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Women in Leadership Forum India 2011: Day One – A Powerhouse of Energy

Naseba’s 2nd Annual Women in Leadership Forum India 2011 recently concluded in Mumbai. Held on October 13 and 14, 2011 at the JW Marriott, the two day conclave was carved with an objective to inspire the women business leaders of tomorrow. It saw an inspiring gathering of women leaders from across the country.

Shilpa Sachdev reports for on the sessions that took place on Day 1 of the Women in Leadership Forum India 2011.

  • My Career: A Cornerstone Of My Identity

A woman defines life. From her traditional role as a mother and a homemaker to now leading the corporate boardroom, the journey of woman has indeed come a long way.

Themed ‘My Career: A cornerstone of my identity’, the event saw healthy debate and discussion along with a motivating exchange of the success stories of leading women in the country.

Most importantly, it provided an opportunity and a platform for the women leaders to interact and network. Some of the most prominent women in industry were invited to speak at the conference. Each session was encouraging in its own way, adding value to every minute spent.

In the opening address, Sunita R Cherian, VP – Human Resources, Wipro EcoEnergy, shared some valuable nuggets stating that it is important to invest in a career and worthwhile to nurture it. One of the crucial points she emphasised is that women need to make a choice.

In context of her own experience, she shared how she chose to study engineering and take a job with a private sector. Coming from an IT background, she spoke on how women are pushing boundaries even in technical fields, and that it is no more an option between family or work, but it is now about integrating the two in a favourable manner. One must learn to weave a choice around the situation.

“It is a balance, so don’t try to be a superwoman. Invest in that maid/cook/driver that will give you quality time to spend with your family. Though career can be a very rewarding experience, other roles are equally critical, especially never make your family a second priority,” she advised.

At the end of her talk, Sunita shared some wonderful tried and tested home recipes to craft a meaningful career. It starts by choosing the right organisation in line with your values, choosing the right spouse so invest time to know him and his family as you need that support to be successful.

Look for sponsors in your organisation, invest in yourself; read more or take up a hobby, set milestones, stay healthy and groom yourself; develop a view point, she advises. In her words, you are the CEO of your career.

  • Lead by Example

Next in line was an interactive panel discussion throwing light on the key stepping stones for women to become an inspiring leader. The first viewpoint ‘Lead by Example’ was shared by Marsha Gabriel, CEO, The Helping Hand Network, who said that extraordinary things happen by liberating the leader within.

In order to know who has the power, one must identify the function. She elaborated that leadership can be autocratic or transformational. “In an autocratic set up, there is organisation but no organism no flow of life no corporeal structure so the danger is talent flees. Transformational leaders innovate and impact change,” she noted.

  • Mentorship

Presenting her viewpoint on ‘Mentorship’, Kanika Dewan, Group President, Bramco, said that it is a life strategy. Quoting a survey, she shared that 93% of the men get a raise from their mentors as against only 56% of women and hence there are very few women on top, the reason being women don’t blend with other women.

Cross-gender mentorship can prove helpful, she noted, suggesting a 5-point acronym “STRIVE” which stands for Singularity, Tradition, Research, Idealism, Vivacity and Enjoying the process.

  • Emotional Fitness In Women

In the third viewpoint, motivational speaker, Abha Maryada Banerjee, highlighted the need to build ‘Emotional Fitness’ among women. “We have to accept and understand that the wiring is different in women and that they tend to think from an emotional centre and not often a logical centre. However, this is an advantage as emotions are needed in business to build powerful relationships,” she stated.

The panel discussion also saw men presenting their perspective. Sanjay Modi, MD – India/Middle East/Southeast Asia,, said that there is a definite business need to have more women’s participation. Since the majority of the consumer market is made up of women, it only makes sense to let the women decide for women.

Lucius Lobo, VP and Global Head – Security Services, Tech Mahindra Ltd, reiterated the commitment of his company to have more women employees on board stating that it is no more gender, but merit, that drives the decision.

The key challenge the panel highlighted was the lack of enough educated women and how each one of us carries the responsibility to be a role model in ourselves to bring the change. It is also important for the woman to be assertive, vocal and clear and learn to express herself, especially in a workplace.

Speaking on the issue of reservation, the panelists in unison maintained that better policies are required to integrate more women into the mainstream and give them a fuller canvas than just a one third representation, which only makes sense in the national context.

As moderator Uma Nambiar, CEO, Global Hospitals and Health City, observed that it involves imparting them a right to live and right to free education at an earlier stage in life.

  • Breaking the Social Barrier

The next session ‘Breaking the Social Barrier’ looked at the extraordinary journey of a multifaceted versatile woman who became a celebrated leader in a male-dominated society. Ranjana Kumar, retired Vigilance Commissioner of the Central Vigilance Commission, Government of India, left everyone spellbound with her magnetic persona and inspiring narrative of her illustrious banking career.

Ranjana KumarShe transformed three loss making units into profitable ventures and has worked with the best banking institutions in the country. She began with the importance of being a professional at work and importantly of knowing the work you do.

“Do not bring the problems of your workplace home,” she advised. “Luck is when preparedness meets opportunity. Seize the opportunity when it comes. As you go up the corporate ladder, you have to teach and mentor others. Become ‘dependable’ for your organisation – that will be an asset.”

“Stay energetic and flexible. Your own conviction is important. Do not hesitate to take suggestions from your subordinates. When in doubt, delay the decision. When you put people in their strength areas, you don’t need to supervise them. Take manageable risks.”

“The graph of life has its ups and dips; don’t be mentally sick. Maintain a distance from people who make your welfare their worry. You don’t know your own potential.  Become bold and assertive and not aggressive. Be sure of yourself; be firm but polite.”

“Don’t curb your emotions. Learn to delegate work. Put systems in place. When people take decisions there are bound to be mistakes. Don’t have knee jerk reactions or your people will stop making decisions. A peaceful domestic life is the trump card – invest in it,” she continued to thunderous applause.

  • Womenomics

Ranjana’s talk was followed by another panel discussion this time on Womenomics focusing on how women will drive the future of the 21st century and what more needs to be done to leverage the value of women in the workplace.

The question is can women swing between the soft and the tough? Akila Krishnakumar, COO and Country Head, SunGard, presented her viewpoint on higher growth trends. Women are the most underutilised resource. She observed that 52% women drop out after 30 years of age.

“Imagine 50% of men dropping out; that would be a national calamity. We don’t want to be a part of any diversity quota. We need to have mixed teams that will bring complementary skills and talents fostering better decisions. We are not fighting for rights but for earning representation, that is the challenge at organisational level. We need to speak where needed and take the credit,” she recommended.

  • What Women Want

Each woman who wants to make it big must have a ‘dream’ says Harshbeena Sahney Zaveri, MD and President, NRB Bearings Ltd, in context of her viewpoint on “What Women Want”. “Women don’t tend to think big. They must aspire to be in key positions. We should recruit women in non-traditional spots. Apart from competency, choose women who have the spunk and character. Nurture them.”

“Ask the right questions but done ask for directions from people who don’t want to help. Surround yourself with cheery people. Use your sense of humour to get the point across. Have a plan to create the life balance you want,” she advised.

  • Retaining Female Talent In The Organisation

Aditi Chandra, National Head – Mahindra and Mahindra Financial Services, gave some solutions on the viewpoint of “Retaining women talent in the organisation”, stating, “We need to have something on lines of a ‘brown bag lunch’ – a networking session where women can sit and talk. We need to understand that women have a different skill gap vis-à-vis a man at the same position. The organisation should have mentors and leadership programs to sensitise the men to women issues.”

Hrashbeen adds, “One may also have a ‘menu card’ system in a flexible domain to allow women to choose their incentives. One must brag about their achievements; people will look upto you. Don’t be invisible.”

The panel discussion was moderated by Sujitha Karnad, Head – Human Resources & Quality, IT Services, Tech Mahindra Ltd, and followed by an interactive role play session for the delegates. The day concluded with WIL Achievements Awards Ceremony conducted in the evening felicitating women achievers in various fields.

  • WIL Achievements Awards Winners

Leading Woman In Business (International) – Kanika Dewan, President, Bramco WLL

Leading Woman In Business (India) – Rekha and Renu Babu, Joint Managing Directors, BCG Health Park Pvt Ltd

Leading Woman in Finance – Ritu Arora, Director – Investment and Procurements, Canara HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce Life Insurance Company Ltd

Leading Woman in Media – Kavita Lakhani, President, Linopinion Public Relations – Lowe Lintas India

Leading Woman in Technology – Valerie R Wagoner, Founder and CEO, Zipdial

Leading Woman in Healthcare – Kanchan Naikawadi, Director, Indus Health Plus

Leading Woman in HR – Lekha Parameswaran, Head – Executive Search Division, High Places International

Women Initiative Award – Godfrey Phillips Bravery Women’s Empowerment Initiative

Special Category: Lifetime Leadership Achievement Award – Shahnaz Hussain

© is a media partner for the 2nd Annual Women in Leadership (WIL) Forum India

Women in Leadership (WIL) Series Topics:

The 2nd Annual Women in Leadership (WIL) Forum India is a cutting-edge platform for businesswomen from all backgrounds, industry sectors and countries around the world. Amongst the delegates in attendance will be top Indian and global businesswomen, industry visionaries, leading politicians, knowledge thought leaders and entrepreneurs.

Photo source YouthKiAwaaz




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