The W Suite | Women need to fight their inner fear and open up: Srija Chatterjee
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.
Srija Chatterjee is Managing Director at Publicis Worldwide’s India operations, which includes Publicis Ambience, Publicis Capital, Publicis Beehive, Publicis Health and Publicis Business. She oversees growth and strategy at the agency and manages a plethora of brands, including L’Oreal, Nestle, ZEE, Bharti AXA, Heineken, Sanofi, Unilever, Citibank, UB Group, and HDFC MF, among others.
Her industry experience spans over 20 years and includes leadership roles across India and Singapore, managing key regional and multinational brands across markets. Chatterjee is an award-winner in her own right, having led integrated cross-disciplinary teams across digital, PR, shopper and activation for local, regional and global brands alike.
How would you define today’s woman leader?
I have struggled with the word – ‘Women leaders’. For me, a leader is a leader, irrespective of gender. Yes, I do agree that women these days are becoming more serious about their careers and making their mark in the industry. I think these days people and organisations are also more open and accepting this trend. In my view, I can say that it has just begun and we will see more of them in the near future. According to me, it’s all about believing in yourself. Society and organisations can create several opportunities for you, but at the end of day it’s you who has to have belief in yourself.
What are the foremost attributes that women leader in today’s business ecosystem must possess?
Traditionally, across industries, it’s a man’s world. It’s all about finding a way to command men, because Indian men traditionally do not believe in listening to women. So, finding a way to command men without being a man and making people follow them is something that women need to do. I think women can do this without being a man. For any good leader, it’s all about finding good strength in their team and then pulling it out of them. As long as a leader is able to do that, then I think it doesn’t matter whether you are a male or a female leader.
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 and decision-making?
As I said, I think that’s changing only because there is a big diversity agenda across industries today. So, if women are not seen in leadership positions despite these agendas, then I think it is due to their inner fear or inner apprehensions, which they will have to overcome on their own. I think it will come from a lot of inspiration from the women leaders out there in the industry.
How acute is the gender pay gap issue in India today? What needs to be done to address this in an effective manner?
Honestly, I haven’t faced it and we don’t do the same thing here in Publicis. A person is seen and paid on the basis of his/her merit and skills, not gender. Yes, there are talks internationally about gender biases in salaries. This thing will change when more and more women leaders will come in.
What more do Indian corporates need to do to encourage and groom women leaders?
I think they need to understand that in our society there is a traditional role of a woman. But, the leaders out there have to do both. There is the role of nurturing their families, along with managing their professional lives. From an organisational point-of-view, it’s first about empathy and understanding. Secondly, to provide basic solutions to women so that they can balance it. Beyond this thing, an organisation just has to give a fair chance to women.
I think it’s about passion. It depends on the individual and her choices. If you think that the first three years you want to stay at home and look after your child, that’s absolutely fine. It’s your choice, but in reality you will miss out on those three years. In this industry, it’s experiences that teach you.
Do you think the leadership effectiveness of women is higher than men? Why?
Yes, of course. I believe that women make good leaders as they are way more understanding, there is a softer side to them along with a tough side. They are best at negotiating.
Over the years, who has inspired you?
I have been inspired by leaders, not women leaders. For a long time in my life I have worked with Joseph George and he is one leader whom I have really looked up to and have learnt a lot from. My current boss, Saurabh, is a fantastic leader. He is outstanding in certain things that he does and there is a lot to learn from him. When I was in Singapore with Lowe Lintas, my boss there, Rupendra Desai, had also influenced me for a long time. I had more men inspiring me than women and I still continue to get inspired by them.
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?
I think what a woman needs to do, which I have developed over the years, is be able to cut off. When you are at home, cut off from work and vice versa. To me, sometimes managing home when I’m at work comes in my job list. It’s all about being practical about what you do. It’s fully manageable as long as it is planned well.
How proactive have our corporates been when it comes to addressing a serious issue like sexual harassment at workplace?
It’s very proactive. We have got a full process in place. It is not just about sexual harassment, but work pressure. We have a community and process.
What are your tips to upcoming women leaders?
- Don’t give up. Fight with your inner fear and open up. Make yourself heard in the crowd.
- Even if you are getting married or having a child, find a way to make it work. Put you mind into it and you will be able to find a way out of it.