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The W Suite | The gender wage gap is the highest in India: Aditi Balbir

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. 

“Businesses should never need to give back to society; rather businesses should be built around the needs and upliftment of the society in which they operate” – this firm belief led Aditi Balbir, Founder & CEO, V Resorts, and celebrated Indian eco-tourism entrepreneur, to lay the foundation of her venture – V Resorts, now India’s largest hospitality chain focused on micro-level eco-tourism. Balbir is a trendsetter for eco-tourism in India. She has brought in and strictly adheres to the concepts of 100 per cent local procurement, maximum employment to local staff, and empowerment to local communities, especially women. 

Born and brought up in Delhi, Balbir is a quintessential Delhi girl with a penchant for art. Had she not been an entrepreneur, Balbir could have been an art critic or perhaps even a writer. As a keen writer, she enjoys writing on a range of subjects and features regularly in well-known publications. 

As an entrepreneur, Balbir believes in the power of teamwork; no wonder then that the animal she identifies herself with is the wolf, a species known to function as a single pack of strength. 

How would you define today’s woman leader?
Today’s woman leader is strong in knowledge and well-versed in her skills. She works hard and leads by example. She is capable of taking difficult business decisions and can tackle problems with ease. She knows how to put her interpersonal skills to the best use in her professional world. 

What are the foremost attributes that women leaders in today’s business ecosystem must possess?
The most important attribute that women leaders must possess in today’s business ecosystem is the right mindset. They need to think both practically and strategically and get the job done in the right way. With a new vision in place, every woman leader must possess the guts to propose a new order and must have the strength to make sure that it is executed in the right way in order to set an example. Today’s women leaders should be capable of figuring out ways they can add value beyond their prescribed roles and knowing how to contribute to the business in a creative way by thinking out-of-the-box. 

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?
Although women have started making their claims for leadership roles, owing to their skills and experiences, but their workplaces are making the challenge more severe. In fact, the Women in the Workplace 2018 report by McKinsey & Company cites that one of the biggest hindrances for women’s claim to leadership is the lack of awareness among male leaders about the obstacles for women at their workplaces that arise due to the companies’ low priority towards addressing gender diversity.

What more do Indian corporates need to do to encourage and groom women leaders?
Indian corporates need to show more confidence in women’s skills and start giving women the freedom to make important business decisions. This will not just make women stronger, but also help them put their skills to best use to take responsible decisions for the business. 

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

  • Women should make sure that they put their skills to the best of use
  • Women should always stand up for what they feel is right, and should always make their opinions heard
  • Women should understand their strengths and invest in them to get the best results at the workplace

Dont’s:

  • Women must never shy away from asking what is rightfully theirs
  • Whenever stuck or scared, women must never hesitate to ask for help

How acute is the gender pay gap issue in India today? What needs to be done to address this in an effective manner?
Unfortunately, the gender wage gap is the highest in India. According to a recent report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), on an average, women in India are paid 34 per cent less than women globally. 

The only way to address this in an effective manner is increased awareness among companies about the strengths and skills of today’s women. Organisations need to set examples by increasingly entrusting women in significant roles, wherein they can make the most important business decisions. 

Do you think the leadership effectiveness of women is higher than men? Why?
The leadership effectiveness of women is higher than men due to a number of reasons. Apart from valuing work-life balance, women as leaders are usually empathetic, are great listeners, nurturing are good at multitasking, are strong communicators, and are able to handle crisis situations well. 

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

  • Have faith in your own abilities and be authentic in your style of working
  • Acting with a calm mind and without being impulsive is the best way to tackle difficult situations
  • In crises, it is better not to rush to solutions
  • Being a good listener helps one understand situations better
  • It is always good to seek out advice from mentors and seniors at times of need

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?
Somewhere between chasing career goals and family responsibilities, balance must always be maintained. My family has always been supportive and helped me run my business with ease. My mantra to maintain the balance is just to take one day at a time and give more priority to whatever is urgent for that day. 

How prevalent are the instances of sexual harassment in work places in India? What should the industry collectively do to tackle such a serious issue?
Until the latter half of 2018, sexual harassment at Indian workplaces was on the rise and had increased by 54 per cent in just 4 years. However, the issue has been taken up seriously by Indian companies and they are addressing in the best possible manner. One good way of tackling this serious issue is Prevention Of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Workshops at workplaces so that both men and women are aware of the extent of tolerance, and can thus take up their fights accordingly. Also, the industry needs to come together to show more concern towards their women employees and listen to their problems more often, and take necessary actions wherever applicable.

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