women are leading all aspects of a society transformed by this global pandemic. Empathy is our natural attribute and it should not be mistaken with being emotionally fragile. Empathy is strength and empathy in leadership is essential. It is the ability to understand another person’s experience, perspective and Feelings. You need empathy in everything – right from understanding and emotionally guiding your team to sales and negotiations in business. You need to change your ‘power’ to influence. I would choose to be a transformational leader and lead by inspiring others.

What are the foremost attributes that women leaders in today’s business ecosystem must possess?

As a woman Leader, I advocate for Creative Leadership. Creative Leadership is a philosophy and an act based upon the concept of working cooperatively to develop innovative ideas. I always believe that my workplace is like a Lego Land and all of us have different forms and shapes and can come together to create impromptu magical structures. You just need to give a room full of opportunity, experiments and playfulness. As a leader, you need to create conditions which promote creativity. Unleash the potential of your people.

Despite the qualifications, aptitude and experience, why do you think we don’t see the expected number of women business leaders, especially when it comes to boardroom decision-making?

Why we don’t have Gender Diverse Boards? Biases and gender skews don’t let women reach the boardrooms. Random and illogical perceptions like women are not good at decision making, women’s first priority is always her home, women are not tough negotiators, women are emotionally fragile, are road blocks for women and blah, blah... Hello! There is no dearth of qualified women to enter the boardroom. Only there is no demand for them. History has been cruel to make a judgement of a woman – be it the bedroom or a Boardroom! Mindsets of individuals need to change. That’s the first step.

What more do Indian corporates need to do to encourage and groom women leaders?

Greater Diversity at the top sets a tone of inclusiveness that permeates the business. Organisations should focus on ‘middle management’ level, where women can stall in their careers. Research suggests that providing women with elevated responsibilities and the opportunity to manage high value assignments may actually be the greatest predictor of success.

According to you, what are the Do’s and Don’ts for today’s women to break through the glass ceiling?

Marilyn Loden coined the phrase ‘Glass ceiling’ almost 40 years ago, but says it is still relevant as ever. Biases like ‘Men are Born Leaders’ still exist. There are no Do’s and Don’ts actually. My only word is that women need to realise their potentials and never undermine or let organisations undermine for them. Melinda Gates says, “A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult.” So, be the voice and be the change.

How acute is the gender pay gap issue in India today? What needs to be done to address this in an effective manner?

‘Man is the main Bread Earner’ – Oh Lord! We still swear by this in our society. It is not an easy breezy task to find these patriarchal deep embedded ‘khayals’. Organisations need to review policies and women need to be vocal about it.

What are the five most effective lessons that you have learned as a woman leader?

I was a Radio Host and I was shifted from Evening drive time to a Mid-Morning show after I became a mother. I decided to quit the organisation. You don’t change as a voice or personality if you become a mother. I could not fathom the fact that I was shifted to a slot for homemakers from a slot for Office goers. I am sure they would have not done this to a Male RJ.

Once I got into a leadership position, I made sure that I will never let these biases come in.

How challenging has it been for you to maintain a balance between career goals and family responsibilities? What is your mantra to maintain that balance?

One day, I realised that I have not seen sunsets for more than 100 days. I wondered where life was heading to. I paused, took a sabbatical. My organisation was supportive. I indulged in sunsets for three months. Rebooted my creative energies, grew my balcony garden, helped my daughter with her homework and came back to work with new energy.

My mantra is to Work Hard – Pause – Reflect – Reboot – Work Harder.

How prevalent are the instances of Sexual Harassment in workplaces in India? What should the industry collectively do to tackle such a serious issue?

Casual Sexism is very common. We work in media and the work environment is casual. We need to be very sure that people know the thin line between humour and harassment. Awareness is needed for men and women in the team. Providing a safe space is our responsibility. So, more awareness about sexual harassment and giving women a safe space is very important.

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