'Women have stronger need to get things done and are more willing than men to take risks'
Sukanya Chakraborty, Global Head – Corp Comm & CSR, VFS Global, speaks to us about her big win at e4m PR & Corp Comm Women Achievers Awards 2020, her thoughts on female leadership and more
The Public Relations and Corporate Communication industry has witnessed spectacular changes in the past decade, especially with respect to female leadership. At the recently-held e4m Public Relations and Corporate Communication Women Achievers Awards 2020, outstanding women leaders from the industry were felicitated for their achievements. One such leader is Sukanya Chakraborty, Global Head – Corporate Communications & CSR, VFS Global who was bestowed the "Communicator of the Year” title at the awards.
With close to two decades of industry experience, Chakraborty has been instrumental in driving communication and marketing agendas for B2B and B2C audiences through 360-degree integrated campaigns. She is a trusted name in the field of brand communication, media relations and CSR & Sustainability. In today’s feature , we speak to her about her big win, her thoughts on female leadership, gender equality and more.
How do you feel being the winner of the Women Achievers initiative?
Humbled and honoured. I always believe that any recognition brings with it more responsibility to continue my contribution to the industry
What are the attributes/ qualities required to be a leader in the communication industry?
Communications have changed dramatically in the past two decades. Global dynamics, communication channels, speed of communication, the audience wants to know facts in real-time and is very unapologetically demanding.
I think a leader in the communication industry needs to be strategic, bold, and savvy. It is important to keep pace with the changing trends, audience diversity (internal and external), how the audience consumes information, interprets the same and their behaviour. Hence, the ability to learn fast, familiarize with the unfamiliar very quickly, sharp intuition, be able to maintain a clear and neutral mindset, be aware of sensitivities and sound judgement.
What role have women played in the restructuring of the industry and how has the communications industry changed over the years for the women workforce?
More and more women, in general, have entered the workforce in the last few decades and across all fields, not just PR. And they have succeeded in managing/balancing domestic and professional commitments in their career journey. It is not an ideal situation yet and a couple of success stories may not be a benchmark, but things have changed and are changing. But today, as companies embrace diversity, it is important to have friendly and fair policies, more flexible mindsets and inclusive work culture along a supportive environment to create opportunities for women to continue their professional pursuits.
Why do we need to have more leaders at the helm of organisations in today's scenario and what value do women bring to the table?
I have always believed that leadership should be gender agnostic. It is more about capability and strengths of an individual. So any worthy individual should always be given an opportunity to lead.
Coming to women, we can be more assertive. Working with so many women colleagues all these years, I have realized that we all have a stronger need to get things done and sometimes are more willing to take risks than our male counterparts. Women leaders believe in an inclusive, team-building leadership style of problem-solving and with a strong intuitive sense they can read situations correctly as well as connect the dots. And of course,we are experts in multi-tasking which is innate – talking on the phone, checking social media updates to coming up with a quick solution for an unforeseen issue and mentally going through the day’s to-do list.
What are your future goals? What initiative would you like to take as a responsible woman leader for the industry/society?
Help build and mentor more women in communications. Invest in the development of people around me. Communications as an industry continue to evolve at a rapid pace. For those of us in senior positions, we must help level the playing field so that more women are represented in the CXO levels or at the head of the table. Focus on PR for PR.
How do you see the PR and the corp comm industry shaping up in the years to come and your message to the future women leaders?
Communications will be defined as a more holistic function, a more purpose-based function.We live in a multi-cultural and multi-generational society. PR today is no longer limited to media relations and that’s because reputation is a much broader concept today. The shift has started from traditional press to community building and strategic advisory. The channels have seen a transition too.
This pandemic has been another learning for us in many ways, setting a new normal in every step, emphasizing the need to be agile and flexible to make shifts whenever required. Almost as soon as the pandemic hit us earlier this year, businesses across the globe raced to relook at their communications strategies and devise the best way to reach out to their audiences. At a time when everyone was plunged into a wave of uncertainty and turmoil, communicators made sure to shift their focus to address crucial subjects of public information, safety, and health - with emphasis on remote accessibility and availability of essentials - as opposed to creating a desire for the brands.
For future women leaders, I always use this definition from Harvard Business School in my message to them: “leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”
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