Equity is about ensuring that every individual has equal opportunity, regardless of any inherent difference such as gender, and I strongly believe it is essential for social and economic prosperity of a society. In addition, gender equality is also a subject of human rights and social justice, in terms of allowing equal access to rights, resources and opportunities. Lastly, more women in the workplace have consistently demonstrated a proven business case, principally in terms of women leaders’ ability to add new dimensions and perspectives to the workplace dynamics.
Rakhee Sharma interviewed Ruhie Pande, Chief Human Resources Officer, Godrej Housing Finance. Ruhie heads the Human Resources vertical at Godrej Housing Finance. Prior to this, she was heading HR for Godrej Properties (GPL) and was with them for 2.5 years before taking on the mantle as Godrej Housing Finance’s employee #1. She, along with the MD, was instrumental in identifying and on-boarding the CXO or the co- founder team and now is working on the key levers of the people strategy to enable a best-in class financial institution. Edited excerpts:
What were some of the key challenges that women leaders faced during the pandemic?
Moving into a remote or hybrid working model has led to families, and women in particular, reassess their role at home. The dynamic of being a caretaker, running a home along with managing a professional career now all based out of the same location has been one of the key challenges faced by many women during the pandemic. As leaders, the challenge through the course of the last two years has been to adapt to a virtual way of working and engagement. This has required leaders to build or enhance their leadership style and ensure they recognise and empathise with the challenges of their team members.
As a female leader, what are some of the biggest lessons learned so far?
As women, one of the fundamental challenges we are constantly grappling with is the dilemma around ‘can I have it all’ in trying to balance between nurturing a home and work life. I believe the biggest lesson I have learned is the need to prioritise and build a circle of trust and support to ensure we can set ourselves up for success. Women are inherently caretakers and over the years I have come to recognise that balancing a healthy home and work life is critical to allow me as a working woman to give my career aspirations the necessary attention and emphasis.
What, in your view, will be the top challenges in the coming decade for female leaders?
Change is happening in a non-linear and exponential rate, the top challenge for any future leader would be to stay ahead of the curve and stay relevant. I do believe that gender-related challenges will continue to dissolve as we evolve as a society and the fight to stay relevant and build future-ready skills will be the key differentiator for any professional, irrespective of their gender.
What are the most important traits we need in a leader today, male or female?
The pandemic is a watershed moment in history and has changed the world and workplace forever. In my view, the most important traits all leaders of today need to possess and nurture are empathy, adaptability and resilience. To lead organisations effectively in times of uncertainty and constant change, soft skills have become more important than ever before. As more and more employees work in remote or hybrid models, leaders need to adapt to lead virtually. It’s critical for the leaders to actively listen and engage with employees to uncover and address concerns on the go, and identify roadblocks to work towards proactively.
Which strategy worked for you to achieve success at the workplace, especially in male-dominated roles or industries?
Building credibility is the cornerstone to a successful career at the workplace. I have been a big advocate of continuous learning and believe that a successful career is not a sprint but a marathon, which will require you to continuously evolve and learn as a professional, flexing different muscles through the course of this journey. I also believe I don’t bring my gender to the workplace and have therefore never chosen to look at any role or industry as male-dominated or women-centric.
We just celebrated the Women's Day. How do you propose to #BreakTheBias?
Recognising and addressing unconscious biases would be the focus areas for this year. The #breakthebias theme urges us to take proactive steps to disrupt all bias, stereotypes and as an outcome address discrimination at the workplace. This year’s theme also lays a special emphasis on inclusion and equity apart from gender diversity. Supporting the careers of young women through the course of their life stages and thereby safeguarding them from dropping out in the absence of an active support is a focus area for us. I truly believe we need more women in positions of leadership and this will happen as we help them through the various stages of life that impact their careers, that is mobility, marriage and motherhood.