There are management books galore on being effective leaders, maximizing productivity, managing career progression and so on. Of late, a new category of manuscripts that have entered this space are books specifically targeted at women managers. From Sheryl Sandberg to Indra Nooyi, women leaders have put out highly personal books aimed at helping women navigate the workspace more effectively, shedding self-doubts. 

There have also been several books like Aparna Jain’s  Own It, Apurva Purohit’s  Lady You’Re the Boss, Saundarya Rajan’s  The 99 Day Diversity Challenge and several others that provide inspiration to women and address the issue of why diversity and inclusion in organisations is important.

Into this space enters Anita Bhogle’s Equal Yet Different, a perceptive book that maps out an action plan to help working women reach the top of their game. It is aimed at young professional women, gently pointing out where the career potholes are and how to jump over those. The multifaceted Bhogle, a postgraduate in statistics from IIT Bombay and an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad (where she met her husband, well-known cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle), has had a career in advertising, marketing, and market research before she teamed up with her husband to run a successful motivational series called The Winning Way, which uses learnings from sports to inspire managers.

The title of this book, in fact, comes from a sporting reference that the Bhogles often used in their The Winning Way presentation. A quote from Steve Waugh, former captain of the Australian cricket team, who said that as a leader you need to treat your teammates equally yet differently. This is exactly how women want to be treated, says Bhogle. “Women are a significant part of most teams today and while they might need some flexibility from time to time, their performance needs to be weighed on the same scale as everyone else.”

The strength of this book is that Bhogle, brings her research expertise to the fore, and quickly manages to get to the heart of what holds women back in their careers. She cites Saundarya Rajesh’s company Avtar’s study on career intentionality among women. Their study found that gaining professional expertise is the key aspiration for both men and women in the early career stage but by mid-career, women seek work-life integration while men seek achievement and success. Bhogle points out that most women lack ambition and this is what holds them back.

Talking to a diverse set of women, between the ages of 26 and 65, as well as HR heads of organisations where women have progressed, Bhogle sets out to find what can be done to increase career intentionality for the women. The anecdotes that women from all walks of life – lawyers, CAs, architects, corporate executives, teachers, etc - share really point to the huge mindset change that is needed. There is so much social conditioning about a woman’s primary responsibility being a family and home that despite an increasing number of supportive spouses, and parents, who encourage careers, a large majority of women still are not ambitious enough, and don’t mind sacrificing their dreams. The needle has moved in terms of support that a woman gets today from her family yet, the needle has not moved when it comes to her own ambitions. Women tend to have a lot of FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to their home life. But equally, hearteningly, Bhogle shows how they are now developing FOMO about the workplace too and many are coming back to work even before their maternity leave ends. 

The good part is that the coming generation is very clear about what they want and will not compromise on their interests to follow a spouse, if he gets posted elsewhere, etc – but put themselves first.

 The other strong point of this book is that it is peppered with interesting voices. Bhogle seamlessly weaves in insights from high achievers like Sangeeta Talwar,who was the first woman executive at Nestle India, Falguni Nayar (Nykaa) , Madhabi Puri Buch, chairperson SEBI, market strategy consultant Rama Bijapurkar and many other women leaders as well as gets the viewpoints of entry level and mid-career professionals. Their stories really resonate. You can identify with everything they are saying. Bhogle also gets insights from her IIM-A alumni group, which is really fascinating. And the observations of HR professionals on the female mindset– especially those of Ramkumar of ICICI Bank, which has produced many women leaders – are pretty interesting too.

The better opportunities for women post pandemic is tackled in the book too, and how WFH could be a game changer. At the end of each chapter there are clear pointers on what steps you can take. Simply and engagingly written, this is a valuable addition to the growing body of works that are emerging as useful guides for working women.

( Chitra Narayanan is an Editorial Consultant with BusinessLine)

Check out the book on Amazon

About the Book 

Equal Yet Different: Career Catalysts for the Professional Women

Anita Bhogle

FSC/ Penguin

Rs 399/ 211 pages