The W-Suite | Effectiveness has nothing to do with gender: Anita Nayyar

With a rapidly evolving business and economic landscape there is a dire requirement of fresh thinking, new skill sets, greater flexibility & adaptability, more collaboration as well as the ability to think on one’s feet.

Gone are the days when the thinking was more on the lines of ‘get a man to do this job’. 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.

And yet, the perception about the ability of women leaders to get things done remain not too encouraging. Women continue to be scrutinised as much for style as for substance. Hence, a hundred per cent gender equality in leadership positions is yet to be achieved.

But there are way too many trend-setters and convention-breakers. And we don’t have to look far, as there are several inspiring women leaders in the Indian advertising and media industry, who have achieved much and paved the way for many to follow.

AdGully proudly presents ‘The W-Suite’ (taken from the C-Suite), our feature series wherein we will be featuring 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. The initial plan was to have one comprehensive report, however, the response has been so overwhelming that we have decided to create a series out of this, wherein we will feature one woman leader at a time over the next few weeks.

As CEO, India & South Asia at Havas Media, Anita Nayyar has led the agency to grow exponentially in India. Under her leadership since 2006, Havas Media has expanded its offerings as an integrated communications group for traditional, digital, mobile, performance marketing, out-of-home and sports.

A qualified microbiologist, Nayyar, has been an integral part of the growth of media planning and buying in India. Her area of expertise spans diverse fields such as sports, entertainment, digital and OOH.

Nayyar has close to 30 years of rich experience in spearheading critical positions at leading agencies in India, including Saatchi & Saatchi, Ogilvy & Mather, Initiative Media, MediaCom and Starcom Worldwide.

Adgully: What defines a woman leader in today’s ecosystem?
Anita Nayyar:
A woman who leads by breaking stereotypes is a leader in today’s ecosystem.

Adgully: Why do you think a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions?
Anita Nayyar: Numerically, it is the men : women ratio. The numbers say it all, the current sex ratio in India stands at 944 females for every 1000 males. However, while some changes are observed in various sectors where women are leading at the top, but it cannot be generalised. The BFSI sector is largely led by women.

Women play a dual role in their lives where they have to look after their families and also take care of their work. Given the situation, many a times family becomes priority, which slows their professional growth. While steps are being taken to empower them, India being a large country, the overall transformation is far away. Women are far from being considered as partners. On the other hand, women also need to believe more in themselves. The problem of attitudes, outdated beliefs and perception of women needs to be addressed aggressively by the society.

Adgully: Do you think women leaders are still scrutinised as much for style as for substance?
Anita Nayyar: Style and substance both, especially the industry we are in, demands so. And style is not just the appearance, it is mannerism and the knack of working around things smartly. It needs to communicate powerful, subliminal messages about one’s level of confidence, trustworthiness, credibility and attitude. I strongly believe style without substance is no style!

Adgully: Do you think the leadership effectiveness of women is higher than men? Why?
Anita Nayyar: Why do we need to differentiate leaders as men or women? Leaders are leaders and effectiveness has nothing to do with gender. Skill, knowledge, experience and passion is what makes an effective leader. It is high time we stopped creating such gender inequalities. Genders should not define professionalism.

Adgully: Women leaders in the 80’s and 90’s and women leaders today – what are the key differences? And what are the things that haven’t changed much?
Anita Nayyar: Safety and security were most important in the 80s. The women leaders were far more cautious then. They wanted to be better than the rest. However, today it is all about taking risks and constantly evolving and evolving together. Something that hasn’t changed is the passion and the fire to cut through competition and excel. Also, emotionally women are a much stronger race.

Adgully: How do you maintain a balance between career goals and family responsibilities? How frequently do you have to sacrifice one for the other?
Anita Nayyar: Honestly, it is tough. Time management is a key ingredient. If you succeed at it, you’ll strike the right balance. Define your top priorities for your family, your job and yourself. While it is very important to have some “me time” for personal growth, this is the only thing that gets affected and compromised. I believe a sacrifice today is a better tomorrow for our children and I have three – two wonderful daughters and my workplace.

Adgully: Do you think pay parity exists in our corporates today across levels? What about pay parity at the leadership levels?
Anita Nayyar: Pay scales vary based on knowledge and experience. At Havas Media, India, we appreciate, encourage and foster good talent across all levels and are paid for rightfully. Our teams are our biggest assets.

Adgully: What would be your advice to women aiming for the C-suite?
Anita Nayyar: Stay focused, work hard and don’t get bogged down by the societal pressures. Have a balanced thought process: traditional & modern.

Adgully: What, according to you, are the 3 important lessons new women leaders need to learn?
Anita Nayyar: Hard work, dedication and focus are key.Always remember there is no short cut to success.


Posted by: Shanta Saikia ( and Tanushri Upadhyay (


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