A new ode to all women out there: Jyoti Bansal, PHD India

Guest Column: Jyoti Bansal, Chief Executive Officer, PHD India, says women have it tougher because they usually have to balance home and work

e4m by Jyoti Bansal
Updated: Apr 1, 2020 12:28 PM
Jyoti Bansal

I started writing this piece before COVID-19 hit us. And then it did. So I thought it was only appropriate to start this with a new ode to all the women out there. This situation has made me realise all over again how and why women are oh-so-poised to really crash the glass ceiling. With families under house arrest literally, a lot of my women colleagues are straining with the pressure of managing work and home at home. With small children hovering in the background, managing the housework because the helpers are not allowed inside the house, not one of them has let the ball drop on work or timelines. I can only say Salute! I am sure their stories are equally inspiring. And here is mine.

When I was young, all I had was ambition. The naïveté of youth did not distinguish gender. Growing up in a household where ‘you are a girl’ lurked in the background but never hindered my ambition, I had no clue what the glass ceiling meant. I knew I wanted to be at the top, the best I could be and that is all that mattered. My first job was in a factory where other than the Managing Director and watchmen, everyone was a woman. I was surrounded by tough women floor managers who could shout and who could give a shoulder to cry on, factory floor workers who came from difficult backgrounds with only the dream to take home some money at the end of the month and build a better life for their families. They taught me lifelong lessons in humility, strength, professionalism and leadership. I knew what I wanted to do. Be a woman who could not only grow herself but take other women along.

The next job, and the first in media, was a shocker to my middle-class 90s sensibility. But I learnt to preserve my core and work on my terms. My next lesson in leadership came when I started leading a team. You have to be there and in it. Tough personal choices have to be made. Women have it tougher, not so much at work but in balancing the home and the work. Keeping my focus, telling myself every day I could do it, I excelled at my work and at winning trust with my clients. Did I pay a price? Yes I did. So do the men. I remember a male colleague telling me once he saw his daughter growing long and not high ( he only saw her sleeping when he reached home, for weeks on end). As an industry we still have to learn work-home balance in many ways.

A third lesson, another next step in my career. Joining MPG(now Havas media) as a 10-year young Branch head, I quickly went back to my factory days to remember that when you join a place in a leadership role, you have to make the effort to earn respect. You can not demand it. I also learnt to lean in and lean out, asked for help. A soft-skill lesson came my way - dress for the role and for the role you want to be. People judge, and they judge women more, especially strong and assertive women and it is easy for the assertiveness to be labelled as aggression.

I also discovered how the young women in my team were looking to me as a role model, to mould their own career aspirations. The responsibility seemed huge but with a pinch of empathy and a dollop of humour, I made lifelong relationships and learnt as much from them as they did from me.

As I rose further, some things became easier and others much tougher. I was told I think like a man when I was too objective about situations !! I think like me, and that’s all there is to it. I do what is needed to get things done. I look at what is right and fair to do in any situation for all parties concerned. I bring to work the whole of me - the professional and the personal. That is what makes me who I am.

Would I do it any different - a few things maybe, but mostly not. It’s been an exhilarating journey but many more steps to still climb before I hang up my heels.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com

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