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‘No need to be part of the boys’ club,’ say empowered voices

Parimala S Rao Chennai | Updated on March 16, 2015

Actress Shruti Haasan presents the MMA Outstanding Woman Manager Award to Divya V of Tube Investments of India

Speakers at MMA’s Women Managers’ Convention talk of how they stay motivated

Choices and challenges. Perfection and compromise. Inspiration, then rejection. Courage. Identity. These were some of the issues expanded on by speakers at the annual Women Managers’ Convention of the Madras Management Association held in Chennai last week.

As part of the panel discussion on “Voices through the ages,” Sangeetha Shankaran Sumesh, CFO, Dun & Bradstreet India, Pavitra Singh, Associate Director, Organisation Development, PepsiCo India, Sushila Ravindranath, senior journalist, and Sudharma, Bharatanatyam dancer and student at MOP Vaishnav College, spoke of what inspired them to go the distance they have and how they stay motivated.

Describing the early days as a finance professional in the West, Sangeetha said that though there were was a good work atmosphere and recognition of her work, there was discrimination between men and women in salaries, and leave and passage allowance.

Glass Ceilings Inc.

She brought it up with her boss several times, inspiring other women co-workers to keep up the demand for justice and fairplay until the pay parity they sought eventually came about. “I believe in voicing my problems and in being persistent when in pursuit of an end that is just and well-deserved,” she said.

Pavitra Singh credits a mentor’s advice and her family support system for helping her choose not to quit when her daughter was young and she felt she needed her full attention. ““Women are naturally good at building networks with other women outside of work, and it’s the easiest way to help one another out,” she said.

Pavitra said it’s important to believe in your potential, especially when aspiring to a larger goal. “Be your authentic self,” she said. “There’s no need to emulate a group of men who may dominate a meeting, and behave as they do. On the contrary, leveraging the feminine side may bring different strengths and new perspectives to an issue.”

Passionate pursuits

Recalling the initial years of her career, Sushila Ravindranath said, “Given the current state of the media, that has moved far beyond print to newer platforms, it is essential never to compromise on the freedom of expression,” she said, adding, “it’s especially difficult for the women, who have always to stay two steps ahead of their men colleagues in perfection and achievement.”

Classical dancer Sudharma (23) displayed a maturity beyond her years when she spoke of the focus and persistence that characterised her decision, at the age of three, to be a dancer and subsequent years of balancing academics and dance classes, the two constants in her life.

“The passion to achieve perfection in Bharatanatyam was so strong that I did not even realise there were so many other things I was giving up in this pursuit,” she says, quick to add that she has no regrets. In her keynote address, writer Preeti Shenoy spoke of five key factors that helped her succeed, chief among them being “moving out of your comfort zone” and the ability to “embrace rejection” while being prepared to “branch out and innovate”.

“It’s important to define yourself as a person first, not as a woman,” said actor and singer-composer Shruti Hassan, in her valedictory message.

Published on March 16, 2015

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