It’s a tightrope walk for work-life balance
For an organisation, having women leaders also means creating role models for other women. In this era of connect, collaborate, women are able to give their best and are loving their roles as leaders
MANISHA AGARWAL, hr head, Puma India
Can women have it all – a successful career and a great family life? Perhaps yes, if we look at how women in India Inc are managing their professional and personal lives. Today’s women are willing to experiment and are ready to take on senior positions in companies. All that they want is some flexibility. “When I saw myself surrounded by a prestigious league of innovators from across the world, including 78 men and only two women (including me) at Goldman Sachs, I decided to take the big leap and start my own organisation. Later, my tenure at Nordstrom worked as a confidence booster and I gave my entrepreneurial journey a headstart,” says Radhika Agarwal, co-founder and chief business officer, Shopclues.com.
Like Agarwal, many women leaders in India Inc are carving a niche for themselves as entrepreneurs or leaders in their organisations. Many of them also feel that their organisations helping them strike a balance between family responsibilities and careers.
Take the case of Meenakshi Rajpal Mehta, head – finan- cial services, Snapdeal and Freecharge. Being a working mother, she is required to travel extensively at times. “Even if I don’t travel as much as my male colleagues, I can Skype, video chat and ensure that my presence is felt at work. Technology helps a lot these days and organisations are making full use of it to help women achieve a balance,” she says.
Like Mehta, many others are managing expertly to strike a healthy work-life balance through various ways. “Plan, prioritise and schedule as effectively as possible is my mantra. Even while in office, I would have planned my daughter’s daily routine, my menu, my guest list for the upcoming party at home in my head well before time,” says Mehta. What helps her is differentiating between urgent and important. For Rachna Mukherjee, chief human resources officer, Schneider Electric India, achieving this balance is all about prioritising.
“We need to prioritise our tasks based on circumstances. Companies can help by ensuring flexi work hours in the overall schedule. Being cognizant of one’s strengths and weaknesses and picking up roles in alignment with that always helps,” she says.
Recalling a challenging situation she was in within three months of joining ecommerce portal Snapdeal, Mehta says she was once called for a meeting scheduled in the second half of the day with company CEO Kunal Bahl. “I wondered how I would attend the meeting as the timing clashed with my daughter’s annual day function,” she says. But one request to the CEO’s office to change the meeting hours solved the problem. “Within minutes his office accommodated my request and helped me accommodate my personal duties. If big companies have smartly drafted policies to help you manage work-life balance but do not have such mindsets to understand your needs, it means a waste of resources,” says Mehta. Besides dealing with personal and professional challenges, women also have to deal with office politics and tough male bosses to make a mark.
According to global professional services network Grant Thornton’s international business report 2015 titled Women i n Business: T he Path t o Leadership, India ranked third lowest globally in terms of proportion (15%) of business leadership roles.
A February 2016 survey by staffing firm Teamlease reveals India Inc is reluctant to integrate women into the workforce, and gender equality initiatives are more from a compliance perspective than bridging the gap. According to the survey, more than 72% women feel that gender discrimination is prevalent at the workplaces.