By Jayati Grover
“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”
This is what Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, writes in her iconic, clarion-call- of-a-book, Lean In. That there is a gap between men and women at work is beyond doubt. It is what we do to bridge this gap that would make Sheryl’s, and millions of women’s shared dream, come to life.
Recently, we saw the launch of WPP Stella India, which is an initiative focused on drawing more women into leadership positions in India. The programme, meant to foster mentoring relationships for 9-12 months, is currently at the pilot stage.
We caught up with the mentors of the programme to get a sense of how they see WPP Stella India panning out. Here’s what Lulu Raghavan, Managing Director of Landor Mumbai and Shilpa Chitre, Head, Human Resources at Grey India had to say.
Q. What are you most looking forward to as a mentor with the WPP Stella India Programme?
LR – I’m really looking forward to helping my mentees be as successful as they possibly can. Helping them navigate their challenges, inspiring them and being there always. This will be a great opportunity for me to spend time reflecting on my own journey and then sharing the relevant experiences that can help my mentees.
SC – Sometimes people feel they are “stuck” in a situation, or that the challenges they face are insurmountable. If someone is successful at the top of their game, they don’t know what exactly is working for them, how to replicate the winning formula across other situations. I look forward to the joy and satisfaction of bringing a different perspective to the proteges, so that challenges such as these become easier to navigate.
I look forward to offering a safe space to my mentees to explore and express themselves as they work towards their goals. These are bright, successful and motivated women so the talent and capability are already there – what I’m excited about to is how I can help them build a network, increase knowledge, make connections and grow faster. It’s an enriching and humbling experience for me to contribute to someone’s success.
Q. What is the one advice you would give to your younger self to keep beating it at work?
LR – Try more different things. Be more ambitious. Take more risks.
SC – My younger self definitely needed more than one piece of advice! I have benefitted tremendously from having mentors, albeit in the guise of great bosses, whose brains I could pick and who generously shared their learning and wisdom.
If I were to advise my younger self, I’d say “Trust your instincts and ask for what you deserve. Showcase your achievements more. And don’t stress, things get better.”
We also spoke with one of the mentees to share in the excitement. Ritu Nakra works as a Senior Vice President & Executive Business Director at J. Walter Thompson Delhi, and here is what she had to say:
Q. How do you hope to be transformed by the WPP Stella India programme?
RN – The platform gives me an opportunity to meet the powerful ladies of WPP and to experience the might of the network. That it is a chance to be mentored by Lulu, who is an illustrious woman leader, makes this very exciting for me. It’s great to get a role model and even more to be inspired.
I feel that at heart, as women, our challenges are fundamentally the same and hence the chance to hear and learn from the experiences, insights and pro-tips of my mentor is going to give me a better handle at navigating my own journey to higher successes.
Q.What is the biggest challenge women in the workforce face today?
Unconscious biases towards women along with inequality of pay is, in my opinion, the biggest challenge we face at the workforce today. The boys’ club is one such reality and one we cannot ignore. It raises its innocuous head at every nook and corner of internal relationships. Bosses and juniors, creatives and planners it comes in all shapes and sizes. But the club invite has only one gender: Male. It is subtle but lethal and very effective at keeping you out. It isolates and alienates.
The second challenge being the inequality of pay. Maybe we come cheaper. Maybe we are more diffident about our worth and value even though our work shines and our clients rate us like rockstars but when it comes to getting more for ourselves we do not come out on top. Here again, the men shine. There is a huge salary gap between the same level, same job profile, same account, two people – one man one woman. It’s time this was addressed, and equality of pay be driven as an agenda.
Whether you are a man or woman, working in an office or at home – these are some real issues that we need to collectively address to make the world an equal place. If you are looking to challenge the status quo, tune into the WPP Stella podcast on iTunes where mentors and mentees share their journey:
For practical tips and inspiration on the myth of ‘having it all’ and the necessity of ‘sitting at the table’, visit https://leanin.org
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