When I left my home at the tender age of 9, I never thought where life would take me. All I wanted was to step out of the comfort zone of my house, get good education because I come from a small town of Purulia which is part of rural West Bengal where girls are married off by the time they are 18 years and become mothers by 19. Good schools were not there for girls at that time and getting a good education was a luxury which most could not afford. I was lucky to have my mother who has been my biggest motivator and my father supporting my education in a boarding school in Kolkata which was quite expensive. Since the time I could recollect, I always wanted to establish myself in the corporate world, become financially independent and role model for other women who had talents but may have not the courage to live their dreams. My journey this far has been a roller coaster ride with its ups and downs neatly woven. But never for once I deviated or got distracted from my goal. Every time I faced with adversities in life, I kept telling to myself "this too shall pass away". Life never comes with warranty card and life of a female in a corporate world is little wobblier than we can imagine and that's a reality. After all finest steel has to go through the hottest fire.
After completing my post-graduation in Organic Chemistry, I was aspiring to continue my research work in the field of Chemistry, when I decided to take a plunge in the Corporate world. However, marriage happened to me unexpectedly because of a family exigency. I got the support from my husband to complete my MBA post marriage. I chose the profession of HR simply because of my passion about people and wanted to pursue my career in that domain. After doing my MBA in Human resource and Information Systems, I had a humble beginning with a recruitment consultancy firm in 2000 as a recruiter. It was an exciting role and the learning opportunities were tremendous. I grabbed the opportunity of interacting with all the professionals of the Corporate world and started learning from them. My professional journey by then had begun and subsequently I worked with big brands like Patton International, Pepsico International, Hutchinson Telecom, Vodafone and PricewaterhouseCoopers. My learning in these Organisations had been tremendous. I have worked with the finest brains from the industry and have learnt immensely from them. I also had the opportunity of learning and interacting with the Global leaders who helped me to grow. I have always believed in the magic of hard work and believed in excellence in delivery. In my career, I have acquired fungible HR skills because of my exposure to all the domains of HR and IR before becoming the Chief People Officer in 2012. I have received multiple accolades throughout my career that made me more responsible towards my profession. While I strongly believethat hardwork gets you success I cannot deny the fact that stakeholder management and effective interpersonal skills are integral and equally important to be successful in the Corporate world. Having mentors in your life to whom you can reach out for guidance is always helpful and it has worked well for me. I was also extremely lucky to get various complex roles which honed my skills and made a stronger HR professional out of me. Being a regular speaker in various industry and academic forums also helped me to get varied exposure to learning both from the fellow speakers and the audience. As I introspect and reflect, my journey so far has been extremely satisfying and of tremendous learning.
Role of HR :
The role of HR should now transition to more strategic partnership with business. With the digitalisation wave setting in, HR should move away from being transactional. The technology and automation can be used to perform more operational jobs, while HR should focus on the talent management, talent development and play a pivotal role in the leadership development to anchor the strategic growth of the organisation. HR should feel empowered to influence the culture of the organisation positively. HR should also ensure transparency and preserve the ethics in the organisation. The Corporate world is becoming increasingly competitiveand HR can play a very vital role to strike a balance between the demands of the business and the needs of the people to ensure a healthy organisation. People being the biggest asset of any organisation, the HR leader should have a strong representation in the board so that the voice of the people is heard. HR should also focus on building the brand in the external market. To attract and retain talent it's imperative to have a strong employer branding in the talent market and HR should play a leading role in creating that value proposition to ensure sustainability of the organisation.
Challenges faced by corporate women :
While we talk of equality and inclusivity, in my personal opinion, life of a corporate woman in India is more challenging than her male colleagues because of the societal fabric and the multiple roles that she needs to juggle with, in her life. By default, the responsibility of taking care of the child and the family is assigned to the woman. I agree, times are changing and fathers do dirty their hands to change the nappy of the new born, but a mindset change is still required. We still feel guilty if we return home late, our kids still expect us to be at home earlier than their dad and we are still compared with other mothers who are not working women. In this situation creating a supportive network whether at home or at office really helps. Having our own circle of positivity to circumnavigate the blocks helps a lot. Inclusivity does not hurt rather it strengthens the fundamentals of the Organisation. I always wished more women should be part of the board room and it's extremely satisfying to see that it has now become mandatory by law to have at least one woman representative in the board.
I have counselled many women in my career to not quit job after becoming mothers, because I was almost certain that they are doing the same out of compulsion. It is important to support our female talent pool and help them tide through the tightrope of juggling between the family responsibilities and corporate duties. If we do not support them during their mid careers, we will lose talents midway and will not have enough women leaders at the top. It's during these times that the support from the family and the organisation is required to manage the dual responsibilities.
Every woman sees a dream. A dream to be someone. May not always be a corporate leader but to have her own identity. I would encourage each one of you to feel empowered to dream and then chase your dream to reality. Love yourself as much as you love others. Take care of yourself as much as you take care of others. Go out, have fun, travel far and wide and have the courage to take the reins of your life in your own hands. If I can take charge of my life at the age of 9, each of you can. It's just that you need to believe in yourself, in your talent and in your potential. Set a goal and go for it. The world will bow down and fulfil your wish. Don't get distracted, diverted or demotivated. When you get stuck, just remind yourself "this too shall pass away" and trust me it will...sooner than you can imagine...