Women in Leadership

I recently had the opportunity to attend a corporate training on Women in Leadership.. The first program I am attending in my career which was all women, about women and for women…

Key Reverberations

* Great to see so many women in leadership roles in the corporate context . The diversity in individual profiles, roles and their journeys is incredible!
 * In terms of profile of attendees on this training, majority were in the age group 27 – 40 and about 90% were married and with kids
 * If I had to summarize the top 3 points that were echoed in this session, it was around:
(1) Flexibility at work during phases of life when there was a major change in a women’s life – For e.g.: Birth of a baby
(2) Importance of ME time – Some time for themselves apart from professional and domestic responsibilities
(3) Availability of the right opportunities in the corporate context – Aligned to one’s profile, aspirations, growth – both individual and organization growth
* For a question on “What do you really want in your future?” – It was interesting to note that majority of the women wanted:
(1) Happiness – Though the definition of what makes one happy was personal
(2) Time for work and life out of work
(3) Peace of mind and harmony
 * The most powerful message was that You cannot be a superwomen / supermom all the time – Being a women / mother means that you play many different roles and have many stakeholders who will expect different things from you.. What is important is to accept that you will not be able to give your 100% all the time to what everyone expects from you & you will not be able to make everyone happy all the time.
For this, you need to be clear about your priorities and make choices. You win some, you lose some.. But then! That’s life

* Life is eventually about choices – and every choice you make has a trade-off. You may not be aware of all the trade-offs when you make a choice – But be sure that there will be some positives and some negatives. You have got to accept it and move ahead!
 * Identify your leadership style – Be aware of it, Identify your strengths and consciously work on your improvement areas
 * Who moved my cheese? – I’ve read the book and watched the movie several times; and yet every time I see it, it will inspire. I guess that’s the beauty of a true classic. The key messages that I took-away this time are:
(1) Have clarity on your goals – personal or professional
(2) Change is inevitable ; Plan for it & Be prepared for it
(3) Move out of your comfort zone ; It’s important for learning, growth and progress
(4) Your life journey and destination is yours – It’s personal, It’s a choice…
(5) Surround yourself with positive thoughts and people; Keep at bay negative thoughts, people and energies
(6) Invest some time and effort in observing your environment (personal / professional) – That’s the only way to be aware of changes around you
(7) Don’t over analyze everything in life; Lest it leads you to the analysis paralysis state
 * Sheryl Sandberg’s TED Speech on “Why we have too few women leaders” @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18uDutylDa4  is inspiring!
Key take-aways:

(1) ‘The Most Important Career Choice You’ll Make Is Who You Marry’ @  http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-12-01/strategy/30462131_1_powerful-women-sheryl-sandberg-facebook-coo.
I agree with this completely; especially as you grow in any organization and especially once you have children, a women realizes the importance of having the right partner

(2) “Until Women Are As Ambitious As Men, They’re Not Going To Achieve As Much’” @ http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/07/sheryl-sandberg-women/
(3) “Women unlike men encountered tradeoffs between success and likeability” (Excerpt from Sheryl’s interview) – So true!
(4) “Women are not dropping out to have a child. They’re dropping out because they have no opportunity” (Excerpt from Sheryl’s interview) – Again very rightly said! Given the right opportunity, flexibility and back-end support goes a long way in women joining the work-force and ensure a different level of work commitment and loyalty

* A talk from a senior successful women leader highlighted on the following for women in the corporate world:

1) Choose your life partner wisely (and this includes your in-laws as well)
2) Stay fit, Stay healthy – Important for the long haul
3) Build a network of strong friends and networks – both at work and outside work. Very critical for life
4) Have a mentor (formal / informal)
5) Focus and lay emphasis on personal grooming and etiquette – key for a women
6) If you are invited for a meeting, make sure you are well-prepared. Have a well thought point of view which you will express during the discussion. If you don’t have anything meaningful to say, be quiet rather than saying the wrong thing. One wrong word or statement from a women in a leadership role has the potential to change the course of your career forever

 * Wise words from Indrani Nooyi which I felt were appropriate to quote in this blog (All from published sources)
(1) It’s some­thing my mother used to tell me. She said: “They can take away the CEO from you, but they can’t take the woman away from you, they can’t take your hus­band away from you, they can’t take your chil­dren away from you. So don’t for­get that– don’t for­get how you have to be anchored in your fam­ily.” Hon­estly, I’m not sure how I can be a CEO with­out being a wife, a mother and a daugh­ter. Because that’s who I am at my core. I love my fam­ily, so I work hard to make sure that part of my life that makes me who I am is always true. I work at it.”
(2) “I’m so secure in myself, I don’t have to be American to play in the corporate life”
(3) She views PepsiCo as an extended family and everybody at the company is there to help in every way possible. Sometime ago, when Indra was traveling, her daughter would call the office to ask for permission to play Nintendo. The receptionist would know the routine and ask: “Have you finished your homework? Have you had your snack? OK, you can play Nintendo for half an hour”. She then left a voice message for Indra saying “I gave Tara permission to play Nintendo”. Unheard of in most corporations, it’s a team Indra has built up at PepsiCo which knows each other so well.
(4) When I became the president, at 10 o’clock in the night I went home and said, ‘Mom I have some very important news’. To which she said ‘leave that important news, just go buy some milk’. To which, I said, ‘Raj is home, why don’t you ask him to buy the milk?’ She said, ‘he is tired’. Typical mother you know, can’t disturb the son-in-law! I was very upset, but I went and bought the milk and banged it on the kitchen table in front of her and said, ‘Tell me, why do I have to buy the milk and not somebody else.’ She just looked at me – and I will never forget it and it was a powerful lesson she left in me and said – ‘look, when you pull into the garage, leave the crown there. Don’t walk in with it, because you are first a wife and a mother. And if the family needs milk, you go get the milk. That is your primary role in life. Everything else is what you acquired or what you got because I pray for four to five hours a day.’ That is the only thing she tells me. She says, ‘what did you accomplish? You sit in a meeting on a chair all the time, and I pray for 4-5 hours.’

* It is important to have a personal action plan for learning and growth – You can choose the areas, But focus on at most 2 areas for every 3 months


3 comments on “Women in Leadership

  1. I really loved this one. I think there are a lot of underlying finer points you have made and some are debatable. Though most would say I am not qualified to making any statements since I am not married myself, I think however when I do think about it – There is no right or wrong and one never knows if they got it right. Truth is choices such as marriage/spouses are made and no matter what they cannot be undone and changed as frequently. Eventually life poses a lot of constraints. Probably years of evolution and our genetic constitution has made women take family/bonds as a priority over becoming a CEO. Maybe that is how we are wired. However, I truly believe that in an idealistic free and equal world both genders should be given the choice/the opportunity and then the conditioning will develop. Anyways good post and like I said a lot can be discussed and debated. Hope each woman finds their comfort.

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