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Pandemic effect will further diminish the female workforce: Sonali Bhattacharya

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.

In conversation with Adgully, Sonali Bhattacharya, Head of Marketing – Kids TV Network, Viacom18, speaks about the steps that need to be taken to create a conducive work environment in the post pandemic world.

How do you think the role and scope of women leaders has widened in the post-pandemic world?

Actually it’s been a completely unchartered territory for all – men and women. I would say for women leaders slightly more so, given that she is in the most “essential position” that often holds it all together when it comes to managing the home or the work space. Both these spaces continue to be even more unpredictable and ever changing now than what they were before the lockdown. Invariably it did boil down to the woman being on double duty. However, the post-pandemic scenario is going to come with its own set of new challenges, and the effect of the pandemic will further diminish the female workforce, which had already fallen in the pre-pandemic times. Like many organisations already are, including ours, some small steps will go a long way in enhancing the scope of the woman leader – an effort to encourage women to be open about “the pandemic gap year”, focus on the candidates’ skills and prior experience, understand the work & home life balance, provide flexible working hours, empathy leaves for child care and the like. This would definitely create a conducive work environment in the post pandemic world.

The rapid transition to digital, an uncertain economic landscape, charting unknown waters, working from home with no modes of the usual contacts. How have you been navigating during the COVID-19 times? What were the challenges that you faced and how did you tackle them?

Patience, the ability to adapt and being as prepared as one can be for the unknown every single day have helped me navigate this period. The challenges were that none of the usual modes of communication were available and one fine day, face-to-face interaction suddenly stopped. Mobilising the team and various stakeholders in a Work From Home environment was definitely not very easy in the beginning. The other challenge was that our brand Nickelodeon caters to the kids’ audience, which is an extremely dynamic demographic. They were one of the most severely affected age groups who were locked indoors and we did not have access to most of the traditional media marketing avenues that we used to connect with them – be it on ground activations, schools, experiential, etc. Hence, being extremely innovative with our marketing plans was the need of the hour. We pivoted our marketing plans overnight to be relevant in “the new normal” by being platform agnostic and adopting a robust multi-screen approach.

How challenging has it been for you to maintain a balance between managing the team & office work on the one hand and family responsibilities on the other as boundaries blurred while working from home? What is your mantra to maintain that balance?

It has certainly not been easy striking the perfect balance between the professional and the personal sphere. The lines have blurred. The mantra that has worked for me is to be flexible in my approach, being persistent towards my goals, taking each day as it comes and not forgetting the small happy moments and the humour in life!

Multiple studies have shown how women leaders performed better during the COVID-19 crisis. According to you, what makes women the best in crisis management?

Women are natural born multitaskers and have the inherent skill to douse the proverbial fire, be it in the home or the work set-up. Women navigate a crisis well because they are inherently calmer. Their sense of balance, sensitivity and emotional quotient hold them in good stead.

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

  • By breaking down a problem at hand and simplifying it in a logical and sensible manner… more often than not one can find solutions that work positively
  • Open minded towards new ideas and approaches, always experimenting
  • Managing time wisely and effectively and creating space to do and experience more
  • Showing complete trust in the team that they can achieve great milestones, that you have their back and are ready to guide them at every step of the way
  • Empathetic attitude brings out the best in people. In today’s environment more so than ever
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