Roopa Kudva is the Managing Director of Omidyar Network India, an investment firm focused on social impact. She leads the overall investment strategy, operations and portfolio development of Omidyar Network and manages and develops the India-based portfolio across core initiatives. Prior to joining Omidyar Network, Roopa spent 23 years with CRISIL, and was its Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer from 2007. She led CRISIL's transformation from being IndiaÕs premier ratings agency into a diversified global analytical company. Under her leadership the company's market capitalization grew four-fold and revenues tripled. She led the company's expansion plans and CRISIL now has a presence in 150 cities across India and research centers in Argentina, Poland and China. Its client base includes some of the largest global investment banks and as well as tens of thousands of small firms and enterprises in India. Roopa has served as a member of several policy-level committees relating to the Indian financial system, and is an independent director on the board of Infosys and Tata AIA Life Insurance Company, and a member of the Banks Board Bureau.
Below are her thoughts on themes related to women and leadership.
My Leadership Journey
I entered the workforce when the liberalization process was getting under way in India. My own career (and that of several others) benefitted tremendously from the rapid growth of the Indian economy and the opportunities it created for new organizations to innovate and grow. The last few decades have also generated unprecedented opportunities for women in the workforce. Today, in urban India, there is a far greater support for working women professionals from their families. Overall, I believe that women are in a considerably better position across the professional spectrum, although there are still several issues to address.
Surmounting Barriers to Success
While the proportion of women in middle management is increasing in the private sector, women are still severely under-represented at senior leadership levels. One big barrier is that women hold back from raising their hand/asking for the top jobs, reflecting social conditioning. I consistently see women underestimating their leadership capabilities. As aspirants for the top jobs, the onus of managing one’s career and communicating what we want lies on oneself — and this is applicable to both women and men. Also, as women seek leadership roles, it’s important to be self-aware, particularly about what they can do better than others in the organization and their unique strengths, and build on them to seek leadership roles.
The representation of women in middle management is perceptibly increasing, as attitudes are changing. So statistics in middle management will considerably improve 5 years down the line. As for the top management roles, these roles are always tough and there are risks involved. It is hard to get the top jobs and stay at the top, whether you are a woman or a man. Women naturally have strong skills to lead. They can multi-task and handle diverse stakeholders very well
Breaking the "Old Boys' Club"
Things are certainly changing, though an accelerated pace of change is desirable. At Omidyar Network India, we meet and engage with strong women entrepreneurs leading organizations both in the for-profit as well as in the non-profit sectors. While the ‘old-boy network’ does exist, there are plenty of examples of women leaders rising above that clique.
Fighting the glass cliff phenomenon
To begin with, employers need to signal gender neutrality — that being a man or woman doesn’t matter from a career development perspective. The tone set by top leadership is critical. Also, when women start a family, supporting them should not be signaled as “special privileges” but having good policies that make it easy for women to be effective contributors when they have young children makes good business sense. Organizations are realizing that it pays to invest in women. There will be a phase when companies need to be supportive but it is well worth the effort. Despite well-known instances, research has yet to conclusively establish that the glass cliff exits – that women executives are consistently more likely to be selected for difficult/ precarious leadership positions than men.
Women Empowering Women
Women leaders need to be supportive of other upcoming women leaders and need to reach out and help other deserving ones up the ladder. I also believe that there is merit in organizations having conscious and well-articulated goals around having women in leadership positions. Women leaders can play an important role in driving this. Having goals will also push organizations to actively go out and seek women in leadership positions. We have seen that mandating women on corporate boards has pushed companies to seek out diverse talent. It is interesting that once companies hire a search firm to look for board candidates, many strong women show up on the list of contenders as compared to what happens when boards rely on their own networks.