Wednesday, March 8, 2006



What women want

The numbers may not be sizeable but theirs is a presence that is increasingly making itself heard in the boardrooms of India Inc. On International Womenís Day, Chetna Keer Banerjee catches some such voices that strike a note of cheer and articulate the concerns of career women.

"Work-life balance is needed"

Aruna A. Padmanabhan
Aruna A. Padmanabhan, HR Manager, Freescale Semiconductor India Pvt Ltd

A defining moment in my career:

"In the year 2004, Freescale Semiconductor became a publicly traded company and spun off from its parent Motorola Inc after more than 50 years. This was a milestone in the companyís history as well as mine. I was excited to be amidst such strategic changes. The challenges were immense but the returns extremely satisfying.

One thing I value in our work culture:

"Respect for the individual. The Indian corporate culture reflects Indiaís rich culture. We as people are extremely value-driven, tolerant, hard working, and donít step on others.

One thing Iíd like to change in the workplace:

"As HR professionals, we need to alter the tendency of employees to work late hours. We encourage our employees to leave on time. It is important that employees find the right work-life balance, spend time outside work and have a fulfilling social life. With increasing work load, balancing professional and personal life becomes imperative. Hence, this increases the challenges that we, as HR professionals, face. Personally, I think weekends must be totally devoted to relaxation.

Challenges before women in India Inc:

"Corporate India respects women. With more MNCs establishing an Indian footprint, thereís a plethora of opportunities for Indian women. Indian women are extremely talented but, unfortunately, form only 6 per cent of the Indian workforce, according to a recent CII survey. Maintaining the right work-life balance and dealing with work-related stress will continue to be a challenge.

The glass ceiling:

"Today, we have women in top positions in sectors like finance and banking, marketing, automobile and engineering. The success story of women is not restricted to urban areas. Rural women contributing to brand names like Amul and Lijjat Papad speaks volumes about the tenacity and commitment of Indian women..

Career women who inspire me:

"I will always remember my first interview 14 years ago, for an HR position. I was very inspired by the dynamic woman who interviewed me. One of the questions she asked me was where I saw myself 10 years later. I told her that I saw myself in her position. having spoken my mind, I became nervous. But, to my surprise, I got the job. To a large extent, sheís been my role model."

"Provide infrastructural support"

Rachana Panda
Rachana Panda, Head of Corporate Communications, South Asia, UTStarcom

A defining moment in my career:

"My work on community development and socially responsible projects has been very challenging and has added a lot to my growth as a professional. What begun as a hobby/interest area, slowly added on to me professionally and now is a part of me. Today, I believe everyone, whether in their individual capacity or as part of a corporate house, should definitely contribute to society, not necessarily in monetary terms but through efforts.

One thing I value in our work culture:

"The culture of respecting experience and the value assigned to family life. India is one place where howsoever junior a person may be, we always assign importance to his experience.

One thing Iíd like to change in the workplace:

"Respect for time and punctuality. In India, we work according to our own time schedule and do not assign enough importance to timelines. Our productivity would increase manifold if we learn the value of time."

Challenges before women in India Inc:

"I think most of the challenges are within us. We need to believe in ourselves and try and set priorities in life.

"Safety is an important issue for the working women in India. More and more women are coming out to the cities after completing their education, but our cities need to be equipped to handle this. The authorities need to create a congenial environment and infrastructure for women .

The glass ceiling:

"The present age boasts of innumerable women who have grown in the corporate world. The glass ceiling is disappearing and things are much better now.

Career women who inspire me:

"I really admire Dr Kiram Mazumdar Shaw for single-handedly being responsible establishing Indiaís pioneering biotech enterprise. Her unique vision and pioneering efforts have given her immense recognition, both nationally and internationally."

"Womenís views are being accepted in core areas"

Nita Kapoor
Nita Kapoor, Sr Vice-President, Mktg and Corporate Affairs, Godfrey Phillips India Ltd

A defining moment in my career:

"I hadnít passed out of college yet, and was looking for a job. All I had was sincerity of approach and a passion to make a difference in whatever I did. Thatís when I met A.G. Krishnamurthy, then head of Mudra Communications. During the interview, he said: ĎItís difficult to find people who are self-motivated. Donít let anything or anyone take that away from you.í And I didnít. I not only got an assignment but the best advice I could ever receive."

One thing I value in our work culture:

"Finally, the corporate culture is reflecting an open mind-set towards womenís views on subjects such as business strategy and finance. Also, the earlier skepticism, evident in comments like "Can a woman do it?," is now changing to confidence in womenís abilities.

One thing Iíd like to change in the workplace:

"We need to show a little more understanding for the fact that most women have to strike a balance between personal and professional lives. For that matter, even men have to.

Challenges before women in India Inc:

"Keeping the pace of performance in their respective sectors and ensuring that despite individual success, their feet remain firmly planted on the ground.

The glass ceiling:

"Itís a reality. Women have to be aware of this and work on it so that it doesnít come as a surprise later."

Career women who inspire me:

"I admire a lot of women, but have no role models."

"Go beyond soft options"

Reena Ahuja
Reena Ahuja, Sr Director, HR, Hughes Escorts Communications Ltd

Defining moment in my career:

"Growing up as a professional is a summation of many challenging moments, but if I were to pick one then it would be the instance where my Country Manager in Schlumberger asked me to present the HR plan for a new business unit that was being set up in India to the Chairman Euan Baird and a few other seniors from this $ 13 billion company, only months since I had joined them. With all my humble 3.5 years of experience, it was days of hard work but it did make me grow as a professional while picking upon all aspects of business to present a convincing plan.

One thing I value in our work culture:

"Corporate India is a beautiful blend of intelligence and our warm culture. It still has a human face and relationships in our workplace are more wholesome, which is very different from the West and Far East, where everything is very cut and dry in the corporate world. We continue to value people as Ďthinking individualsí, not as mere Ďresourcesí.

One thing Iíd like to change in the workplace:

"The one change that corporates can benefit from immensely in todayís world is innovation and quality, both in personal and professional work spheres. Everybody can tread a beaten path but to strive to make a change coupled with quality will give new direction and dimension to not just the workplace, but business in general. This is the era of value-added services and that too of a high quality which will give companies the edge over the others.

Challenges before women in India Inc:

"There are two big challenges. One, women of India Inc should get shoulder to shoulder with the men. Even today, the choices made by women are often softer and women tend to step back in a gender challenge. Second, women in corporate India have to work for the cause of all Indian women. They will form the bedrock of growth in this country. Itís an old saying that it is the women of the house who build the nation. We have to set an example for all other women so that they can see the benefits of education and economic independence for themselves and their families.

The glass ceiling:

"The glass ceiling is not a myth, it very much exists. And it takes a strong, aggressive woman to break that ceiling with her efforts and get beyond. But having said that, I also have seen a shift in the recent years and women are being appointed and accepted at higher positions with a lot more grace by the corporates.

Career women who inspire me:

From childhood till today, there is one living woman professional whom I place on a high pedestal. She is Kiran Bedi. A perfect blend of grit, intelligence, beauty and purpose.