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

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. 

As Chief Operating Officer of BTVI, Megha Tata has overall strategic and operational responsibility for the entire portfolio of the company’s offerings. She has over 28 years of experience and brings expertise in management of television networks operations in the Media & Entertainment industry. Tata aims to continuously deliver accurate information to the viewers and maintain strong relationship with the stakeholders. Tata also serves as the Vice President of the International Advertising Association - India Chapter. 

Prior to BTVI, Tata had worked as part of the leadership team at HBO India, Star and Turner. She has a consistent record of increasing sales, effective negotiations, profit and loss analysis and strategic implementation of business operations. Her performance with Star India and Turner stand testimony to her path of excellence. 

Ability to overcome obstacles and capture opportunities by closing exclusive deals, create and implement savvy marketing strategies has been Tata’s forte. Her efforts were validated when she was recogniaed as ‘Next 30’ most powerful women to look out in 2010; and was also adjudged as one of India’s hottest young executives of the media industry in 2009 by Business Today and amongst the top 50 influential women in media, marketing and advertising by IMPACT magazine in 2012 and 2014. She also received Women Leadership award by World Women Leadership Congress in 2014. Tata has also been included in India’s top 100 important people in the industry by Digital Studio, a leading magazine in broadcasting and production. 

She is recognised for her strong leadership skills and excellence in training, development and mentoring of staff and customers. 

How would you define today’s woman leader?
In the last two decades we have witnessed the success and rise of women leaders, who have galloped to reach top notch positions in companies. In India, while the financial sector has seen many women in leadership roles in the recent past, India’s M&E industry is still at a very nascent stage when it comes to women leadership. I think women today are competent and confident as leaders than ever in the modern era. They are outspoken, candid and definite about their choices. Their ability to juggle multiple roles at home – mother, wife, and daughter – helps them in nurturing relationships at work too. While I won’t say with full confidence that the need to prove for women has totally evaporated in today’s time and age, I think it is a fantastic time with equal opportunities for women.  

What are the foremost attributes that women leaders in today’s business ecosystem must possess?
Apart from the leadership traits that any leader should have, irrespective of gender, when it comes to women in leadership roles, I think women leaders should carefully manage the perception about themselves, build networks within their industry as well as outside of it and most importantly, ask for what you deserve. 

Please tell us about the mentorship programme for women in the Marketing, Media and Advertising space that India Chapter of the International Advertising Association (IAA) is doing.
As mentioned before, India’s media & advertising industry, too, faces issues with very few women in leadership roles. To address this concern, the India Chapter of IAA has initiated a mentorship programme for women in Marcom. We had asked women with 8 to 10 years of experience working in the marcom industry to register. We have received an overwhelming response from both aspiring mentees as well as mentors for this initiative, with some of the top minds from the industry agreeing to volunteer their time as mentors. We have shortlisted women mentees and will soon roll out the programme. I truly believe and hope that this initiative will help make a positive difference.  

Do you have any such programmes in BTVI for women employees?
While we haven’t formalised a programme for women employees at BTVI, we have a substantial number of women in leadership roles at BTVI, with Shilpa Shetty heading revenue, Deepa George heading legal, and Smita Saran, who is the executive producer with the channel. BTVI is also proud to have Mehvish Buch with us, who is the only female OB engineer in the industry.  

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?
According to the 2018 report of International Labour Organization (ILO), while women constitute 42 per cent of new graduates in India, only 24 per cent of them join the workforce. This is a startling report, which makes us wonder what keeps them away from stepping into the corporate world. 

Some of the reasons could be: 

  • A less conducive cultural environment keeps them away from work
  • Harassment at work place is another important reason for women to fall out of the corporate ladder
  • Pregnancy puts a woman behind by at least two years and they then have to re-start from where they left
  • A recent report by the ILO states that globally 42 per cent of women are out of the workforce due to unpaid care work (childcare, elderly care, etc.).
  • When a man is promoted for his good work, his progress gets attributed to himself. But when a woman gets promoted, it is often seen as a part of the diversity initiative of the organisation and not as her own achievement. This constant negative reinforcement makes women not believe on their abilities and they, over a long term, lose interest in leadership roles. 

Organisations need to be proactive in identifying these issues and provide solutions:

  • Strict anti-harassment policies and their implementation by companies is the need of the hour to create conducive work environment for women. 
  • We need to create opportunities for returning mothers so that they can continue from where they had left.
  • Those, who come out victorious, overcoming the reasons mentioned above, they end up setting a glass ceiling for themselves by not asking enough questions when required to and by not promoting their own achievements to a wider audience. 
  • Organisations need to conduct workshops on gender bias and on how to adapt to gender diversity. 

How acute is the gender pay gap issue in India today? What needs to be done to address this in an effective manner? 
According to Monster Salary Index report 2017, women in India earn 20 per cent less than men. However, your pay scale also depends on the sector you are working in and the position you hold. Gender pay parity, along with offering equal opportunities for women, needs to be a top priority for organisations to resolve this issue. On the other hand, women employees also need to negotiate hard for their salaries. They should fight for the bonus and the promotions that they deserve. 

What more do you think Indian companies need to do in order to encourage and groom women leaders?
We need today’s leadership to commit to gender parity and an inclusive culture. Diversity in the hiring panel to accommodate various viewpoints about a woman candidate to negotiate unconscious bias of one or two interviewers is of key importance. Flexible working hours for women helps in them managing work and family responsibilities better. We must have equal pay for women. Indian companies need to conduct gender sensitivity and gender bias related workshops. 

Any message for aspiring women out there who want to make a difference in their careers?
While there will be hundreds of suggestions, I will mention 5 of them, which I call ‘Megha’s 5Ps’ that have worked for me in my career. They are:

Passion – Be passionate about your work. Fame and fortune will be the by-products of that.

Prioritisation – Prioritise between work and personal life. At times work supersedes family and at times family supersedes work. There is no right or wrong answer to that, you should know what needs to be prioritised when.

Perception – One should carefully manage perception about oneself.

PR – Build network within and outside your industry.

Positive Attitude – Have a positive attitude towards everything. Always see life as glass half full!

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