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Women leaders will play a big role in building an inclusive culture: Shweta Berry

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, Shweta Berry, Head of Strategic Alliances - Industry & Academia, Marcom, Sales Enablement & CSR Divisions, Aeris Communications, speaks about the new business and work environment arising out of the pandemic era and the expanding role and scope of women leaders in the new normal.

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

Economies world over are already feeling post-pandemic tremors with mounting healthcare budgetary crisis and fear of a looming recession. Rebuilding a better world would require a vision of thinking beyond imaginable, being intuitive yet reasonable, strong enough to take tough decisions yet compassionate and approachable. It makes me feel proud to state that countries like Germany, Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Belgium, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Iceland applauded for putting an effective response to control and contain the pandemic had one thing in common – female leadership. Women leaders from these countries exhibited exceptional leadership qualities and the world needs to learn from the management styles of these women leaders for building a better world beyond COVID-19. Yes, the role of women leaders will definitely expand for not only bringing countries on track and business back to profitability, but also in building an inclusive culture with increased levels of trust, connectedness and happiness given the fact that ‘work from home’ and ‘social distancing’ will be part and parcel of our new normal.

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?

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely hastened two trends driving change in business models: digital transformation and the corporate shift to long-term value. And both have a direct impact on the role of business development and marketing professionals, like me. Working in technology companies for the past two decades, IT and digital has been an integral part of my work life. However, the real challenge was the change in approach and methodologies for reaching out to our target audiences and key stakeholders while navigating shifts in traditional marketing and content strategies, reassessing budget allocations, halting traditional channel investments, and managing new remote work dynamics.

We shifted our new product launches from physical conference venues to digital platforms and hosted series of webinars, panel discussions, tech talks with government and industry stalwarts. Our online presence and engagement were further expanded with investments in social media channels. These new marketing strategies started delivering positive impact as our brand visibility and thought leadership along with the media share of voice registered a phenomenal increase of 1025% in print and total coverages shot up by 82% in 2020 as compared to 2019.

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?

Indeed, this pandemic is one bad twist from life’s normal flow. Quick adaptation to the changing environment, being open to change while preparing for the worst has been my mantra for sailing through the tough times. The two management lessons – time management and clear communication have proved effective tools for maintaining work life balance as well. Facilitating frequent, virtual contact with my team members, duly respecting personal time while working remotely has helped get essential support to maintain business as usual. At the same time, finding ‘Me-time’ for taking care of body, mind and soul with cooking nutritious food, learning new cuisines, listening to music, doing meditation and exercise, giving more time to pro-bono work, being there for family members and regularly interacting with friends are some of the activities helping manage the elevated stress and break the monotony of staying at home. Also, the pandemic has taught me that for living a good life, we really don’t need much. Hence, at the personal level, adopting minimalist and self-sustaining lifestyle is the vision and work in progress.

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?

Any unprecedented crisis like the COVID-19 fails all existing textbooks and guides for leaders to lead. Such times need leaders who can act intelligently, exhibit genuine empathy, yet are strong enough to take tough decisions for greater good in the time of crisis. Women are naturally observing, authentic, compassionate, empathetic, nurturing and proactive. Female leaders are better in showing compassion, giving hope, and committing for better healthcare, education, improved standard of living in the future and not just managing crises.

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

As a leader, we are not only responsible for our work ethics and deeds, but we also set an environment and cultural precedence for others to follow. I believe the silver lining in these darkest novel Coronavirus clouds is that, we have been blessed with time to stop running in the mad-race and do lot of self-introspection. I believe that most effective lessons this pandemic has taught me are:

  • Create and be part of a culture which is inclusive and respects diversity.
  • Productivity can be restored with quicker adaption to new work models, flexibility in approach, patience (and a lot of it) and introducing fun elements at work.
  • Build better relationships with trust, transparency and accountability.
  • Recruit multi-skilled talent from across regional boundaries.
  • Invest in holistic care for self & family and maintain a balanced lifestyle.
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