Women @ Work. A Thank You Note

Last year, I had an overseas intern. An American intern with no connection to India. He was quite surprised with what he saw here in Bangalore office – about women at work.

‘Never thought Indian office has 30-40% women. With whatever I had read about India from the media, sounded very negative about women. This is much higher than I had seen in my base office in the US.’

Apart from numbers, here is one feedback from German colleagues on what they thought – “ALL of the women associates from Bangalore are doing good”. This was not for women’s day say-the-right-things feedback. It was part of an objective assessment session.

Talking about women at work - I could talk about “3 types of women employees” or “10 characteristics of female professionals” etc. But honestly, I did not see any difference between men and women at work. Work in my office is not physically challenging. Hence everything boils down to job skills and how much one wants to stretch. I did not find any correlation between  technical/emotional abilities and gender. (Though, at times, women were more stable and could multiplex better).

From many women professionals I know, here are the five I want to talk about.

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The Five Women:

1. That software architect:

She is one of the software Gurus I met in early career. Technical depth, toughness and execution focus.

A technical interview. There was a guy who claimed lot of things and was up for interview. He did well in earlier rounds. In this round, my software Guru could quickly identify the not-so-plausible experience (Ok..the ‘crap’ in the resume in the right word!). I understood how not to confuse confidence for the competency of the candidates. When I interview, sometimes I draw from those lessons.

2.  Crisis Manager:

She is an expert in managing ‘situations’. Crisis management involves good instincts, being street smart and many more.

I had a visit of potential customers. We had a prototype of energy management concept. As perfectionist, I am never comfortable about presenting something less than perfect. Yes – first win the war in the mind and then go to war. It was this lady who managed to put a brave face and the show. I just could not have done that. It was a crucial win of a consulting project.

3. Malala in Her Own Way:

This is about another employee who would also be remembered for long time to come. She belonged to conservative faith. All was going well and she was up for an international assignment within few months.

One day she came up and said she wants to leave the job because family does to want her to work. We had long discussion on what she would get by continuing. She said she always wanted to work and would try to convince her family. After few days she came back. She had negotiated a middle ground with family. She could continue on job if she moves to a tier 2 city closer home. There was a small problem though. As per policies, one can not be transferred without spending sufficient time in one location. She was persistent and we managed an exception approval.

Giving up an international assignment, a zooming career … to keep family happy. To keep herself happy, continuing to work, though a bit less attractive role. No – this does not sound like revolution. But it still is. Hero without need for villain in the story. Balancing bit of all worlds. Quiet assertion. Breaking barriers without breaking them.

4.  A Super Boss:

I found a boss, lot of whom, I want to emulate. This boss leads about 2000 people. She understands the portfolio well. Very quick in grasping technical concepts, business, power games and everything. A master of inspiring conversations and speeches. In status reviews, she can swing between being ruthless and a guardian angel as needed. Within minutes she can identify the filth beneath the nice looking status charts. A globe trotter while balancing all the responsibilities effectively. No surprises when she keeps getting promoted at regular intervals.

5. A Reliable Balancer – Responsibility over First Diwali :

This lady professional got the call that she urgently needed to be in office next morning 4 AM. She had to attend a crisis in Australia. The problem was it was the first Diwali after getting married. I can not forget because it was my first Diwali too. Further, this professional is my wife and it was our first Diwali.

It is amazing to see the way she (and many others like her) take the responsibility. It is a manager’s dream to find people who both have talent and take ownership. Few years down the line, now – the way she started her own company and pushing it, thinking deep about future customers… I can comfortably say that she is superior to me in so many ways – decision making, multiplexing, influencing abilities apart from technical skills.

To conclude -

I gave away the best pay hikes to some of the women. No favor. These are the best professionals who happened to be women. If some of these leave the job, my team would just collapse.

No surprises. We grew up learning about effective women leaders like Indira Gandhi, many historical queens and religious Goddesses of all shades. First time, heard about debate whether female can lead was in USA. It was about whether country is ready for lady leader. Till then, it never occurred to me that gender could matter to become the boss. Thought it should always be about the talent and how much of rat race one wants.

These are the times gender issue is vehemently discussed. Just wanted to drop some data and a note of thanks.

Thank you – you all added immense value to business and work environment. Thanks !