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Women leaders have sailed much better through the pandemic: Priya Patankar

We, at Adgully, have always saluted and honoured women managers and leaders across diverse fields. Last year, we launched our unique and distinct program, called WOMEN DISRUPTORS, which drew a lot of attention and was highly appreciated by the industry. 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 & Communication industry. In the refurbished series, we will 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.

In conversation with Adgully, Priya Patankar, Head of Communications, PhonePe, speaks about adapting to the rapid transition to digital during the pandemic times, maintain work-life balance while working from home, lessons in effective leadership and more. 

How do you think the role and scope of women leaders has widened in the post-pandemic world?

The pandemic has thrown up some interesting challenges; top of the mind these include dealing with ambiguity, working with a constantly changing external world and of course, multi-tasking to manage both work and home. Women have traditionally juggled multiple roles all their lives, and the pandemic has only added to that list.

Women leaders have actually sailed much better through as handling multiple responsibilities comes naturally to them and they are not frazzled by pressure. Also, due to the pandemic a lot of roles have now gone partially or fully remote. So, in some ways this has also encouraged more women to come back into the formal workforce. 

The rapid transition to digital, an uncertain economic landscape, charting unknown waters, working from home with no modes of the usual contacts. How have you been navigating during the COVID-19 times? What were the challenges that you faced and how did you tackle them?

I think none of us were prepared for the pandemic to literally change life as we knew it overnight. Working from home while managing everything end-to-end was certainly daunting at first, but gradually things settled down. A large part of my work involves communicating and meeting external stakeholders and I had to find ways to make it impactful and meaningful even when doing this virtually. The other big challenge, of course, was hiring people and onboarding them in a completely remote fashion and also making sure the rest of the team was able to cope up with remote work. We replaced our in-person huddles with virtual ones, started doing more short and frequent team meetings to help quickly unblock and problem solve and of course, made sure we celebrate birthdays and festivals virtually to feel more connected with each other. 

How challenging has it been for you to maintain a balance between managing the team & office work on the one hand and family responsibilities on the other, as boundaries blurred while working from home? What is your mantra to maintain that balance?

Work-life balance in general is always a challenge given the nature of my work. Having an incredibly supportive family and an amazing team has helped me manage things well. I make sure I set aside meal times with a ‘no phone call’ policy to catch-up with my family, as the rest of the day goes in a blur. I exercise every day and destress with yoga and reading. I love writing and I have started doing that more frequently now. 

Multiple studies have shown how women leaders performed better during the COVID-19 crisis. According to you, what makes women the best in crisis management?

Most women multi-task effortlessly all their lives. They manage work and home, look after their children and parents and are just tuned to switching contexts more quickly and easily. Also, they tend to be good listeners, are emphatic and solution oriented. This makes for the best set of skills you need while navigating a crisis. 

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

  1. Work hard and build the right skills.
  2. Don’t follow a playbook. Create your own.
  3. Enjoy what you are doing and have fun at work.
  4. Build a great team and encourage them to upskill.
  5. Walk the talk.
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