The W Suite | ‘Indian corporates need to become more sensitive to women’
Diversity in the workforce has become a necessity today, and more so in the leadership positions. It can’t be denied that women bring a high level of creativity and empathy while solving problems and handling crises. Women leaders bring to the table a different level of dexterity.
AdGully’s ‘The W-Suite’ series features interactions with influential women leaders in India, who share some deep insights on what being a woman leader means in India’s business landscape, the mantras to succeed, achieving work-life balance, pay parity and much more.
Ranjita Sehgal is the Business Head of CNBCTV18.com, the newly launched digital platform by Network18, India’s largest news network. At cnbctv18.com, she leads a team that is powered by experts to build a strong business with prudent relationships. Her role includes devising brand strategies, revenue generation and new business development.
Previously, she headed the Agency Relationship at Network18 and was the VP - Sales for moneycontrol.com. She has 20 years of experience in digital media and mobile experience, and has worked with top publishers like BCCL, Rediff, Yahoo and Sify in leading the Business Revenues.
At a time when the digital ecosystem is constantly evolving, Sehgal strives to reinvent CNBC-TV18 in a new avatar for the digital era by leveraging the brand to create compelling content for the digital consumers.
How would you define today’s woman leader?
Women have always been known to rise up to the challenge and face whatever situation comes their way. That in many ways tells us that they’re more than capable of leading from the front should an opportunity arise. With women being people-oriented and backed with a tendency to be sympathetic, adaptive, co-operative and possessing the capacity to operate in different directions, corporate today are looking for exactly these qualities in who they choose to employ and offer them a platform to lead; and this very well defines our women leaders across sectors.
What are the foremost attributes that women leaders in today’s business ecosystem must possess?
Personally, I don’t think there is much of a difference between the expectations from a male or a female corporate leader. At the end of the day, in this competitive world, regardless of the gender, we have to be creative and innovative to excel in the industry. In this fast-paced environment, it comes down to strong decision making skills, strategic thinking and crisis management skills. At the same time, the digital boom calls for excellent communication skills to effectively reach out to the target audience and to successfully lead the business.
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?
With the evolving socio-economic structure, women today are combating challenges and acing in their respective spheres. However, it cannot be denied that in our country today, a lot of domestic responsibilities are still ascribed to women; while the thought of equal domestic roles is catching on, there is still a long way to go. At the same time, with companies and businesses looking at renewing policies for women pertaining to maternity leaves and focusing on work-place safety among other issues, as well as with extended support from families, significant changes have been witnessed in the metros, over the years. The comprehensive evolution is the reason why, at one point in time, the three biggest banks in the country were led by women.
What more do Indian corporates need to do to encourage and groom women leaders?
To begin with, Indian corporates need to become more sensitive to women and truly grasp the potential of what we as leaders bring to the table. It cannot be denied that things are definitely moving, albeit at a slow pace, but change can be witnessed. Today, large companies have day-care for kids to aid single-parents as well as mothers. As mentioned earlier, extension of maternity leaves are being considered, as well as post-maternity care, emergency and basic medical care is being made available of work-place premises amongst other necessary additions being made to the set-up. I wish to see more and more companies stepping forward to adopt practices that make places more safe and comfortable for everybody, including women.
How acute is the gender pay gap issue in India today? What needs to be done to address this in an effective manner?
Fortunately, I haven’t had to face the issue in my career, but that isn’t to say that it doesn’t exist. There are industries where the issue is very relevant and employers and employees alike need to come together to bring about a change.
Do you think the leadership effectiveness of women is higher than men? Why?
I think the effectiveness of a leader is not dependent on their gender. A good leader is one regardless of whether it’s a man or a woman. It is as unfair to say that women are better leaders than men as it is to say the opposite; any leader moving forward with the intention to effectively, honestly and dedicatedly serve in their role will bring definitely bring immense value to their companies.
What are the five most effective lessons that you have learned as a woman leader?
In my experience, the most important lesson that I have learnt is about people. It is after all the people that make the company. It starts with hiring the right people, grooming them accordingly, looking after their needs, providing them with the right training for their enrichment and enabling them to move up the ladder to success. The process empowers them resulting in highly capable leaders being born, who charge towards the goals.
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?
As mentioned earlier, even today the load of domestic work comes down to the women in the family. So yes, it is extremely challenging when there isn’t equal partnership in domestic work and women alone are expected to take care of the house while also fulfilling their professional duties. To add to that, Mumbai is an unforgiving city when it comes to commuting, but I also believe that it empowers women like no other city in the country. Since in today’s day and age there is extended support from family members and partners assisting with household chores, the scenario is changing. A huge part of my own success can be attributed to my family’s support and practicing yoga, which enables me to better deal with challenges at hand.
How proactive have our corporates been when it comes to addressing a serious issue like sexual harassment at workplace?
With the efforts of the government and better laws, I certainly think the situation has improved. There is more awareness and people have finally started to recognise what truly constitutes as sexual harassment at workplace. Of course, there is still a long battle in terms of a change in the mindset of both men and women to tackle the seriousness of the situation. Women need to recognise the importance of raising their voices against the perpetrators. People need to become more cognizant about the laws, they need to understand how to handle such situations and strike back against it under the purview of the law.