‘In­clu­sive Cul­ture Needed for Women to Suc­ceed’

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Women need to pick the right em­ploy­ers, says Deb­o­rah Gil­lis, pres­i­dent & CEO, Cat­a­lyst, a non­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion that works with more than 700 mem­ber com­pa­nies around the world, in­clud­ing al­most 80 in In­dia, to ex­pand op­por­tu­ni­ties for women and busi­ness. "It’s re­ally im­por­tant for women to choose where they work care­fully; they should look around if there are other se­nior women in the com­pany; they should ask about di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion poli­cies; they should un­der­stand how de­ci­sions about hir­ing and groom­ing and ad­vance­ment are made,” says Gil­lis, in an in­ter­view to Rica Bhat­tacharyya from ET. Edited ex­cerpts: Are women more of­ten than not torn by guilt? Women feel this guilt of be­ing torn be­tween work and fam­ily re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and I think guilt is a wasted emo­tion. We need to put aside guilt and recog­nise that at any given time we make choices and dif­fer­ent things be­come our pri­or­ity. The way for me to get rid of that guilt is to know for my­self that I am al­ways there for the most im­por­tant things for my fam­ily and I am al­ways there for the most im­por­tant things at work and so I don’t feel guilty about the things that I do less. If women would think in that way about the choices that they make it is eas­ier for us than to feel we have to be every­where all the time in ev­ery cir­cum­stance. Face­book COO Sh­eryl Sand­berg in her book has asked women to “Lean in”. What is your view? I like Sh­eryl Sand­berg’s no­tion of lean­ing in. It is im­por­tant for women to lean in, which means em­brac­ing your ca­reer and tak­ing those re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and rais­ing your hand and be­ing en­gaged in the workplace. It is equally im­por­tant that or­gan­i­sa­tions also lean in and cre­ate those in­clu­sive cul­tures where women can be suc­cess­ful. It’s two sides to the coin and a part­ner­ship that’s re­ally needed if we are go­ing to see more women ad­vance to those lead­er­ship po­si­tions. Do In­dian women face any unique chal­lenges? There are a cou­ple of things that are true in cor­po­rate en­vi­ron­ment every­where — women have ba­bies and men are in po­si­tions of power and lead­er­ship. What is unique in any cul­ture is how those two things play out in or­gan­i­sa­tions and the broader so­cio-cul­tural en­vi­ron­ment. Some unique sit­u­a­tions that women in In­dia face in­clude the kind of pres­sure from fam­i­lies for be­ing the best mother, best daugh­ter, best daugh­ter-in-law. There are also is­sues around their phys­i­cal safety in trav­el­ling to and from work. An­other is­sue is ac­cess to qual­ity and re­li­able care for their chil­dren. But at the core the is­sues for women are sim­i­lar in cor­po­rate en­vi­ron­ment — how do you re­cruit, re­tain and ad­vance women. What role can net­work­ing play in ca­reer ad­vance­ment of women? Women have this ten­dency to put down their heads and work re­ally hard and at the end of the day go back to their fam­i­lies to start their sec­ond shift of work. It is re­ally im­por­tant for women to un­der­stand that do­ing a good job is im­por­tant but it is not all that you need to suc­ceed and ad­vance in your ca­reer. You also need to build re­la­tion­ship; it is in those net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties that you will get the kind of vis­i­bil­ity that you need with lead­ers who will ul­ti­mately be­come the men­tors and spon­sors. Women need to know that net­work­ing is a skill; it is some­thing that you learn and get bet­ter at and is as im­por­tant as other skills to ad­vance ca­reer.

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