“Women leaders are expected to emulate their male colleagues to be taken seriously”
We, at Adgully, have always saluted and honoured women managers and leaders across diverse fields. W-SUITE is a special initiative from Adgully that has been turning the spotlight on some of the most remarkable women achievers in M&E, Advertising, Marketing, PR and Communications industry. In the refurbished series, we seek to find out how women leaders have been managing their teams and work as well as how they have been navigating through the toughest and most challenging times brought about by the global pandemic.
Tanya Chaitanya was appointed Chief Content Officer, Digital & Diversity Initiatives, Reliance in April 2020 after a 13-year-long tenure as Editor-in-Chief and CCO at Femina India, where she transformed India’s largest selling women’s magazine into India’s largest women’s digital platform with 7X growth. Her role at Reliance and Jio is to build digital communities with the purpose of inclusion and empowerment, while harnessing the group’s technological strength and reach.
In conversation with Adgully, Tanya Chaitanya, Chief Content Officer, Digital & Diversity Initiatives at Reliance, speaks about human-centric leadership goals, launching social networking platform, ‘Her Circle’, during the pandemic period, gender awareness & inclusion, and more.
How do you think the role and scope of women leaders has widened in the current market ecosystem?
The two neon sign boards that have become visible in the corporate roadmap over the last few years are: leadership intentionality and inclusion. Ideally, in a business, he/ she/ they who excel are given the onus to run the show. A recent Indian study published as the Potential Spring 2022 Report revealed that female leaders lead to an increase of 5.5% in job engagement with a female follower and a 4.8% increase with a male follower, as compared to when the leader and the follower are both males. When women leaders leave, the losses multiply, in terms of both job satisfaction and performance and the best results are achieved when women are in charge, said the research.
Human-centric leadership goals set by corporates make women leaders an ideal fit. When I launched Her Circle, India’s largest content, job and social networking platform and app for women with a reach of 120 million plus, it was evident that women needed a safe space for growth – to be able to share their stories/ provide mentorship/ offer jobs to others of their ilk. A product of Reliance and Jio, our platform is built to bridge the digital gender divide that exists – a key to true economic and equal progress for the country.
What has been your major learning from the pandemic period?
My learning from the pandemic is what we have known all along – that nothing is impossible.
We are an unstoppable race, people who will find ways to work from home, from the hills, from the beaches. In fact, Her Circle, the platform was launched slam dunk in the middle of the pandemic on March 8, 2021 and while we thought not being able to do an on-ground launch would lead to smaller growth, but within a year we have approximate 1.5 lakh registered women entrepreneurs. It’s largely due to the spirit of people to keep growing.
Personally, too, the productivity has been as high for us as leaders and our teams as it was pre-pandemic. And now as hybrid work models appear, we are adapting yet again. Most of us are loving being back in the office, enjoying the energy only a shared workspace can bring.
What is your mantra for maintaining a successful work-life balance in the new normal? According to you, what makes women the best in crisis management?
If they say work-life balance is a myth, it truly is that. We are constantly battling the perfect syndrome to be the perfect mother, perfect professional, perfect friend, etc., and somethings gotta give. Mostly women allow their health and self-care to be the things they ignore. So, to come from a place of ‘having it all’ and advising would be deception because we are all learning along the way.
But here are a few things that have helped me. Build a strong support system both at home and at work. I am a true believer in hiring right, especially for small teams; and an important caveat for me has been to always look at a person’s intent and attitude and not their CV. Once you have the right team, allowing them the freedom to create while having an overview is the next important step. Another thing that I believe in strongly is to never allow yourself or your team to limit themselves – if we only do what we know, we will never grow.
Crisis management comes easily because I’ve thrived on deadlines. Largely speaking, women are survivors and they do well in judging fight or flight based on the situation.
What are the five most effective leadership lessons that you have learned?
The most effective leadership lessons are inter-connected and segue easily into each other:
- If we only listen to the loudest, boldest individuals in our team we don’t know the full picture; it’s important to encourage the quieter ones to also share their ideas for growth. And after listening, we need to discern and decide and act upon what we hear by observing.
- Keenly observe and look beyond the limits. Be aware of the innovations/trends in your space and look for ways to build/transform/create.
- Eyes always on the prize. The background noise and distractions need to be drowned out. Once listened/observed, it’s time to focus and put down on paper the clarity and vision.
- Always involve the team when building a plan. Post-process-building and roadmap identification plus training, hand over the plan to the team and allow them the freedom to run it to the best of their abilities.
- It’s important to achieve, but it’s equally pertinent to stop and celebrate the big and small milestones. At Her Circle, my team and I give each other constant feedback and high-fives.
Gender sensitivity and inclusion in the new normal – how can organisations effectively encourage and groom women leaders in challenging times?
In reality, even today, women leaders are expected to wear the pants and emulate their male colleagues in order to be taken seriously. A concept of gender-blindness in work culture is in my mind more harmful than effective because we are conditioned to believe that male bosses function best while discarding the innate feminine strength we were born with. Gender awareness and inclusion are the way forward. I have a simple 3I formula that I urge corporates to look at:
- Initiate – ask her opinion on crucial decisions; often times women stay silent lest they be ridiculed/ pushed aside.
- Involve – keep her involved and informed of the change being effected; women deserve to hear their praise in a room full of mixed-group professionals.
- Identify – the first two steps will help identify the women leaders of the future for the company.