'Crisis is an opportunity to innovate'
Bipasha Chakrabarti, Director, Corporate Communications, Facebook India, speaks about her experiences in the comms industry, views on inclusion and more
Women as leaders and decision-makers are crucial to advancing gender diversity at the workplace. This does not only helps in promoting more talents but also establishes a strong economical, social and psychological progress of the organization. One such woman leader is Bipasha Chakrabarti who has been helming corp comm at tech giant Facebook.
A communications professional, Bipasha has more than two decades of experience working with leading tech brands and PR agencies. Currently, she serves as the Director, Corporate Communications at Facebook India where she leads the communications charter for both Facebook and Instagram in India. In her last assignment as Head of Corporate Communications at Cisco India and SAARC, she has led the entire gamut of communications and also managed leadership and executive communications roles for the office of APJC President. Prior to Cisco, she has worked with Sun Microsystems.
In the latest feature of the Women Achievers Series, we speak to Bipasha Chakrabarti, Director, Corporate Communications, Facebook India, about her journey in the communications industry, views on inclusion and pay gaps, the pandemic year and more.
Tell us about your journey in the communications industry.
My career in communications was not by design. My career decisions have always been based on moving out of my comfort zone and exploring opportunities that would let me grow, experiment, learn, unlearn and relearn. This was the same mantra that landed me in the comms industry 20 years ago, and I have had the opportunity to work with some great brands and companies, which gave me a large canvas to explore my potential and helped me script my own growth path.
What has been your biggest inspiration?
Communication has evolved as a profession tremendously in the last few years – it has been able to shed its conservatism layer to become more data-driven, laced with creative storytelling and supported by a robust evaluation framework. I have had the opportunity to work directly and through various partnerships with some of the brightest minds in the profession, and what inspires me every day is their ability to reimagine communications, to ‘see what’s coming’ and respond with agility, understand, and nurture complex relationships, and adeptly navigate constant change.
What have been key learnings for you in the entire journey to work for the comms industry?
My two decades of comms experience have taught me to keep it real, be authentic, transparent, and own up both successes and failures. Your competition is with yourself, so strive to be the best version of yourself every day. ‘Lift as you grow’- support, mentor and contribute to other’s growth; be an ally for their development. Don’t let it be a nice-to-do thing; practice it consciously, every day.
What major changes and challenges did 2020 bring into your life both professionally and personally?
2020 was a year of change, gratitude, and resilience. There was no playbook to navigate this pandemic. Businesses faced existential challenges, communities and individuals came together to consider the myriad profound challenges directly affecting them. Communications occupied the critical seat at the table, more than ever before. It was the time for empathetic, inclusive and authentic communications, while recognizing that it is a phase of work-life integration rather than balance.
2020 was a surreal experience personally as I moved to a different city and started a new job smack in the middle of a global pandemic. The year unravelled one of the important lessons. It is during a crisis that great communicators and leaders emerge, whose authentic voices and actions comfort in the present, help rebuild a deeper sense of stability for the future, and empathy etched long after the crisis has been quelled.
Why do we witness attrition in women leadership as we go high up the ladder?
An equal number of men and women join the workforce, and as they go up the ladder, women talent gets siphoned off the corporate pipeline. Organizations are increasingly recognizing and consciously adopting ways to create and sustain a work environment where women can advance and thrive. Efforts towards creating an inclusive recruitment and retention process, elevating the workforce profile of women, networking opportunities, sponsorship of in-house programs to increase inclusion and diversity, policies to support different life stages, flexi-working are steps in the right direction to help address this issue.
Has there been any instance of gender bias in your journey? Is the pay gap a major concern for the industry?
I have been fortunate to work with companies and brands that have given me a level playing field and helped me achieve my potential. That said, research shows that gender bias exists, rampant in some industries and sectors more than others. Individuals, communities, and organizations have a critical role to play, and they must collectively work to bridge this divide.
How did you convert a crisis into an opportunity for yourself, professionally?
A crisis is an opportunity to innovate and pushes oneself to step out of the comfort zone. In my career journey, I have encountered my fair share of crises. But I have walked away from each of them with new learnings, skills, and a fresh perspective. I have used every crisis as an opportunity to up my game, unlearn and relearn, and emerge stronger professionally and personally.
What are the steps that you would take to support other women in the industry and large?
It is a multidimensional approach; one of the dimensions is for women to identify their career aspirations. The other dimension would be to create communities that propel their growth and an environment to thrive. As a manager and a leader, leaning in to support women starts right from the teams that I work with, those beyond the communication industry or in their second innings. Guiding women to speak up, not hesitate to have a difficult conversation when necessary, helping them build the right network and connections, and amplifying other women's achievements must become part of our day-to-day agenda.
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