‘Women leaders have the right balance of logical thinking and emotional values’
Pooja Pathak, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Media Mantra, believes that COVID-19 turned out to be a blessing in disguise for women professionals and has helped in bridging gender gap across sectors
The ongoing pandemic has proven to be one of the major catalysts for start-ups. The employment crisis along with the clarion call for self-reliance by the Prime Minister has resulted in a big boost to the entrepreneurial spirit. Providing strategic solutions to clients and putting them on the map have been at the heart of Media Mantra’s endeavours. Spearheading the media operations and client servicing wing at Media Mantra is Pooja Pathak, the Co-Founder and Managing Director of the independent PR agency.
Pooja brings with her more than 14 years of experience in the field of Communication. An accomplished and dynamic professional, she also takes out time to train the new entrants in the communications industry.
In the latest feature of ‘Women Achievers Series’, Pooja opens up about her professional journey, inclusion in PR and comms industry and more.
What are your key learnings in the past year?
The pandemic last year was indeed an unfortunate event. Be it for individuals or for businesses, everyone suffered a setback of all sorts- health-wise, physical, financial, emotional, and even psychological. It taught us a lot- to value what we have, to cherish the present, and to be prepared for any uncertainty or unforeseen event.
As an entrepreneur, I realized the value associated with sticking with the team and with clients and supporting each other, be it emotionally or financially (we did so by adjusting with the delay in payments from the client’s end owing to the financial constraints) during these testing times. We supported each other and due to this cohesive environment, all of us were able to fight all odds.
COVID-19 enforced digital adoption and hence we also had to cope up with this sudden change of running the business completely digitally. This was indeed new and initially a bit challenging for us and in fact for any business out there. However, with time and consistent efforts, and the constant support of each other, working digitally has rather become an opportunity than an issue and this trend will continue to grow in the coming times as well.
COVID-19 and the lockdown was the time when despite being separated geographically. We got an opportunity to connect at a deeper level with our clients and our team and we were able to develop strong relationships with them.
However, both as a woman and an entrepreneur, I realized that supporting each other in all spheres of life is extremely crucial in such critical times and this is what gives us the strength to surpass any trouble that comes our way.
How has COVID changed the perspective towards women leaders across industries, especially PR?
COVID-19 turned out to be a blessing in disguise for women professionals and has helped in bridging the gender gap across sectors. Women increasingly emerged as leaders and successfully managed work and domestic responsibilities to the best of their capabilities despite the distressing times. Women leaders are now on the way to receiving their due recognition for the hard work they put in.
In the PR industry, the pandemic did disrupt the working of the media and PR firms for a while. However, the communications industry improvised and moved to the digital space. It sprung back stronger with innovative strategies to ensure that the client’s work isn’t delayed and that life moves on.
Communication became the backbone during the pandemic be it for personal connections or professional relationships. The PR industry successfully converted the crisis time into a concept driving period by focusing on fresh ideas and communication solutions. It adopted the digital mode of working as the work from home became the new fad. While Digital PR and online operations of businesses got the required kick-start, I think, be it us or any organization, we all got a chance to connect at a deeper level with our team and our clients. We stood by each other and this cohesive environment gave us the motivation to sail through the issues.
What does an agency have to build its culture and work ethos to promote gender neutrality?
The work culture and the ethos form the base of any organization. It is these ethics and their abiding that eventually paves the way for the success of the firms. In order to promote gender neutrality, it has to be a part of the work ethos so that it can eventually find its way into the work environment.
We need to have the appropriate policies, platforms and offer a welcoming environment so that all the co-workers co-exist happily. There is a strong need for a balance in the policies and the provision of collaborative culture for all genders. This is what will make the corporate environment supportive and productive and free from gender biases.
We at Media Mantra, believe that the management has a crucial role to play in promoting gender neutrality and we take pride in sharing the fact that we value talent and hire deserving employees and are free from any kind of bias.
How crucial is the role of men in an organization to promote gender equality?
As important it is for women to stand up for their rights, the role of men is equally crucial in promoting gender equality. It is essential that we eliminate all barriers especially those associated with gender and step into the workplace with a neutral attitude. We need to put a stop to stereotyping women and embrace them for their skill set, patience, and assertiveness.
Why is the ratio of men and women not proportionate as we move to senior leadership level?
While women leaders are getting their due credit, it is a notable fact that women in senior managerial roles are comparatively less. The gender stereotypes play the biggest road bump for the females looking forward to work in the senior job profiles. Additionally, patriarchy and typecasting women contribute majorly to the women’s struggle to climb the ladder of success. Women are thought to be too emotional, too assertive, and too emotional and hence not considered to be fit for the senior leadership roles.
However, females are empathetic, flexible, and intuitive and come with the right balance of logical thinking and emotional values. They are capable of managing everything, be it office or home.
A lot has been said about the pay gap but is there something called a value gap that needs to be discussed?
I agree that a lot has been talked about the pay gap but the value gap does exist and is still behind in the picture. However, we must speak openly and freely about the value gap as well. It occurs when there is a difference between the expected value from the talent and their experienced value. They both are not in sync and hence the gap arises and there is always a constant dissonance between expectation and reality. Only when we will be able to understand this will we be successful in bridging the value and eventually the pay gap as well.
What are the three adjectives that define you as a communicator?
Three adjectives that aptly describe me would be Flexible as I am open to new ideas and can quickly adapt to the changing times and situations, Reliable as I believe in delivering what I commit to and in following the deadlines, and Confident as I know that all the decisions I take are after a lot of reflection and analysis and hence am sure of giving in my best to what I do.
How are you supporting fellow women in the industry? Why is it of prime importance?
To be honest, I would rather mention that I come from an open-minded background. Be it me or be it Media Mantra, we believe in supporting talent irrespective of gender, caste, religion, creed, etc.
I do believe that all of us are equals and hence, I support the individuals for their talent and skill set and I support them as equals since no community is superior over the other and comes with a distinct set of characteristics.
I feel this concept of equality is of prime importance and should be spoken and discussed more often so that we all can collaboratively bring about a positive change and free ourselves from restrictions of biases.
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