In a conversation with DQ Channels Mohua Sengupta, EVP & Global Head of Services, 3i Infotech speaks on her journey of success in a female role model.
The challenges of being a woman executive in a top role
Being an executive in a top role comes with its fair share of challenges, and I believe that’s what keeps us going. We want to reach there because we love the challenges. But the challenges of being a woman in a top executive role could have an additional dimension, though I have to say that it’s depleting every day. And this challenge is how a successful professional woman is stereotyped sometimes.
Successful women are seen as unsuccessful moms or wives or someone who short-changes personal life for professional. But unfortunately, that’s not the case. There are many women today who are equally successful at work as at home. But people always take that with a pinch of salt.
So we basically are always struggling to correct an image which really isn’t true. I believe this is the only additional challenge that a ‘Woman’ executive in a top role faces which our male counterparts need not. The rest are all the same.
I have an MA in Economics from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. Then I went to the US to do my MBA in Finance from the University of Buffalo. I am also a Certified General Accountant of Canada, which I did while working in the Royal Bank of Canada.
My dad was a Senior Officer in the Reserve Bank of India and my mom was a professor who quit her job to be a stay-at-home mom. I grew up in a very close-knit middle-class family in Kolkata. My parents instilled ambition in me, without saying anything openly. They taught me to aspire to be the best in whatever I do, without spelling it out in so many words. I met my husband long back when we were starting out in college. But we married much later.
Working in the Male-dominated field of IT
Here I believe my opinion will be quite different from others. I have rarely faced discrimination, lack of cooperation, or lack of respect from my juniors, peers or superiors. I rarely felt that I have been short-changed by my male superiors because I am a woman.
The only unfortunate incident that I can remember was when I had my baby, and even though I came back right after 3 months of maternity leave, my appraisal was impacted and unfortunately I was told it’s because I was gone for 3 months out of 12 and that I should expect only 75% of my performance rating.
Unfortunate, but it was one out of many people I have worked with, across the globe. So can’t really call it a phenomenon in general. To me, it’s a one-off unfortunate incident, which I corrected by changing my job soon after. I would hate to believe that this is the reality across the corporate world. If it were I would have faced this much more.
Does a Glass ceiling exist?
Of course, it does. If not then why are only 4% of CEOs women, globally? Do we have any data to say that women are intellectually inferior? And if not then there can be only one reason and that’s the glass ceiling. My only point is that we women are also contributing to that by accepting it and not aspiring for more.
And it will remain till the time we will let it remain. It’s up to us to try and push and break it. So yes it exists but instead of sitting and complaining about it we should try and break it. I am very hopeful when my 11-year-old daughter will go to the corporate world (assuming she wants to), she will not face any such glass ceiling.
I cannot emphasise the importance of hobbies for everyone, irrespective of the professional or personal situation. I have a lot of them. I love to bake and it’s my passion. I am a self-taught baker and its one of the things that cheer me up the most. After a long tough workday, many a time I start baking at 11 pm and when I get done to go to bed at 2:00 am, I am physically exhausted but mentally energised and content.
I am also into the theatre. We have our group called ‘Ventures’ and we perform fairly regularly in esteemed auditoriums like Ranga Shankara, Jagriti etc. and we are currently busy trying to take our latest play ‘The Flame’ to other cities in India. I also love to paint but rarely do it these days.
My new found love is gardening. It relaxes me to no ends, though I must say that I am an absolute beginner, and plants still don’t love me much. Bottomline is that I believe hobbies provide a true emotional balance that is needed
to make us a complete professional who is happy every morning when they get back to work.
• Your Fitness Mantra: This is one place I really slack. I am not a fitness buff.
• Your De-stressing Mantra: The best distressing mantra for me is to spend time with my family.
• Where you like to shop? Online. Amazon is a life saver for me.
• Your favourite holiday destination: I love beaches. Hard to choose a favourite holiday destination, because I absolutely love to travel and enjoy travelling to new places.
• 5 things you cannot live without: i) My daughter and discussing how her day was and sharing our stories, ideally, in person or over the phone, ii) My husband – he is also my best friend with whom I share the most, iii) Talking to my mom at least once (if she is not with me), iv) Some new challenge to look forward to everyday in my professional life v) Some
upcoming vacation travel to look forward to and plan.
• Wake up at: 6:00 am
• Morning activities: Get my daughter ready for school, spend some time in the garden, however brief it might be, enjoying my first cup of tea with my parents and then dash out to office by 7:30 a.m. I eat breakfast in the car.
• Leaving Office at: 4:00 – 4:30 p.m.
• 1st half in office: I mostly do my emails, internal meetings, things I need to do alone are all packed in the first half.
• Lunch: I always go for lunch with my team.
• Post Lunch: This is time for external meetings, calls, review with the sales team in other Geos etc.
• How you spend your evenings: Evenings are a tough but fun balancing between being a soccer mom and taking calls. My daughter has quite a few hobbies, which I think have graduated with passion and are no longer just hobbies for her.
We try to encourage and support as much as possible. So in the evening I typically take her around to various classes while taking calls all the way. But between 8 and 10 p.m., I try not to take longer calls, unless absolutely important.
Because, for the past 11 years, a couple of hours in the evening are exclusively my time to spend with my daughter, if I am not travelling. Right now that is typically between 8 and 10. Thereafter I am back with my laptop and calls.
• Sleep time: Typically anytime between 11:30 p.m. and midnight