“Guilt comes as part of the suc­cess pack­age”

India Today - - EMPOWERMENT - As told to Moeena Halim

Suc­cess to me, from a pro­fes­sional per­spec­tive, has meant hav­ing the re­spect of my peers, be­ing se­cure in the knowl­edge that what­ever I did was cor­rect and done with­out sac­ri­fic­ing the in­tegrity of my ad­vice for any ex­ter­nal rea­sons, that I was able to in­sti­tu­tion­alise an or­gan­i­sa­tion, nur­ture young tal­ent and be a good men­tor for a fu­ture set of lead­ers. But strik­ing a bal­ance be­tween my pro­fes­sional and per­sonal life has never been easy. I had three chil­dren in quick suc­ces­sion be­tween 1986 and 1990. I founded my own firm in 1984 and so that was also the pe­riod of time when I was at my most manic at work. Frankly, I don’t think I have mas­tered the art of strik­ing the per­fect bal­ance yet. There are dif­fer­ent times in my life where I gave pri­or­ity to dif­fer­ent things. But I think the one last­ing guilt I will have, like many work­ing mothers do, is that I didn’t give enough time to my chil­dren. I try to make peace with it in my head by be­ing there for crit­i­cal mile­stones. But for young girls, hav­ing a mother around is es­sen­tial, es­pe­cially while they’re fac­ing those typ­i­cal teenage is­sues. That’s where I failed to do what I should have per­haps.

I find ways to make up for it, with­out ver­bal­is­ing it, by be­ing there for my girls (An­jali, Aarti and Aditi), now young women, when­ever they reach out to me. And of course, my hus­band (Jay­dev Mody, founder of Delta Corp) as well. I cer­tainly haven’t been the stereo­typ­i­cal wife and the only way that our com­pan­ion­ship and bond has lasted is be­cause we’re both driven, con­scious and proud of each other’s achieve­ments. I’m aware of the rar­ity I have found in a hus­band who isn’t in­se­cure, and is in fact ex­tremely proud of me. As a 60-year-old, a piece of ad­vice I’d give to my younger self is to not be­come ob­ses­sive about my work for such a long pe­riod of time. Of course, that might have af­fected where I am right now, but in the long run it would have been worth it. And even in hind­sight, I can recog­nise that if I wanted a ca­reer that was grow­ing as fast as it was at that time, I prob­a­bly would have had to make that sac­ri­fice again.

To young women try­ing to carve a niche for them­selves, I’d say work your brains out be­fore you de­cide to get mar­ried and start a fam­ily. Make sure you are re­spected for what you’re do­ing and es­tab­lish your rep­u­ta­tion. But recog­nise that you’d need a lit­tle time for your­self.

But truth be told, the op­por­tu­nity for women to ask for things is much more now than it was in the early 1980s. Em­ploy­ers are far more aware of how valu­able a woman leader can be. It is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble for us to have it all. Guilt comes as part of the suc­cess pack­age, but it is a man­age­able guilt. A woman’s role is one of moth­er­hood, you can’t take that away bi­o­log­i­cally, nor should you want to. And if that is a role that na­ture gives us, how much do we fight with it be­fore some­thing snaps in our own head? That’s the strug­gle we all fight with and I don’t see that chang­ing.

ZiA ModY 60 Le­gal con­sul­tant Found­ing Part­ner, aZB & Part­ners, Mum­bai

SepteM­ber 2007

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