Contributed By: Sonakshi Hota
The 5th Annual Women Leadership Summit was successfully held at IIM Bangalore on the 27th of January 2019. Organized by the student-run Women in Management Club (WIM) of IIM Bangalore, the theme for this year was ‘Leading and Inspiring change.’ With attendees including both women and men across all age groups and sectors, the summit saw the participants benefit out of experiences shared by the eminent speakers and panelists.
Dr. Tessy Thomas, an Indian scientist, Director General of Aeronautical Systems, was the Chief Guest for the day and shared lessons from her own experience gathered from her stint at DRDO. She emphasized that her success can be attributed to her unwillingness to let stereotypes come in her way, being true to herself and leading herself to bloom. Narrating an anecdote from her stint as project manager for Agni-IV, she said that teamwork and effective stress management were an essential part of being a Scientist.
The first keynote speaker, Anjana Vivek, Founder, Venture bean Capital, spoke about the importance of thoughts and dreams in creating one’s destiny. Explaining each of them by sharing anecdotes from her personal experience, she urged the audience to build their own identity, independent of what others might say. While discussing focusing on the importance of networking, maintaining friendships and relationships, nurturing oneself and aligning one’s work along interest areas, she also stressed upon working on mental, spiritual, emotional and physical health. She concluded with several quotes from the poem “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann one of which goes as, “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
The second keynote speaker for the day, Ms. Vaishnavi Reddy, Co-founder and Head of design, Brandstory, spoke about the essence of clarity, purpose, and intention in decision making for leaders.
The third keynote speaker was Ms. Anuradha Aggarwal, an IIMB alumnus, and Ex-CMO, Marico. Ms. Anuradha raised thought-provoking questions on what are some major barriers women face in their careers like marriage and maternity. However, Ms. Anuradha enlightened us about how it is often guilt and self-doubt which are the real roadblocks to success. And guilt is most often imposed by the external society, and one should not feel guilty about dedicating time for oneself. “Rediscover yourself” time and again, and it’s never too late to pursue a hobby you left long ago, or always dreamt of. Networking and updating skills are important in a fast-paced world and treating a career like a marathon and not a sprint is key. Half the battle about gender diversity is to be fought in the mind if a woman believes she is in her position because of her gender, the battle is lost. Believing you are there because you deserve it and not playing the women card for random excuses is key for a woman to climb up the career ladder and establish credibility.
The panel discussion on “What’s next: Sustaining efforts after a breakthrough” was moderated by Ms. Pearl Malhotra, OB&HRM Professor, IIM Bangalore and had eminent guests on the panel comprising of Ms. Nirupama Kaushik, Consulting Partner, Head – Innovation & Qualitative practice, Brandscapes Worldwide, Ms. Revathy Ashok, Startup Evangelist, Public Policy Advocate, Indian Angel Network and Ms. Bhavjot Kaur, Co-Founder at Clinikk Healthcare. With panelists coming from diverse sectors, the narration of each of their journeys was inspirational for and relatable to the audience. All of them elaborated on their life’s breakthroughs and the efforts and hardships they faced. Ms. Nirupama Kaushik also mentioned how breakthroughs are in the hindsight and at that moment it is only what an individual does or how she approaches a certain situation. Ms. Bhavjot Kaur believes in hard work, perseverance with intelligence and focuses on goals. She emphasized it is extremely important to keep trying till one succeeds. In her words, “If you keep hitting a rock continuously, there will be one day when a dent will form on the rock.” Ms. Revathy Ashok shared her experiences of being the only lady officer in a team of 1000 to work on an oil field project in pre-war Iraq. Success and work-life balance, according to them, is purely personal and that we must make choices guilt-free.
Dr. Kiran Bedi couldn’t be present physically, however she interacted with the audience via teleconference. She explained lessons pertaining to change leadership using anecdotes from her personal experiences in making Puducherry water-rich by employing efficient water management techniques. The project resulted in enrichment of 164 villages and 6398 hectares of land. She stressed that nothing is impossible even if one has no resources and partnerships are the keys to transformational leadership. Agencies should be brought together to work both internally and externally.
D Roopa Moudgil IPS, IGP Bengaluru was present as the Guest of Honor at the event. She attributed her success to her “Call for duty”. “Everyone of us has a duty to do at home because day in and day out we face notions of gender bias even among highly educated people”, she said. She stressed the importance of moral courage, to stand one’s ground and develop the sense of right and wrong. If you tell every day you can, you will be able to do- self-fulfilling prophecy works. When a participant asked what is the tool that she uses to deal with criticism for her actions, ideas etc., D Roopa answered that as long as she knows she is right, nothing deters her.
Sonakshi Hota, Secretary, Women in Management Club at IIMB, said that “Though more and more women are making their mark as leaders in various fields today, there is still a long way to the top as women continue to face various factors that limit their full career advancement. However, it is also necessary to celebrate the positive changes that occur and learn from the experiences of women who have succeeded, examine the obstacles faced, and analyses concrete steps that led them to success. This edition of Women leadership summit with the theme “Leading and inspiring change” celebrates those changes.”
Sonakshi is a student of PGP 2017-2019 batch of IIM Bangalore and the Secretary of Women in Management Club.