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The W-Suite | Women are judged constantly: Tripti Lochan

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. 

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. 

Tripti Lochan, CEO, VML Southeast Asia and India, has been with the global marketing and advertising agency since 2005, and has led the agency as Chief Executive Officer since early 2008. Lochan has been a driving force behind VML’s expanded capabilities in digital and mobile, and has driven her team to become a top integrated marketing agency in Southeast Asia & India. Her presence has even helped VML expand in the region by the opening of offices in Mumbai, New Delhi and Jakarta. 

In her executive leadership role, Lochan consults on client businesses, including Kelloggs, ICICI, 3M, Wendy’s, Revlon and Castrol. Regularly sought for opinion on all matters digital, Lochan judges award shows and speaks at diverse conferences including keynotes at ad:tech and CrowdSourcingWeek Global. 

She has worked extensively in Asia, the Middle East and in the US, leading teams and helping client businesses to harness the power of the digital medium. 

What defines a woman leader in today’s ecosystem?
I don’t think there is anything specific that defines a woman leader which is different from what defines a leader in today’s ecosystem. Leaders need to inspire. Leaders need to understand what motivates their team. They need to be vocal in setting up a vision for their team. They need to be ambitious for the team. They need to be seen as transparent, fair, empathetic, competent, and ready to let their teams make mistakes, learn and move forward. 

Why do you think a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions?
There are a lot of reasons this is happening. The core to this is that the difference between men and women leaders is not distinctly appreciated. There is research that confirms that men go after power, while as women want inclusiveness and a sense of collaboration at work. But women leaders continue to be judged by the same criteria that men leaders are judged, without taking into consideration the difference that the two bring to the table. We also know that life/ family and work priorities do clash for women – as they take care of a majority of responsibilities regarding kids and parents. In many organisations, women’s styles are seen as too differentiated to be mainstream. 

Do you think women leaders are still scrutinised as much for style as for substance?
They absolutely are. Women are judged constantly. Their style is judged constantly too. 

Do you think the leadership effectiveness of women is higher than men? Why?
I don’t. I think to think so would be as stereotypical (in the other direction) as it is to think that women are not effective. I believe there are leaders. By the very nature of things, some are men and some are women. Organisations need to examine what they both bring to the workplace in terms of effectiveness. 

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?
Women are more vocal about what they want than they were. There has also been some change in them questioning the status quo. Them wanting to think that their lot is not confined to only family and home. That they have a choice. What hasn’t changed is that organisations have not internalised the distinctiveness of what they bring to the table. They judge leaders on the same scale. Organisations need to take a hard look at themselves and question the percentages of women:men ratios as leaders. They need to delve deeper and find out reasons why there is a tapering of the ratios as we go up the rung of the ladder. 

How do you maintain a balance between career goals and family responsibilities? How frequently do you have to sacrifice one for the other?
This totally depends on the family unit. I can speak for myself – when we had kids, my husband and I decided that I would spend a little more time with them.  When they were in middle school, we moved countries with my job. I think families have to decide each case individually for the benefit of the collective whole. 

Do you think pay parity exists in our corporates today across levels? What about pay parity at the leadership levels?
It totally depends from one country to another and from one industry to another.  I have been lucky enough to not face this challenge in my career. 

What would be your advice to women aiming for the C-suite?
First believe that you deserve to be in the job. Go all out. Ask. Negotiate. Don’t be afraid to be assertive when you know what you want.

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