Women leaders of tomorrow - Don’t expect her to join the boys’ club
In the run-up to Women’s Day this year, Adgully has been coming up with a series of articles, feature reports, interactions and #TwitterChat episodes highlighting the achievements of our formidable women in the workforce as well as women leaders who have been successfully steering their teams and organisations through the uncharted waters in the post-pandemic world.
Be it in politics – Kamala Harris, first female Vice President of USA, New Zealand PM Jacinda Arden, Germany’s Angela Merkel, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and many more women leaders. Be it in the frontiers of space – Swati Mohan and Vandana Verma, who have major roles in US’ Mars exploration and placing the Perseverance rover on the red planet. Be it in business, science, defence, aviation, fighting COVID-19 – women are marching ahead in every sphere.
The innate qualities of women – nurturing, empathetic, multi-tasking, resilient – are the leadership traits that are increasingly being adopted cutting across gender. For long, there have been calls for making the top echelons of organisations more inclusive, gender sensitive and having a greater representation of women.
The pandemic period has seen women leaders flourishing as they deftly handled not just their companies and teams, but also their homes and families. While 2020 showed us reality like never before, this was also the year we saw the true essence of woman leaders and the power they hold. However, a very important question still arises – how is the industry preparing the next generation of leaders? Are we encouraging them enough?
‘Women Leaders of Tomorrow – Are we encouraging them enough?’ – the latest episode of Adgully’s premier #TwitterChat addressed this pertinent topic. Joining in this discussion were:
Shormistha Mukherjee, Director, Flying Cursor
Gunjan Mukherjee, Lead – Consumer Tech, Travel and Lifestyle, H+K Strategies
Sapna Arora, Brand Regional, Head, CMO & PRO, OLX
Smita Murarka, VP - Marketing, Duroflex
Bhavana Mittal, VP (Head) - Media and Digital, RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group
Varsha Ojha, Head - Marketing & Digital, Radio City & Mid-day
The conversations began by each of the panelists sharing their experience of being groomed to take up leadership roles.
For Sapna Arora, the experience was the same as what would attract anyone – the opportunity to indulge in meaningful goals, a good environment and a privilege to learn.
Gunjan Mukherjee added here, “Without being willing to fail and continually getting back up, I would never have been able to be a leader. I was told it’s okay to admit what you don’t know, it’s okay to ask for help and it’s more than okay to listen to the people you lead. Leadership is hard to define, and good leadership even harder. But I stuck through one thing that my mentors told me – Go into every relationship, business or personal, with open eyes and willing to see people for who they are, not who others say they are.” Moreover, she also believed that childhood lessons and early exposure to leadership had a significant impact on a woman’s perceptions of her ability to lead.
According to Bhavana Mittal, it was seeing one’s role models striving across managing both home and work with equal aplomb and a smile on their faces. And being far more empathetic towards their team members – being strong and vulnerable at the same time. “Leadership begins at home, while you are being brought up. It’s seeing strong role models at home – grandparents and parents. It is being constantly told that you are as good as, if not better than, any of your male counterparts,” she added.
Smita Murarka noted, “Our generation and the one before that had to bulldoze and grab opportunities in the early years. Hopefully, we have done enough and have paved the way for more encouragement for our budding leaders.”
Meanwhile, Shormistha Mukherjee said that while she didn’t have many women in leadership roles through most of her career, especially in the creative side of the business, she was lucky to have worked along some “kickass women, who are contemporaries, and I think I learnt a lot more from them”.
The Do’s and Don’ts to creating women leaders for tomorrow
For Gunjan Mukherjee, the biggest Do is to let women leaders find their own balance. “Keep an open mind. Judgment and assumptions will only impede progress and alienate her from others,” she advised, adding, “Women don’t want favours. Don’t tell her you know exactly how to deal with her situation, because trust me, you don’t!”
Listing the do’s and don’ts, Mittal said, “Do’s – Inspire, motivate, empower, coach, mentor, facilitate, understand; provide a circle of trust and security, exposure, confidence and opportunities required to create a better future for themselves, their families and society. Just let them discover their own potential.” She further said, “Don’ts – block the growth, ridicule or compare them with others.”
Adding to this, Murarka pointed out that it is important to teach the budding leaders the importance of equality – it is towards equal and fair chance at opportunity vis-a-vis just numbers. “We should create an environment to grow and co-exist and not make it about us and men,” she stressed.
Giving her perspective, Arora said, “I think for many women, having more flexibility or being able to take an unconventional, non-linear track to career is important.”
Ojha’s list of Do’s and Don’ts included: Do’s – Perseverance & hard work, Encourage healthy work-life balance.
Don’ts – Don’t treat your career as an option, Don't let the imposter within you pull you down.
Shormistha Mukherjee’s list of Do’s included – Back talent. Give them a platform without judgements of any kind. Allow them to fail. Allow them to bring their perspective and empathy to the table. Celebrate the choices they make. While the Don’ts included, Women do not want to join the boys’ club. It’s full of smoke and pot bellies! So, don’t ask them to be like the boys. Don’t not pay them equal. And don’t not give them equal opportunities.
Catch the complete conversation on Twitter and follow @adgully to join in for our weekly #TwitterChats every Friday.