The W Suite| Respect before recognition for women leaders:Chaaya Baradhwaaj

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.

There are way too many trend-setters and convention-breakers today. 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 are 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.

Chaaya Baradhwaaj, Founder-MD, BC Web Wise, has independently spearheaded the growth chart of BC Web Wise ever since she founded it in 2000, and has been a first-mover in multiple-digital marketing initiatives for brands in India and across the globe. She is today established as a respected Digital guru, and has been invited as a Jury Member at New York AdFest, and Goafest on several occasions. Further, Baradhwaaj has been a speaker at several digital marketing seminars, round-tables, and is an active participant at educational forums for the young in the digital space.

Baradhwaaj has been honoured with the Udyog Rattan Award, recognising her entrepreneurship by the Indian Institute of Economic Studies in 2009. The institute also gave the Business Excellence Award to BC Web Wise.

What defines a woman leader in today’s ecosystem?
I think authenticity and passion have always defined women leaders and do so even more in today’s ecosystem. India can be proud of the sheer number of women leaders it has at the helm of banks, tech majors, FMCG players and large corporate houses, though the overall percentage of women in Indian boardrooms is smaller. All the modern examples who we look up to are quintessential entrepreneurs with a knack to strategically activate the resources around them.

Why do you think a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions?
For women, I don’t think it should be about achieving the best in their professional life alone, rather we need to embrace leadership values across our social interactions, relationships and family life. When it comes to choosing more women for leadership roles in companies, we still face the same societal and institutional issues to some extent in India. And there are personal and lifestyle factors that come into play as well for a woman in making her career decisions. So we can’t look at it as a percentage; but individual women can adopt an attitude to take the lead in any setting.

Do you think women leaders are still scrutinised as much for style as for substance?
Historically charisma has been intrinsic to India’s women leaders and it is the case with our women CEOs as well. They have never lacked style or substance. But I believe that women leaders look for respect before recognition. It’s important to them that their voice is heard. They are extremely collaborative. In fact most of those I know believe in advancing their careers by helping others put on a great show.

Do you think the leadership effectiveness of women is higher than men? Why?
I think it is more of an individual thing. Where women excel in the professional sphere is that we are well rounded individuals, great at identifying opportunities and warding off risks. Look at it in the Indian context. Indian society raises hard working and strong willed women. We are driven by family values and traditions and uniquely responsible for keeping them alive. Whether it is maintaining the household, helping with the family business, or keeping in touch with our spiritual self, we naturally adapt to it all. So I believe Indian women grow up with some unique abilities that are highly useful at the workplace.

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?
Historically women leaders have had a charismatic presence and the ability to strategically activate the resources around them and take quick decisions. They have ensured survival and have been harbingers of renewal and change in business, politics and society at the same time. They have been in it for the greater good and unrelenting when it came to purpose. All that hasn’t changed. And we are not yet fully appreciated. However, today technology has made the world a flatter place. Leadership itself has evolved into a more collaborative role with people across time zones and language barriers working together. Today’s women leaders are agile knowledge seekers and entrepreneurs, with the collaborative attributes required for leading a global workforce.

How do you maintain a balance between career goals and family responsibilities? How frequently do you have to sacrifice one for the other?
Quite often. It’s one of the realities of running a business and a family that you have to give your blood and sweat to both. My greatest work-life balance learning has been to approach everything in stages. I have had phases when it was a routine to burn the midnight oil, after which I focused on attending to family matters and spending more time with my son. Instead of returning to the routine, I mix it up by focusing on organisational building and acquiring knowledge to stay balanced.

Do you think pay parity exists in our corporates today across levels? What about pay parity at the leadership levels?
I can only look at news reports that suggest otherwise and it is disheartening. However, in my personal experience as an employee as well as a founder, I have not come across disparity in pay scale at any level being encouraged by either my previous employers, or today within our organisation in the way our own team heads behave. Out of a dozen odd team heads that we have four are women and are shoulder to shoulder with their male counter parts.

What would be your advice to women aiming for the C-suite?
I’d like them to remember that companies with greater gender diversity outperform companies with a skewed male-female employee ratio. We need believe in ourselves as much as we believe in admiring other women leaders.

What, according to you, are the 3 important lessons new women leaders need to learn?

·        We have the influence to inspire future leaders, both men and women

·        We need to break away from traditional beliefs about any gender biases and believe in equality ourselves first

Be supportive to women, be it the housemaid, women folk in our homes or a married co-worker or co-workers who also are mothers. Go that extra bit because we understand, and thereby help them flourish which will be a win-win for the entire eco-system


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