Women who manage to grow in the ecosystem should make the path easier for the ones after them
Gender inclusion is not a women’s issue, it is a business issue. To bring balance to the numbers, you have to change the men, you have to change the women, and you have to change the culture. We need all three to happen for progress. The mistake we do is that we try to work on the women, we work on making them assertive and confident; they are not the problem, the culture is not accommodating of their different style of working and the men need to be engaged for them to feel that this is an important issue for the business.
Personally, I have always dreamt big. I remember when I joined HUL I wrote my own vision; I wanted to be the HR Director for the company. I remember my colleagues laughing and saying that I was dreaming foolishly, no woman had ever reached that position, and no HR person had actually ever lead the HR portfolio. It had always been technical people. That was my dream and it happened when I was 36.
The second important quality to create impact is self-belief. I find that women, more than men, lack self belief. Women should put their hand up and request for what they think they deserve. I think women are not putting their hands up enough. The third important element for women to succeed in the workplace is to find mentors. Men traditionally build wide networks and different groups of networks; women tend to build deep networks, they find people they align with and get closer to them. To grow in the organization, one needs both and that is how you get mentors. Mentors will advise and support you and are essential for career growth.
I think women who have managed to grow in this ecosystem, should make the path easier for those after them. Within one month of being made HR Director India, I extended maternity policy, I introduced the flexibility policy to work out of home; these came from the belief that we need to make life for women and men easier. When I joined HUL, women comprised only 3 per cent of the workforce there. Today, 30 per cent of employees are women.