Communications is the wire that keeps the enterprise connected: Madhavi Jha

Women Achievers Series: Madhavi Jha, Director, Communications, Boeing India, talks about her professional journey, views on gender equality, pay gaps and more

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Mar 15, 2021 8:44 AM
Madhavi Jha

Ambitious, Consistent, and Opinionated- Women in the communications industry are having their moment. There is no doubt that women dominate the industry and lead with example. Madhavi Jha is one such example of women's leadership in the industry. She is the Director, Communications, Boeing India, leading the firm’s corporate communications department along with driving innovative communications strategies and programmes in support of organisations’ objectives.

Madhavi is an integrated corporate communication professional with a flair for strategy and business-goals driven PR. In the 18 long years of her career, she has proven her forte spanning areas of marketing, communication, branding, image and reputation management, CSR, and events, across India, and South and Southeast Asia. She has been part of organizations like Cairn Oil and Gas, Honeywell India, HCL, Confederation of Indian Industry and more.

In today’s edition of ‘Women Achievers Series’, we speak to Madhavi Jha, Director, Communications, Boeing India on her professional journey, views on gender equality, pay gaps and more.

Edited Excerpts:-

How did you enter the communications industry? How has been your journey ever since?

My entry into the communications industry happened a little fortuitously, a little by design. Reading voraciously through my growing up years, a B.A. Hons. in English Literature, and a PGDBM in marketing led to a marketing role at the Confederation of Indian Industry. It required positioning the “India Inc.” brand overseas. HCL Technologies then hired me to manage their external influencer relationships at forums such as CII, FICCI, Nasscom, and the World Economic Forum, and soon enough I was asked to help tell the story of how Shiv Nadar along with his fellow founders built India’s original IT garage startup into a first-generation multinational behemoth.

Since then I have thrived on communications. I enjoy writing with efficiency and clarity. I like it when audiences understand and appreciate what a business has to say because it was said simply, purposefully, and without wasting the audience’s time. That’s my tip.

What has been your biggest inspiration to serve the industry?

I am afraid it has not been a “who”. It has been “what”. It has been getting into the reader’s head and thinking through what’s in it for them. What should I write so they will read it? Why should they be interested in what I’m trying to say? And when a colleague or an employee you do not even know writes back to say how much they liked reading or hearing what the communication needed to say – that is an inspiration.

What have been key learnings for you in the entire journey to work for the comms industry? 

A communicator must read more, know more, and be able to write or speak better than anyone else about the company they work for.

2020 was a different year. What major changes did it bring into your life both professionally and personally? What were the major challenges faced?

Communications is one of the functions whose efficacy was less impacted by telecommuting than, say, functions like engineering, or IT. Corporate communications and PR agency teams both fell in step rather quickly with working remotely.

There has been, in fact, a great advantage. Businesses and business leaders had to learn more about their communications teams to be able to stay connected with a suddenly widely dispersed workforce. Communications today is more necessary, and assuming a greater stature among sister corporate functions. Communications is no longer only good to have, or only handy when there is a crisis. It is the wire that keeps the enterprise connected.

How has the industry treated its women in the new normal? What paradigm shift have you noticed in the functioning with respect to women?

The shift has been happening for a while. Communications is more strategic. It is required to operate at the intersection of business and marketing goals and deliver tangibly to business goals. As the role is considered more central to business success, its functionaries have earned more respect too. I’m not certain this is only about women, but the way communications has held large and dispersed employee populations together, there is a greater dependency on and respect for the function.

Has there been any instance of gender bias in your journey? Is the pay gap a major concern for the industry?

My work has always been valued in the companies that I worked at. That said, it takes years to attain seniority enough to get you access to gender pay parity data within companies. Even when you have access, there are no benchmarks to compare with. There isn’t exactly another male chief communications officer in the company, and even if there was one, it is not possible to compare salaries. So I really cannot say. Some companies make it a point to study if there are pay gaps and make it a point to make corrections, which is encouraging. All companies should.

It is also likely that a chief technology officer or a chief marketing officer makes more than their communications counterpart because, for some reason for the longest time, communications was not seen to be equally critical to business success or business outcomes. This role play gap needs correction as much as the gender pay gap.

How did you convert a crisis into an opportunity for yourself, professionally?

I don’t recall being in a crisis, professionally.

What are the steps that you would take to support other women in the industry and large?

I have experienced that I have never lost anything, only gained, by sharing what I know. The best thing you can do for yourself and for your team is to share everything you have learned over the years. It is in my interest that the team learns faster, does more, does better.

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