‘Inclusive Culture Needed for Women to Succeed’
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.