The W-Suite | A wide gender pay gap does exist in India: Sherina Kapany

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. 

Sherina Kapany, Founder sunSTRATEGIC, is a true entrepreneur at heart, a seasoned business development executive, with international experience in establishing market penetration strategies in B2B and consumer marketing environments for Fortune 500 and 1000 and Global 2000 companies and the private sector. 

Kapany has generated over 40 per cent returns for individual clients, managed over $20 million in revenues, and has led international teams of more than 128 people at a time. 

She left India when she was 17. Studied and worked in the US for 13 years in technology and marketing. She worked with various clients across the US, Australia and Europe. She decided to come back to India because she did not believe that getting a green card and settling in a high paying job was the end goal of her existence. The US was a place for her to become an adult. 

How would you define today’s woman leader? 
She is fierce, passionate, determined, focused and a go-getter. She learns and grows from her failures. She takes the risk of going against the societal norms to seize the opportunities and achieve her goals. She is the powerful leader who needs to be preserved. We need more men who can appreciate her.  

What are the foremost attributes that women leaders in today’s business ecosystem must possess? 
We still have a long way to go to fill in the gender gap. It is because we still constantly need to prove ourselves compared to our male counterparts. No matter how well we do, there will still be a few judgments thrown at us. So, in order to survive as a leader in the male-centric business ecosystem, we need to work through our natural trait of adaptability. We need to adapt to every situation thrown our way and wield them to our advantage. Have perseverance and strength to deal with all the challenges. Be gritty to successfully achieve our long-term goals. Be focused, empathetic and always keep our passion intact. Let no one define you except your work.  

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? 
I think this is changing. A slow, but definite change. We need to encourage and form a pathway for more women to join the field of corporate and train them to become the best leaders. As for the ones who are already a part of the corporate world, they are the core element of decision-making. I can very proudly boast of my women-management team that is running a successful business and making important decisions for my business.  

What more do Indian corporates need to do to encourage and groom women leaders? 
First of all, they need to understand that ignoring every woman talent that comes their way will not be blissful for their company. Start hiring people based on their skills and talents. And if your company lacks in the percentage of women employees, then hire more of them to eliminate the gender disparity. One of the major objectives of every company should be to become a gender diverse organisation.  

Build a team of passionate and skillful women and train them from an early stage. Give them opportunities to grow by giving them key projects to handle and give them exposure to the industrial world.  

Empathise with the needs of your female employees. Be flexible to the needs of all your employees and have a more empathetic approach towards them.  

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

Do’s

  • Be optimistic. Not just for yourself, but for the morale of your team as well.
  • Have a clear set of your vision. 
  • Seize every opportunity that comes your way
  • Always keep your doors open for your employees
  • Always be aware of your strengths and weaknesses

Don’ts

  • Don’t ever give up. 
  • Don’t let anyone else define you and your success
  • Never hesitate from taking a risk
  • Don’t dwell on the mistakes. Get past it.
  • Don’t just talk. Listen

How acute is the gender pay gap issue in India today? What needs to be done to address this in an effective manner? 
A wide gender pay gap does exist in India. Compared to previous years, it has definitely narrowed down, but the difference is still big. Pick any industry of your choice, you will find pay gap. Even the highest paid actress in our nation earns way less than the highest paid actor. Now you can imagine the pay gap issue at the business level.  

In order to bridge this gap, it is very important to teach our ladies to negotiate for a better pay. They should not be selling themselves short. She deserves a lot more and they need to demand it with authority.  

We need more people to understand that work pay should not be a matter of gender. It should purely be based on the skill and capability an individual brings on the table.  

Do you think the leadership effectiveness of women is higher than men? Why? 
I honestly don’t think that leadership effectiveness has anything to do with gender. We can either have a good leader or a bad leader, regardless of their gender. Every individual becomes a leader based on their skills, capability, and the knack for leadership. When you become a leader, you are your only challenge. No need to compare your effectiveness with others. Be confident and happy in the space you have and make the best out of it. 

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

  • Always keep your head help up high.
  • You will be judged for your decisions based on your gender, but you need to prove them wrong.
  • Be fierce for what you want. If you don’t see any professional growth somewhere. Leave. Move on from there. 
  • As a woman do support the business of other women. Bloom together.
  • Let your work do the talking. 

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? 
Well, I don’t think I faced any problem in this arena. My family is very much a part of my profession and my employees are my family as well. I am thankful to all of them for their steadfast support. They keep me balanced and sorted. 

How proactive have our corporates been when it comes to addressing a serious issue like sexual harassment at workplace
I haven’t had a case of sexual harassment at my workplace. The respect quotient is just too high within the team for each other. In future, if I face any such issue, immediate actions will be taken. No looking back from it. You can’t be a part of my team if you can’t respect your co-workers. 

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