The W Suite | Lack of ambition holding back women leaders: Kranti Gada

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. 

Kranti Gada, Chief Operating Officer, Shemaroo Entertainment Limited, is the second generation of promoters of Shemaroo, having joined the family business in 2006 after a successful stint of over two years in marketing at PepsiCo, where she worked on brand Kurkure.  

As COO, Gada heads the revenue function of the company to drive extensive and sustainable growth. She was instrumental in incubating the company’s expansion into the DTH segment. She is also responsible for digital media, DTH and international business verticals. She set up Shemaroo’s mobile business and soon established the company as a leading Mobile VAS player in India. Her understanding and clear vision of the digital future for content enabled Shemaroo to became one of the early adopters of YouTube for monetisation of its content. She launched successful online propositions like Filmi Gaane and Shemaroo Movies.  

How would you define today’s woman leader?
I think today’s woman leader will have a history of her own struggle and how she has reached where she has reached. I think she is inclusive and most of us are not here to challenge the men here, but to work in an environment that does not account or look at gender. Most of us want to inspire the next slot of women, empower them and help them overcome their hurdles the way we have grown. I also think women leaders are more sensitive towards the needs and changing demands of the environment and also feel we are more in touch with the base level of the society because we deal with the children, household help, etc. Therefore, we are able to get a wide variety of exposure to how to deal with different kinds of people and this equips them to handle people at work in a much better way. At the same time, I don’t think women just want to go out to prove a certain point, at least in my case it’s not like that. 

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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?
One aspect could be lack of passion. Boardrooms happen much later in life. Women’s priorities change with time and it’s a tough step at every stage. I have seen many women who are intelligent, sharp with multiple qualifications, but they quit their careers to take care of their family. Hence, I feel it is a combination of lack of ambition as well as being more sensitive to other needs, which I feel is one of the reasons. Of course, there are organisations where there are glass ceilings or unsaid rules. The government has imposed certain quota for women, which is sad as that they have to come because of the quota. Therefore, I could say it is a play of both. 

What more do Indian corporates need to do to encourage and groom women leaders?
Two years ago I did a programme, called ‘Tanmatra’, for grooming women leaders. It was a 9-month programme run by IIM Bangalore. We had women leaders from various industries who spoke about the difference in treatment to women in their organisations. I was shocked as I had never experienced such treatment here at Shemaroo. In this regard, Shemaroo is a place of equal opportunity for both men and women. 

I think in general the media industry has a whole lot of challenges for women – from working hours to the kind of work and the kind of environment that you have to work in as well as perception of one’s family. Therefore, we should be able to groom our women in every situation and give them the confidence in order to pursue their calling. We also need to be sensitive enough to understand their personal commitments which are a part of her life. We have recently introduced a change in work hours for women rejoining work after maternity leave, wherein they need to put in only seven hours of work instead of the usual nine hours. Besides, she can choose her own timing. This apart, we also counsel them to handle the pressure. 

According to you, what are the Do’s and Don’ts for today’s women to break through the glass ceiling?
In the Do’s, I would say be ambitious and be confident and look at yourself and be par with every man in the room. Put up your hand and ask for it rather than being given. Most of the time women have this mentality of not asking, while men, on the other hand, will fight for what they want. So, putting up your hand is very important. 

In terms of Don’ts a corollary of sorts in a way, I would say that don’t compromise your needs for something at the home front. I feel there are ways to balance things. Get support from the family and others to continue with your career and don’t get into a comfort zone. 

How acute is the gender pay gap issue in India today?
I have not experienced it, but what I have heard and seen from others is that it is pretty much there and is quite evident. There is a huge unconscious bias. 

Also Read: The W Suite | Megha Tata urges women leaders to ask for what they deserve

Do you think the leadership effectiveness of women is higher than men?
Definitely, I am a strong believer of that – the way we are able to multitask and put ourselves into another person’s shoes. The commitment, trust, morals, and ethics that you will find in women are much higher than men. 

What are the effective lessons that you have learnt as a women leader?
Work hard and stand up for what you want and let your work show. Never hesitate to speak your mind, sometimes you may doubt yourself as to whether it is right to speak about what’s on your mind. Don’t worry about being judged and what other people think about you. 

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, it’s very tough. When I rejoined after the birth of my second son, it was quite tough. Right from the emotional struggle to the physical challenges – it was quite challenging. But again, I have amazing house helps and my in-laws are very supportive. My husband pitches in with taking care of our children very well. Definitely that guilt is always there when you feel certain things could be done a certain way. But at the end of day, I feel we should get rid of the guilt because this is a choice that we have made. 

How proactive have corporates been in implementing the Vishakha Committee’s guidelines for women employees?
A lot of them definitely intended to do implement them, but faced a lot of practical challenges. Therefore, while they have done what the Committee asked them to do, because that was mandatory, I feel many of them wanted to do it in a better way but faced a lot of challenges in doing it in the real spirit of the way it was to be done. I feel the corporates in India are much better after the recommendations have been implemented than before, especially in places where there is low skill work. 

What is your advice to the upcoming women leaders?
Get up and shine. There is this beautiful song by Leann Womack, ‘If you have a choice, just sit it out or dance’. So, get up and dance.

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