Gender divide in corporate India will slowly & steadily cease to exist: Diana Fernandes

Diana Fernandes, Founder-Director at Bloomingdale Public Relations, talks to us about her journey as a woman in the PR industry, gender equality, challenges women face and more

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Mar 6, 2020 9:05 AM
Diana Fernandes

“Personal time is mostly spent with my 4-year-old son in activities that we can do together; be it a stroll in the park, or a playdate with other moms and kids or just watching Netflix and reading a book. I do meet my friends and spend a lot of time with my family too. That’s what keeps me going”, stated Diana while interacting with exchange4media for the ongoing “Women Achievers Series”. Diana Fernandes, Founder-Director at Bloomingdale Public Relations is a perfect example of a woman entrepreneur enjoying the perfect balance between professional life and personal life.

Diana said, "Honestly I don’t really bifurcate between personal and professional life. It is all the same for me; I could be chilling with my son on a Monday afternoon and super busy with meetings through Saturday and Sunday. I think for me it’s all about finding my right balance; or finding the balance that works for me. I take days off when I need to and work when I need to. There are also no defined hours of work for me. It’s the flexibility that I am privileged with because I am an entrepreneur and I am truly grateful for that”.

In today’s Women’s Achiever’s Series, we speak to Diana Fernandes on her journey as a woman in the PR industry, her thoughts on gender equality and pay gaps in the industry.

Edited Excerpts:-

Could you elaborate on your journey in the communication industry? What are your major learnings?

I don’t think I have ever mentioned this in an interview before, but I landed in this industry purely by chance. This wasn’t a career path that I had chosen for myself nor did I have any idea about this industry! But today as I look back, I can truly say that my journey has been nothing short of magic. The people I met, the colleagues I worked with, everything made me the person that I am today. Its been 16 wonderful years and I can’t be more thankful to God for this.

I started my career in 2003 even before I completed my MBA. I was hired during my 3rd trimester and began working for a multi-interest marketing firm - Planman Marcom in their PR division.

As I grew ahead in my career, I started working on client servicing and media coordination. Overall in the span of 10 years that I spent there, I shuttled between various PR roles and was spearheading the division towards my last few years there. My ex-boss gave me the liberty to run the business my way and take decisions and do what’s best for the organization. I learnt more on entrepreneurship at Planman having managed the P&L, clients, teams, salaries, admin, etc etc. I decided to move out sometime in late 2013 thinking of making a switch and working with my mom at her Corporate Gifting business, but PR was my calling and that’s what I eventually ended up doing.

Bloomingdale was incorporated in India in 2013. 5 years later, we set up base in Singapore with an aim to tap the APAC market from there. Its been 6 years of operations in India & 1 year in Singapore.

Learning for me has always been on the job and it doesn’t stop at all. Everyone I meet, every client, journalist, influencer, blogger; there’s something to learn from everyone. I’ve never really had a mentor or a guide in my career; so it's my curiosity and the need to know more and do more makes me learn more.

 What was the biggest turning point in your career? Any anecdote that you would want to share?

I can safely say that starting out on my own was a turning point in my career. I left a decade long job to be an entrepreneur. Leaving my comfort zone after spending 10 long years in one single organization wasn’t an easy decision, but I did what I wanted to at that point in time.

The birth of my son was yet another defining moment of my career – I could’ve quit and been a stay at home mom, but I chose not to! Bloomingdale had just turned one & I very well know I had to raise both babies together and that’s exactly what I did. Clients were super supportive during the phase of my pregnancy and through the birth of my son. I would do meetings at home, at nearby coffee shops and I ensured that I was around my son all day until he was big enough to stay by himself with the Nanny. This phase was super exciting, tiring and at the same time very rewarding. I’m glad I didn’t take a single days break and everything I did is paying off now.

I’ve also always believed in travelling with my son and making him a part of my ecosystem. So if I need to go to the office and if he needs to spend time with me; he comes along. When I do frequent work trips to Singapore & Dubai, since I've got my office there too, he and the nanny tag along. I ensure there’s fun stuff for him to do while I’m at work. Once he goes to a bigger school, the frequent travel may be an issue; however, until then I’m making the most of it.

 Have there been any instances of gender bias in your career? If yes, how did it impact you?

Absolutely not; in fact, I somehow believe that more women are opting for a career in the field of communication. Moreover, today I don’t think there’s anything that women can’t do. The gender divide in corporate India will slowly and steadily cease to exist. Although I know that’s it’s a lot tougher in other fields, but in PR & communication, I don’t see it as an issue. Since I’ve been fortunate to have great co-workers, bosses and clients; I personally haven’t faced any such bias. I would rather say being a woman in this field has an advantage. I strongly believe women can be more persuasive and convincing and that’s one of the core drivers in the PR field.

 Is there a pay gap in the industry? If yes, what could be the major behind it?

 I haven’t experienced it; hence I cannot comment on this. In my organisation, we pay both men and women equally depending on their roles and years of experience. I do not and will never encourage gender-based pay scale.

 What are the major challenges that women in the industry face? Any major hurdle that you faced in the past?

I don’t think challenges women face are confined to any industry; be it PR or others. In my opinion, one of the biggest hurdle’s women face is when they have babies. It’s a career-defining moment when you have to choose and a lot of women end up letting go of their careers and years of hard work. Honestly, I don't and never will judge them. Being a mom in itself is tough and everyone’s running their own battle. However, I would always advise them that if they have the slightest chance or opportunity to do something outside of just being a homemaker and if they have the support system and help with their child; then they should just go and grab it with open arms! They’ll be proud that they did so.

 What is your message to women in the industry?

Do not give up, don't let go! Bad times are just a passing phase. Live through it, experience it and move on. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did!

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