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Guest Column: Men promote men, so why can't women promote women?: Vani Gupta, PepsiCo

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Guest Column: Men promote men, so why can't women promote women?: Vani Gupta, PepsiCo

On International Women’s Day today, Vani Gupta, ‎Marketing Director - Indian Snacks, Foods at PepsiCo, says that in some ways women should be more like men if they want to succeed in the workplace

To start with let me caveat my writing with the disclaimer: My views below on men are more guided by ‘alpha male’ tendencies. And one may argue that not all men are alpha males -  yet, between men and women, it is true that our social conditioning (this applies across the world) is such that women are at a greater disadvantage today, in the male dominated corporate environment.

It is hard being a woman in the corporate environment. Because the very qualities that send a man to the top are the very qualities that are considered disqualifiers for a woman. Because it is men who make the decisions unfortunately on who does or doesn't get promoted. And when it comes to a woman's case put up for promotion, she is at the mercy of a man's traditional social conditioning - which deep down believes that a woman's primary role is child care and that she hence doesn't deserve or is certainly not as worthy in the office as her male counterpart is.

Women can't have it all. Certainly not. While there is plenty talk about work life balance and flexible hours and day care at offices etc.. the truth finally is, women get penalised for simply being - regardless of productivity or results. Because everything at work is finally a matter of perception too... Even bad business results can happily give way to great promotions - depending on whose promotion it is in question. Women by and large still have a long way to go on coming even close to real equality on pay or opportunities.

Yes we need diversity. Yes it has been proven through ample number of studies again and again that companies with women on their boards make produce better financial results. Yet how many such companies are there? How many women actually make it to the top? Indra Nooyi did -  we have a great example in her to follow. But there aren’t too many like her.

The answer lies in the huge gap that exists between the "said" and "done". It's said all companies will admit to the right reasons for increasing diversity in intent. They may even go as far as giving "women only" mandates to recruiting agencies for filling up select roles. Yet they will penalise a woman for the very reasons she was brought in. When she has a contrarian point of view, she will most likely be written off as uncommitted. And if she exhibit similar qualities as a man, she'll be accused of being unfeminine, or capable of being a team player.

At PepsiCo we passionately promote diversity -  women compete on equal terms and draw strength from the many senior leaders we have in influential positions. But this is not generally the case.

I think we women need to selectively – note the word ‘selectively’ - adopt some traits of men:

1) Be unabashed about self promotion: talk confidently of your accomplishments. Women tend to be modest and shy away from tooting their own horn. Men do this very well. Why do we women expect that our work will speak for itself? Yes you will be labelled a brag - but hey, better than not having your accomplishments not known at all, right?

2) Ask for that pay hike: women get paid lesser because we don't ask for more pay. Men consider this their right as genetic bread earners for the family.

3) Sit at the table and speak confidently: have a point of view and make sure you are heard. Don't be loud or dominating. But don't use the "women in a meeting language" either that Jennifer Lawrence made famous.

4) Insist on being included in the gang: in a male dominated office, especially as a non smoker, it is easy to be excluded from boy gangs where ' the real shape of things' is discussed and where decisions are taken. Ask for more late afternoon Friday beers than Friday night outs.

5)  Don’t take things to heart, or confuse business failures as your personal failures: Relational by nature, women take their work relationships personally, and invest in work emotionally. Men are friendly towards their colleagues while women think of their colleagues as friends.

6) Men promote men, so why can’t women promote women? The reality is that women despite well recognising how tough it is to climb the corporate ladder, don’t support other women enough. While men already have an advantage, why don’t more women in senior positions act as mentors to junior women in the corporate world? Why don’t more women stand up for each other?

But while doing all of the above there are some things that should be a given:

1) You must be you: play to your strengths at work. Make those a towering advantage.

2) Be good at your work: know your work better than anyone else. And there's no getting away from hard work.

3) Strong self-belief and the desire to get to the top.

(The author is Marketing Director - Indian Snacks, Foods at PepsiCo)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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