In a conversation with DQ Channels Avanti Mishra shares the challenges she has faced in her career and also how she managed herself to shine brightly in the dark.
The Challenges Of Being A Woman Executive In A Top Role
The role a woman plays has always been multi-dimensional. In this day and age of gender equality, while all large companies are working on reforms to ease the diversity equation and get more women in senior business roles, the reality of India Inc confirms very few women make it to exec positions owing to compromises they make to cater to family priorities.
The ratio today is probably 1:100. For the few who do make it to the top, it’s a relentless drive to prove their capability month on month, year on year, at probably double the effort that a man needs to put in. To be considered an equal in intellect and capacity is a never-ending pursuit.
The fact remains, that in spite of work-life balance reforms and truly conducive human resource policies, the expectations do not cease. However, India Inc is changing. Most men in the top cadre are really accommodative and supportive, helping and encouraging their women colleagues to rise and achieve their true potential.
A good education was a top priority for my parents, but they let me choose my vocation. I have completed my Bachelor Degree in Electronic Engineering from Pune University and my masters in Management from Symbiosis Institute of Business Management.
But while these accolades have helped shape my thinking, the true learning has come from the on-ground experience from day-to-day business operations. Very rarely one finds opportunities in life where you get 360-degree exposure to all the functions that make an organization.
I come from a defence background with my dad having served the short service commission and then led the India Administrative Services. My mom was a homemaker, spending her time in moulding the personality that defines me today; bold and outgoing.
Being a Maharashtrian by birth, I married into a North India professional family wherein my dad-in-law headed many of the large brands at the ‘C’ level including Ispat Profiles, Mather & Platt, ISMT, etc. My husband like me has been a Sales & Marketing professional. Unfortunately, he ails with a relapsing case of Multiple Sclerosis which has halted his Career Progression.
As a conscious decision on role reversal by Indian Standards, I am blessed with him taking complete charge & be the homemaker while I pursue a fast-track career in this male-dominated industry. We are blessed with a beautiful 10-year-old daughter and we all reside in the cultural capital of this country, Pune.
Working in Male-dominated field of IT
Male domination is probably the reality of most sectors, some a little more than others; IT is no different. It’s about being able to hold your own as a professional, expect no differential treatment, articulate your ideas effectively and balance the IQ Vs EQ equation.
Honestly, I always believed it is the same for men; after all, I do consider them as our equals. On a serious note, I have been lucky to be mentored by some of the best leaders in the industry in every role that I have taken on, men and women alike. Leaders create leaders, a philosophy that we should all adopt and help the younger lean India Inc grow to their true potential.
Does a Glass ceiling exist?
The answer is yes and no, it’s a matter of perspective really. If it did then worldwide we would not see so many strong independent women make their mark and lead the way. If it didn’t, we would probably have a higher ratio of those women. Having said that, it is my self-belief that we create our own boundaries – men and women alike.
We need to encourage more women to pursue their careers and not leave things interim owing to life priorities. If the baseline itself it weak, how do we expect the top line to improve? Reality check is needed to see what percentile of men make it to the top and then work on improving the women ratio.
A busy career leaves little time for hobbies. However in the time that I can manage, probably playing with my daughter & my dog is the #1 priority. Else I love swaying to the music, reading romantic and thriller novels (no serious stuff for me; life is serious as it is) and nature walking with hubby dear. Travelling is also something I enjoy and thanks to my job, that’s one thing I get to fulfil all the time.
Currently, I am pursuing a Channels Leadership role for India and Asean. I am keen to gain more geographical exposure; manage APAC level roles or even get into World Wide Operations. From an expertise perspective, probably continue with Channels or plunge back into hardcore Marketing. Owing to considerable experience in channels, sales, marketing, product and strategy; my options are many. Life can bring on delightful surprises and I will not restrict my thoughts so soon; barely in my mid-thirties, I have a long way to go.
- Your Fitness Mantra: Walk or swim whenever you have an hour to spare. I could definitely get fitter – one of my resolutions for this year.
- Your De-stressing Mantra: Learn the art of leaving work behind in the workspace. Find an hour daily for just your self. Follow your heart and pamper your desires – you work hard enough to deserve it.
- Where you like to shop? I am not a big brand person. Love window shopping as much as I love scurrying the glamorous stores. Many of my best finds have come from international flee markets.
- Your favourite holiday destination: Anywhere in the hills, deep in the forests cut away from the mad rush. The closest & fastest destination for me is the Hilton Shillim. But nothing surpasses our northern mountains – the feeling to sit with a glass of wine and stare at the endless peaks. That is life.
- 5 things you cannot live without Family & Friends complete my life. Nothing else matters.
- Wake up at @6-6.30am
- Morning activities: Tea with Family, Some Meditation, Walking the Dog, and getting ready
- Leaving Office at @8.30-9am
- Ist half in office: Making a Tasklist post reviewing all pending items from the earlier day
- Lunch: Bad habit – tend to miss it
- Post Lunch: Work-Work-Work
- How you spend your evenings: Pure Family time post 60 mins of walk/swim
- Sleep time: Since I have a 10-year old, I tend to sleep at 10 pm max.