Article: 'If you are efficient, the ladder is there for you to climb up'


'If you are efficient, the ladder is there for you to climb up'

Women should not give up so easily, V.R. Iyer, CMD, Bank of India, tells People Matters
'If you are efficient, the ladder is there for you to climb up'

One of the major growth constraints that women face in the BFSI sector is mobility as you get transferred from place to place, at least once in two to four years


We already have a good number of women in BoI, but not at the top level. All the board members are men apart from me. There is no gender diversity there. I would like to change that


Q. How do you explain the recent phenomenon of so many women in top positions in BFSI? Is it sustainable? What can other sectors learn from this phenomenon?

A. Many of the women leaders in the BFSI sector have come up mostly in the last few years. Generally, you see don’t see many women taking up leadership roles. Few women have come up the ladder as they give up half way or take the easier option. One of the major reasons for that is the lack of confidence. Women, who have to deal with multiple responsibilities at the same time, lack confidence more than men.

Women who make it through leadership positions are able to shift themselves and don’t get stuck at one particular level. They are better team leaders and better listeners so they are able to gear themselves up for bigger challenges. There is no glass ceiling; at least I have not seen any in my lifetime. When you prove to be efficient, I think the ladder is clear for going up. In financial services, which is a commercial business, women manage the entire show. By virtue of being a team player, they are able to run the company efficiently.

Q. BFSI is a level-playing field and you’ve mentioned that there is no glass ceiling. But, women still have to prove themselves more than men. Why is it so?

A. It is fast becoming a level-playing field. We still belong to the old generation, but it is a totally different scenario for our children. I tend to agree with you that today we need to be more efficient than our male counterparts to make it to the top. So when we reach the middle level management in the hierarchy, we need to differentiate ourselves through leading others. But once we do get past that hurdle in the initial stages, only hard work and focus matters.

Q. If the entry pipeline is healthy, then where are the women? What do you think stops women from advancing in their careers?

A. It is a combination of several factors. One of the major growth constraints that women face in the BFSI sector is mobility because we tend to get transferred from place to place, at least once in two to four years. Women should be able to cope up with the challenges posed by mobility. But, that requires a lot of coordination and support from the family. Sometimes, when we shift from one workplace to another, there will be certain prejudices there. You cannot totally rule that out. Women also have their own biases and prejudices, which don’t help either.

Secondly, there is the challenge of managing the home front and the family front. As you go higher up in the hierarchy, you should be able to face that pressure. Thirdly, good networking also matters when you scale up the ladder and women are not good at it. Women require a role model, a proper mentor. Most of the women require support to help boost her confidence.

Q. Bank of India plans to recruit about 4,500 personnel both in the officer and clerical cadres in the current year - How are you making sure that there is a gender diversity agenda in building the critical mass from within? How much of your % of employees are women at the entry, middle and top level?

A. We already have a good number of women in Bank of India, but not at the top level. There is no woman general manager in Bank of India and only one at the DGM level. There are 15 AGMs. It is quite less. All the board members are men apart from me. There is no gender diversity there. It would like to change that. In the previous two banks I had worked, there were more women at the top level.

I have always been advocating wherever I go that women should seek promotions. I want to correct the tendency among women to give up half way. I have been encouraging them not to give up so easily. On the management’s part, they should be a little more flexible in terms of posting for women. I have taken up that as a mission that I will be flexible in posting women, either in their hometowns or nearby centres. In the recruitment and promotion process, we make sure that we take care of such related aspects.

I’m quite open to flexible hours. I’m also trying to reach out to women who have quit earlier and provide them guidance and motivation; now some of them want to rejoin us. A lot of women have come forward for promotions as well. Earlier, I found that lacking. Women don’t even apply for the promotion process and it is not because they are not getting promoted. In the organizations that have more women, the environment is always good and generally the productivity is more because they are more focused on their work and are not diverted that easily.

Q. How is it being only the woman board member in BoI?

A. I have three decades of experience and have come across different sets of people with different ideologies. It doesn’t matter that I’m the only lady. I have been able to add Rs 1 lakh crore to the bank in the last two quarters and we’ve been able to improve our position in the market place quite substantially. So, ultimately as a leader, I have to see that my entire top management is motivated. They have to be clear about the ambition of the organization and that they gear themselves up and also drive their team below them to achieve that.

Q. As you took over as CMD of Bank of India your top priority has been to “restore the bank to its former glory”- what are the challenges you are facing/expect to face in achieving this goal? What are your key priority areas to help you make it happen?

A. At a personal level, I don’t face much challenges. The challenge is, of course, in terms of networking that you have to do to balance yourself in between the various stakeholders, your customers and your investors –both domestic and international. In our organization, the business from the overseas operations is almost one third of the total business we get. So I need to balance my time between the domestic and overseas operations. Networking effectively is also important as we operate in 23 countries. My main challenge is to bring back the glory of Bank of India, to position the bank among the top banks of the country at all levels. And I think we are in the right direction.

Q. Do you see more women joining the workforce because of the new banks?

A. I already see that happening. Today, in the public sector bank services are seen as the most stable employment. In the recruitment process, I do see more women joining in the workforce as now there is no bias in the recruitment stage. Basically, merit matters these days.

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Topics: Diversity, Leadership, Strategic HR, #BestPractices, #ExpertViews

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