This week I had the opportunity to be a speaker at the Oracle Open World Diversity & Inclusion Track. It was an incredible learning for me – the agenda covered the complete spectrum on why and how organizations should accelerate their efforts on gender diversity and inclusion.
However, the star session of the track was the conversation with State Bank of India’s CEO, Arundhati Bhattacharya & Oracle’s CEO, Safra Catz. What a session! Two women leaders so different in so many ways, yet converging on many points that enabled them to be successful in their careers.
As this week we celebrate Mother’s Day, here is a tribute to these two successful working mothers that inspired us with their authentic experiences and reflections about their career. Here are some of their reflections:
Key takeaways from State Bank of India CEO, Arundhati Bhattacharya
-Take operations and business roles early on in your career. Bhattacharya’s point of view on careers is that to access higher critical roles in the organization, one needs to have some experience in operations and business, otherwise the career options get limiting. Her advice to women was “have the courage to take on challenging roles early on; don’t take the easy route and easy roles because that will create constraints tomorrow”.
-Have courage; don’t think of the precipice. Bhattacharya beautifully compared careers to driving in the night — you can only see as much ahead of you. The concern she raised was that women tend to think that there is a precipice ahead and they are too scared to fall. She appealed to women to have the courage to take on unknown routes and work towards making the most of them, and not focus on “what all can go wrong”.
-Give up the guilt! Bhattacharya explained how women create standards based on their experiences and when they compare themselves with others, which creates guilt. Being there on time to serve food for the family, taking care of the household, etc. — all these are important things of course, but she mentioned that if we involved our spouses and families, they will be happy to contribute. She mentioned that one needs to set up standards that work. Do not live under “someone else’s” standards.
Key takeaways from Oracle CEO, Safra Catz
- Fight the fight and get mentors early on. Oracle’s Catz recalls that early on in her career, there was a point when in her team she was the only woman left. She reflected about how she actually managed to stay in the fight and also mentioned that reaching out to mentors early on is what helped her navigate and continue to “fight the fight”.
- Get ahead by taking routes that nobody else is taking. Catz recalled when she was starting her career, how everybody was choosing financial services or investment banking as a career. But, there was also an emerging software industry that was getting formed; she knew programming and she felt she could make a difference in that industry. By taking a route that very few people were taking, she was able to get ahead — a very interesting reflection here for women leaders who can take on alternative paths and create their own careers.
- Speak up and bring in the diverse point of view. The value that women bring to teams is in terms of the diverse points of view they give. Catz mentioned about her role at Oracle and how she always brings a divergent point of view and also makes sure that all points of view are considered. When it comes to customer needs, partners needs, employee needs, there is no uniformity – needs are diverse by definition. In business, one needs to consider as many points of view as possible to make sure that decision-making is as holistic as possible.
Please do share with women leaders you admire and keep adding up reflections and learning. The power of sharing experiences is inspirational, energizing and practical.