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The W-Suite | Women leaders are better decision makers: Sujata Dwibedy

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. 

Sujata Dwibedy, Group Buying and Trading Head at Dentsu Aegis Network has over 20 years of media trading and strategy experience. She has extensively worked across sectors such as FMCG, telecom, airlines, finance, alcohol and beverages and has led teams in the areas of planning, research, buying and strategy. 

What defines a woman leader in today’s ecosystem?
In today’s ecosystem, women leaders can be best defined basis the ability to be agile, to learn from experiences and to co-evolve in a complex and constantly changing environment. They are not only expected to be experts in their subject matter, but also have to be managerial experts who work independently. They have to be excellent in developing people and should be a trusted resource within the company. 

They are defined as the leaders who are empathetic, flexible and focussed at the same time. They have their eyes on the end result and would not mind taking risks as long as the results are achieved efficiently. They are better decision makers and have superior interpersonal skills. 

Why do you think a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions?
Women are constantly juggling between multiple tasks, they are not only managing their work roles but are also constantly managing their households. All said and done, whether in India or any part of the world, women take up the responsibility of the household! The pressure at all jobs across industries are also no less today, hence       they are being stretched across all their roles. Other reasons why they quit could be the office culture or they take a decision between trade off against the remuneration that they get and the effort that goes in. Even today, not all families are supportive in India, they would rather have the women do the household chores rather than jobs! 

Do you think women leaders are still scrutinised as much for style as for substance?
Don’t think that is the case. But dressing up for occasions with a decorum is important for all leaders, not only women. It is the substance and knowledge that matters. It is the relationship with the team, the ability to withstand adversity that defines leadership. So, women leaders are not scrutinised as much for style, rather they are an inspiration for many for their interpersonal skills, for knowledge sharing, driving, nurturing and motivating a team and also managing their own lives well. 

However, we can talk of the ‘Working style’ – women are more result oriented, more committed, stricter yet flexible and understanding. That is what makes them hold people longer in their teams. 

Do you think the leadership effectiveness of women is higher than men? Why?
Yes. Multitasking, organising jobs, sincerity and hard work comes naturally to women. Bringing together all sorts of people and bringing out the best in them is also a quality that women have within them inherently. Patience, trust and the fire to complete a task at any cost also is something that women have. They are very driven from within. 

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?
There has been some change. The difference could be that there are more women leaders now than there were in the 80’s and 90’s. The environment is a lot more conducive now. The disparity in the way the two genders were treated then and now are very different and opinions from women leaders are quite open, vocal and heard. Families are more liberal, education has made a lot of difference, media has made a lot of difference and so has the changing economy. 

There are more women leaders now...but that would mean a shift of 5 per cent to 10 per cent, but not more. Hence, there is still a need to have more women leaders, there still are issues because of the life stages that women go through and how adaptive the organisation is towards that. Maximum drop of working women happens post pregnancy or post marriage. Juggling between household duties, motherhood duties and demanding jobs is not easy. Sometimes due to family pressure and sometimes due to the situation on the work front, women back out. Also, when they get back, they have to lose in terms of their designations or the compensation. So, the potential women leaders drop out. 

Most of the industries are now actively working towards resolving these dropouts, considering they do not want to lose the trained and skilled employees. 

Our industry is a little ahead of the curve because we have a higher proportion of women working in the agencies and we have always had an equal and democratic environment. 

How do you maintain a balance between career goals and family responsibilities? How frequently do you have to sacrifice one for the other?
Both are equally important. You can’t really separate the two. Sometimes one takes a little priority over the other. It has not been easy for me or any other lady who has worked for so many years to balance the two. The key to balance and handle work and family is to be present and focused on whatever is in front of us and needs more attention. One does not have to be guilty while working late and enjoying the job, our kids and family understand and look up to our dedication, sincerity and commitment and yes we set examples for them by doing so. 

Do you think pay parity exists in our corporates today across levels? What about pay parity at the leadership levels?
I don’t think that parity is an issue in our industry. We have a fair and equal treatment across genders at all levels. Difference could be due to spends and the prices in one market vis-a-vis the other, but not gender. As you grow, the difference is only because of your performance. By nature, women do not negotiate on their pay packages much as much as men do. 

What would be your advice to women aiming for the C-suite?
Cultivating a network and building relationships become extremely critical. Opportunities are there everywhere, it is a matter of reaching out. Strive to be the best at whatever you pursue. One has to be driven from within, no external source can supress or demotivate. Hence, pushing oneself is important. Being fearless and embracing change easily is also critical. As you grow in your roles, some will try to pull you down, what is important is that the focus should be on the final outcome – not the journey and not the distractions. Acknowledge your strengths, speak up for yourself and speak up for what is right. Most importantly, accomplishments can be really boosting if you can manage both family as well as the job well. In the end, we have to ensure that we succeed in both the roles! 

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

  • Trust the process. All that we face gives us experiences and we only learn out of experiences. Be open to learning, be open to making mistakes, we tend to be perfectionists and hence, sulk over the past. What is important is to learn from it and move on. 
  • Build relationships, network with old/ new colleagues, industry stakeholders, clients. It helps. 
  • Dream big and stay committed to what you love to do. As you realise your true worth, things around the world would also change positively.

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