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The W Suite | RJ Malishka's take on fulfilling women's boardroom dreams

Diversity in the workforce has become a necessity today, and more so in 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.  

Dada Saheb Phalke Award 2018-19’ recipient Malishka has been a household name for over a decade. While jocks everywhere strive hard for a single feather in their cap, Malishka wears her crown in style. “Malishka ko bol diya, toh ho jayega” has become a phrase which Mumbaikars live by. Her banter with celebrities brings out their deepest secrets, while on the other hand she does not shy away from taking a stand on issues like #MeToo. Hearing Malishka’s name gets authorities on their toes. The BMC commissioner was on the road, all because of her pothole song “Mumbai Geli Khadyat”. These are some of the legitimate reasons why people have crowned her as the 'Mumbai ki Raani'.

How would you define today’s woman leader?

She’s tough, intuitive, has a high EQ and can get the job done without being aggressive. She is the future.

What are the foremost attributes that women leaders in today’s business ecosystem must possess.

The ones I’ve mentioned above come in most handy I find and not just in my industry. Mostly, I also think being able to balance the fine line between being the ideator and executor is important. Delegation, accountability and strong decision-making abilities are a must.

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?

When a woman said till a while back that she is ambitious it was looked at as a bad thing. It has been a boys club for very long but that game is slowly but surely changing. The women’s workforce has increased tremendously over the past years and in turn we will see more and more of us in the boardroom. It’s been said that women second guess themselves a lot. A man will execute an idea when he is 60 percent sure of it. A woman waits to be 100 percent sure. Call us perfectionists, but we have to be able to trust ourselves more and be perfectly at peace with our ambitions to push the pedal on our boardroom dreams.

What more do Indian corporates need to do to encourage and groom women leaders? 

With changing times and with more women joins the workforce, corporates need a change in mindset. Opportunities should be given to all genders equally with expected accountability. To trust us, to provide us with enough opportunities and to not have preconceived notions of how we will manage a work-life balance is imperative.

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

  • Don’t tell yourself that there is one and don’t let others believe that there is one for you.
  • Don’t feel guilty about your ambitions. It’s important to speak up and ask for what you want and need. Do it.
  • Don’t let others opinions of you dictate who you are or who you will be.

How acute is the gender pay gap issue in India today? What needs to be done to address this in an effective manner?                

My industry does not discriminate based on gender. It’s unthinkable. Talent, hard work, skill, efficiency, creativity, business-sense these should be the currency of any industry. Yes, the gender pay gap exists and women AND men have to speak up about it to ensure pay parity. I see the conversations happening a lot today. There is no nobility to saying I earn more than the woman. It should be that I’m the best at what I do and hence I make what I make.

Do you think the leadership effectiveness of women is higher than men? Why? 

In my experience with the people around me I find that women are super ideators, executors and are also very systematic. I also believe there is a higher emotional quotient here which counts deeply today with the changing landscape of how corporates are driven and with work-life balance taking a front seat.

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

  • If you don’t ask the answer Is always No.
  • Respect is earned not demanded.
  • The team is everything.
  • Learning, unlearning and making your own evolution necessary, is very important.
  • Don’t pander. Being a yes man or woman will only take you so far.

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? The kind of work I do whether in the radio or in camera, there is no minute when you stop really. Everything I see, experience, observe, read, imagine is content and that’s why I’m always working. But do what you love, and you don’t work a day is a mantra I live by.  I also believe team-bonding is a very important part of one’s career as you spend most of your life with your colleagues. However, I believe that one’s mind can be one’s best instrument and one’s worst nightmare so it’s important to keep that well-balanced. So, yoga and walking are a couple of things I swear by. I consciously love my weekdays as much as I love my weekends and make it a point to unwind with the family or friends. I make and stick to travel goals for diving, trekking, meeting new people and opening my world view.

How prevalent are the instances of sexual harassment in workplace in India? What should the industry collectively do to tackle such a serious issue?

I recently did a podcast on Jio Saavn called #MainBhi. The roots of that audio show were in sexual harassment at the workplace. I was very inspired by these stories and we decided to make a show to educate men and women about effective measures to curb and eliminate these and not just from the workplace. We heard and received so many stories of these especially as the women workforce increases as it has in the recent past, that it is imperative that each organisation adheres to strict action against workplace harassment. POSH has its guidelines and I would urge every organisation to understand and implement it. Every organisation should have a zero-tolerance policy towards offenders. A workplace where each person feels safe is the only one that can and will yield growth.

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