Redefining success: How women can balance family and professional life
Be nice and kind to those who form your support system at home, for without them, you can never focus on work, said the woman who headed the country's largest commercial bank.
Never let sexual harassment pass, report in writing, said the country's first woman to become the additional solicitor general of India.
Behind every professionally successful woman is a happy family, said one of the early investment bankers of the country.
Such advice -- not sermons from a podium, but useful nuggets for following in daily life -- were forthcoming from some of the country's most prominent successful women who have managed to balance a satisfying family life as well.
On July 29, Supreme Court lawyer and India’s first woman additional solicitor general, Indira Jaising; former chairperson of State Bank of India, Arundhati Bhattacharya; investment banker, Manisha Girotra and fashion designer Kiran Uttam Ghosh gathered at Westin Kolkata, Rajarhat to attend a panel discussion on "Redefining Success As A Woman of Today" on July 29 organised by Ladies Study Group (LSG).
Founded in 1966, Ladies Study Group (LSG) is the ladies wing of the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which over the past 52 years has played an active role in promoting women empowerment and addressing various social issues.
"A modern woman today wears several hats. Especially in the context of Indian society, her role has traversed from being a daughter, sister, wife and mother to acquire merits and accolades as a professional as well. Breaking the 'glass ceiling' and undoing the conventional truly define the women of today. True to its motto LSG has put together this event to empower and rejuvenate the minds," said Madhulika Kanoria, president, LSG.
The speakers shared their own personal struggles and experiences. Jaising said she had never been possessive of her husband and it had never been a selfish approach towards life. To ensure that the marriage works, Jaising always gave equal space to her husband and adjusted when he had to travel widely across the globe.
Arundhati Bhattacharya, eloquently explained how she never allowed her work life take a backseat, despite hindrances. In her path to success, her daughter had been a constant source of support and encouragement for her from a very tender age. But she emphasised that to succeed one needs to be happy with what she does. And for unhindered pursuit of a career, the best way to ensure support at home and office is always to be nice and kind to others. “The support system that you built around you, will, in the long run, ensure your success. You also need to have an attitude of sharing your domain knowledge with you colleagues to ensure a seamless operation even in your absence,” she stressed.
Bhattacharya also added that whenever she went for office tours, she never forgot to buy something, not necessarily expensive, for her daughter as a token of love, to make her feel that despite her busy schedule, she was always on her mind.
Manisha Girotra, too, feels that a lot has changed in the sphere of work between when she started and what things are like right now. “When I opted for investment banking 25 years ago, it was a completely male bastion, and I had to endure abusive male language and gruelling late night hours, which wouldn’t have been possible without the unconditional support of my husband and in-laws,” she said.
Designer Kiran Uttam Ghosh, spoke about how she grew from a shy lanky teenager into a smart entrepreneur, balancing domestic and work life. Ghosh said she ensured that there was zero tolerance towards sexual harassment in her workplace and encouraged flexible working hours to make life easier for the female workers.
Subha Pal, director of The Floatel Hotel, and one of the long-standing members of LSG was impressed by the initiative. “I have attended many panel discussions of the LSG under successive presidents. This event has been a wonderful initiative by Madhulika Kanoria. The panel was carefully chosen. It was great to hear the wonderful orator, Indira Jaising. Arundhati Bhattacharya floored us with her candid views that sounded straight from her heart,” said Pal.
“I was particularly impressed by what Arundhati Bhattacharya said that your presence should be noted but your absence mustn’t be felt at work. It’s true that a head of a department must train his or her team and only then she or he is worthy of a promotion,” said Mukul Agarwal, a former president of LSG and an architect who works towards the preservation of Kolkata’s heritage.
Sangita Todi, another past president of LSG, also agrees with Agarwal’s observations. “There were a lot of takeaways from the event. But what I loved the most was Bhattacharya’s message that you should form a team and not friends at office, and you should know how to impart knowledge as a leader and not just delegate jobs to your juniors,” said Todi.