It was a house full session at the Pune International Literary Festival when author Sudha Menon and Manisha Girotra (Moelis India Chief) spoke about the strategies and survival tips they have adopted to ensure they have meaningful careers and personal lives.
Sudha , a former journalist who has written a number of books about the journeys of women leaders across various walks of life, was all heart when it came to talking about her life. And the banker minced no words when it came to talking about her rise up to the top echelons of the world of investment banking. The duo held the audience rivetted at the Literary Festival with the conversation around women empowerment and several issues related to career women including – how do women in careers or those aspiring to follow careers, get past the barriers of societal expectations and generations of conditioning? What do women do about the labels- bossy, ruthless, bossy pants- that they get when they are in their careers and rising up the ranks? What does one do when faced with gender benders and stereotypes at the workplace?
The author of the recently launched non-fiction book, Devi, Diva or She Devil – Sudha said her path was strewn by challenges as a young woman trying to balance being mother of an infant and be a good journalist. In addition, she said the fact that she lived within the confines of a fairly conservative suburban Mumbai town resulted in her getting judged for being a variety of things- absentee mother and absentee wife included.
Sudha said, “Over the years I have learnt to tackle challenges on the move, thinking on my feet. And as for judgements and labels that are aimed at me, I have learnt to ignore them and not let the negativity affect me at all. I often tell young women who talk to me about societal barriers to their career path that their first and most important battle is that which they have to fight in their own minds. If you want something badly, you have to first be convinced of its importance for you. Only then will you find the will to stand up and fight for it.”
Girotra, one of the most influential names in the investment banking circles, said her first job at a bank when she entered it fresh out of business school, was not just to do the role that she was recruited for, but to also fetch coffee for the boss every morning and be the officepizza girl when required.
“I diligently did all of those things because I had worked hard for a career in banking and I was not going to let anyone push me off my path. I knew that many in the office thought that I was merely using the bank as a waiting room while I found myself a suitable man to marry and settle down. Which is why I work very hard in my organisation today to make sure that I increase the number of women we recruit. Diversity is important for me. And, it is important for us women to work hard, stand up for what we believe in, learn everything we can in the field that we want to be and then progress on that path without being discouraged by the challenges,” Manisha said. I don’t obsess about having plush, plump cushions at home or gourmet morsels to eat. I have learnt to delegate and get things done so that I can focus on my job,” she adds.
Menon, who has written 3 other best-selling books including Legacy, a collection of letters from parents to their fathers, said, “I find it liberating to own up to my shortcomings, my vulnerabilities and my inadequacies but I do whatever I do with hundred percent of me in it. And even if it is a cliched expression, I choose excellence now, over the perfection that I chased after for decades.”