Can I have it all? Demystifying this and much more with Women in Business
#IWD2017 was remarkable will forever be etched as a special day in my mind for numerous reasons.
To start with it was heartwarming to see one of my blog posts which is very close to my heart do fabulously for the 3rd time. Though it’s not a new one, sharing this on multiple platforms has always evoked such a heartwarming response. This time it was on the eve of International Women's Day and the topic was something we Indian women always grapple with- and hence I always say this -NO - Getting married is not a woman's biggest achievement. There is much more to life than “settling down” as we call it (for reasons I fail to fathom). Why not celebrate her dreams, her aspirations? You can read the post here.
The other big highlight of the day was a Panel Discussion with some really strong, veteran, women leaders in business. This was a part of Women's Day Celebrations by our very own Women's Network at UBS- something that is very close to my heart and I love working with.
The eminent panelists were- Vaishali Kasture- partner at Deloitte, Taru Mateti, Head of Documentation & E-learning at Cybage, Anukriti Sharma who leads Compliance and Legal in UBS India and Shao May, Head of Facilities, UBS India.
Women who have truly shattered the glass ceiling- is not something you get to see every other day. I have always been in awe of Vaishali who was a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs. I have heard her talk and what I love and admire about this woman is - her no nonsense, real, straight from the heart- without a need to sugar coat or sound politically correct style of talking. The best part is it is real- you hear her and you instantly know it strikes a chord with you. You identify yourself in those talks and she breaks the myths associated with being successful needs you to do x ,y ,z with such ease and aplomb that you can’t fail to be besotted by her.
Some of the takeaways of this candid fireside chat - as a woman in business are:
Can I have it all? Indra Nooyi created quite a storm when she said that she doesn't think women can have it all. I have always been plagued by this question. I got a totally new perspective today when Vaishali gave a completely different take on this- it was almost like doing a somersault! She said “your all is very subjective. My all is very different from your all. My all revolves around 3 things - my work, my passion - running marathons and my family. As long as I am happy with the time and effort I devote to them I think I have it all. I definitely think I have it all”.
This came as a whole new perspective to all of us young women seated there. Doesn't it all begin with - first defining your all? If you aspire to do well in your job, be a devoted mother who is with your child 24*7, be a good wife, DIL, keep the relatives and neighbors’ happy, socialize, actively indulge in your hobbies and excel at it - well certainly you are going to have a hazy version of “have it all”. You can't do everything and you can't be liked by everyone.
You need to choose and choose wisely and then live by your choices. It's never easy but who said life would be a cakewalk? And that too for a woman?
It was heartwarming to hear about Taru who took a career break after her daughter was born and resumed work when her daughter was in 7th standard. It wasn't easy, the timings were crazy but she hung on knowing well that she had to move out but not without learning the tricks of the trade and having that experience on her CV. A lesson in career comeback!
Another important one for career women that Vaishali shared was about “networking”. We all know this is something, the importance of which cannot be undermined in today's corporate world if you want to succeed. But for most women including me it's an Achilles heel. As a mom if you ask me - would you like to come over for drinks tonight, I would rather prefer the comfort of my home with my toddler in tow. It was quite surprising to hear from Vaishali that she networks but not quite a lot. After all networking is arbitrary exchange of information as she puts it.
Before you go to that party know those 5 people you have decided to speak with today and make your mark felt. You don't need to spend 5 hours there, you can do it in one hour and walk away. Networking is about give and take. When you talk to someone senior make sure you “give” more. Talk about something you are working on which would be of interest to that person - something as an FYI which he can take back with him or which can open up the ground for further talks. Talking about random things would make the conversation awkward after a while and no one remembers such random conversations and random people.
Have the elevator pitch ready at all times! What would you say if you met the CEO of UBS in the elevator? Would you waste those few precious minutes or use it optimally to make your mark?
The panel discussion and networking event where I got an opportunity to talk to Vaishali, Taru and others upfront (and the take on networking was a result of this personal conversation) was an eventful one. Though I have enjoyed such events being a mute spectator in the past and always shied away from asking that question that I so badly wanted to ask and the networking event was mostly restricted to eating cookies and making small talk - taking one step forward by raising your hand to ask that question least bothered about what people will think and being bold to go talk to a partner or a senior leader and ask them that back stage question or tell them about something you are doing which would be of interest to them – Yes! That can have a significant impact.
Women's Day ended on a kick-ass note and look forward to a year of new milestones and new challenges.