Vocal leadership & a dedicated community propel women’s development: Vibha Bajaj

Bajaj, the VP - Public Affairs & Communications, India & Area Countries, American Express Banking Corp, adds that women’s empathy & kindness builds a work environment fit to deal with COVID-19 crisis

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Apr 9, 2020 8:11 AM
vibha bajaj

Vibha Bajaj has spent 24 years of her professional career with American Express, designing integrated communication campaigns that connect organisations with the decision-makers who are critical to revenue growth, market share & new market penetration, and brand value & reputation. She is currently the Vice President, International Public Affairs & Communications, American Express, India, where she supports all lines of business to design public relations strategy and drive government affairs agenda. She understands the power of employee engagement and develops creative communications strategy to engage over 12000 employees with company’s priorities.

Vibha creates compelling narratives that speak directly to key stakeholders using both traditional, online and social media.  She also has a keen interest in the way technology is transforming the role of communications and multi-channel approaches that are constantly evolving in response to consumer and stakeholder needs.

Vibha is part of country’s top leadership team and provides counsel to business leaders on critical business and employee issues.  She is a keen supporter of corporate philanthropy and employee volunteering and has many years of experience in developing and overseeing philanthropy programs which truly engage support community outcomes.  

In today’s edition of Women Achievers Series, e4m interacts with Vibha Bajaj, the Vice President Public Affairs and Communications, India & Area Countries, American Express Banking Corp., on her journey, and the role of organizational culture and men in creating an equitable landscape.

 Edited Excerpts: 

  • How were the initial days of your career? What were your key learnings?

Being the first in my family to work in the private sector, that too with beginnings in the hotel industry, it has been an exciting journey with a lot of on-the-job learning. I joined American Express’ Human Resources division in 1993 and transitioned to Corporate Affairs & Communications in 1996-97. With a background spanning across nearly every element of communication, my career has led me to drive corporate reputation, reposition brands, manage issues, strengthen stakeholder relationships and generate shared value through sustainability and by empowering and collaborating with teams. I also represent company’s interests with policymakers. For over two decades, I have sought to challenge the status quo, not simply for the sake of change but to establish how the communications function can support and enable the business.

Over the years, I have realized that learning is a continuous process and it comes in many forms. Hard work, determination and passion are the three key pillars of professional success, more important than qualifications and degrees. Developing a resilient mindset and a strong sense of self-belief and purpose, especially when taking on new roles and responsibilities, is equally important. My anxiety to perform better every time, without dwelling on my past achievements, has helped me deliver my best year on year. My stint with HR gave me a keen understanding of human behaviour, which I leverage in building stakeholder engagement. I have learnt to take an interest in helping colleagues discover their strengths, beliefs and personal attributes. Most importantly, however, I’ve learnt to be grateful for all the opportunities I have received and for all that I have today.  

  • How can the culture of an organisation be instrumental in promoting gender equality?

In my opinion, vocal leadership, a dedicated community and collective ambition can help propel women’s overall development and achievement. I am privileged to work for a gender-balanced organisation that actively promotes the advancement of women.  Externally, we support groundbreaking research for women’s career development while internally we ensure that our female employees are given the tools, support, resources and sponsorship they need to succeed. Our Colleague Experience Group motivates people, regardless of gender, to stay and grow at Amex and to become successful leaders in their chosen domains.

  • What are the measures adopted at your workplace to ensure gender neutrality?

American Express is an equal-opportunities employer providing chances for up-skilling and re-skilling to ensure gender neutrality at the workplace. We work on furthering Inclusive leadership through initiatives like our recently-released Ambitious Insights project, making ‘belonging’ a part of everyday conversations. We also ensure that our women leaders receive global work exposure and mobility for career development. 

  • What is the role of men in providing an equitable landscape at the workplace and in personal life?

I strongly believe that both men and women play a role in creating an equitable landscape in the workplace as well as in personal lives. In this aspect, I feel that an understanding and supportive outlook towards all colleagues irrespective of their gender should be imbibed by everyone at the workplace. Men can help provide an equitable landscape in the workplace by championing flexible work policies, practising inclusive leadership behaviours, communicating openly and fairly, and boosting up all colleagues with the potential to perform better.

 In personal life, men must understand that no chore is gender-specific. They should work towards shouldering more responsibility when it comes to tasks that usually fall on women – including household work and parenting. Creating a safe and transparent personal space is imperative for both genders to flourish and men and women should be committed to building such an environment at home as well as the workplace.    

  • What are the major challenges for a woman leader?

At a workplace, women leaders face challenges like maintaining work-life balance. Women who have children always live in guilt – when they are in office, they fear missing out on time with their children and when they are home, they live in fear of missing out on their professional development. We tend to reward multitasking but, in my opinion, it is important to “be present”. Developing a habit of spending quality, undivided time with your children when you reach home and similarly, giving your best while at work without any distractions, is worth the effort. Women are also shy of speaking about their accomplishments for fear of being considered boastful or conceited.  As male and female leadership styles differ, instead of following set norms, more women leaders should focus on developing their own unique leadership style.  

  • What is your message to other men and women in the industry?

The industry, and humanity as a whole, is currently facing a crisis and it is necessary for all of us to come together if we are to move forward in a sustainable manner. In these difficult times, women communicators, with their inherent attributes of sensitivity, empathy and kindness, can help create a positive and collaborative work environment to deal with the effects of COVID-19.

 

 

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