Breaking The Glass Ceiling

These women are creating a perfect balance between their work and personal life

Farzana Cama Balpande
Neerja Birla

Observed since the early 1900s and now recognised each year on March 8, International Women's Day is not affiliated to any one group. It brings together governments, organisations, corporations and charities through talks, rallies, networking events, conferences and marches. Patriarchy created ceiling for woman in every sphere of life and every time women breaks it someone creates another for her. Nevertheless women continue to grow strong and continue to break the "glass ceiling". Women are multi-taskers and jugglers of their own kind; they know how to create a balance between home and work with astonishing management. But all these responsibilities from all spheres of life brings with it a bag full of emotional, psychological and physical turmoil which needs attention and awareness along-with long term solutions. 

Estee Lauder said “I didn’t get there by wishing for it or hoping for it, but by working for it.” and in the business world dominated by men, women indeed are changing the scenario by working for it. The most prominent female figures of business in India are creating history which will be proud of womanhood. Winfrey said “Step out of the history that is holding you back. Step into the new story you are willing to create.” Let’s celebrate these creators of beautiful history who are changing the shape of business world for better.

Neerja Birla, Chairperson and Founder, Mpower, a mental health movement part of the Aditya Birla Education Trust 

Through Mpower, Neerja hopes to spread awareness about mental health, alleviate stigma, and provide quality care to individuals from all walks of life and from all sections of the community. She is a strong advocate in the field of education. Her love for children is reflected in her dedication to her role as the Chairperson of The Aditya Birla World Academy. She is also the Chairperson of The Aditya Birla Integrated School, which provides holistic and personalised learning environment to children with learning and intellectual disabilities. 

Vishpala Reddy, Chief People’s Officer, Uber, India and South Asia

Vishpala, plays a crucial role in accelerating the company’s efforts to position human capital as a key driver in enabling business success at Uber. With deep HR expertise of over 17 years across leading organisations, Vishpala hopes to champion Uber India’s diversity and inclusion agenda by developing programmes to foster an equal opportunity workplace at Uber. Prior to joining Uber, Vishpala was Vice President and the Head of HR for American Express in India. Known for her passion to lead innovative and sustainable HR practices with measurable impact, Vishpala has been honoured with external recognition for her contributions and being a thought leader.

Farzana Cama Balpande, Head, BookASmile 

With over two decades of experience in the field of Early Childhood Care and Education Farzana has been involved with her own Pre-schools and the Day-care space. She was the Corporate Head for the Early Childhood Department at Kwakids Learning Pvt. Ltd. Thereafter, she decided to contribute to society and wanted to create value by doing something more meaningful. In 2011, she joined BookASmile to further her passion for philanthropy and social awareness. BookASmile has enabled Farzana to support special causes and enrich the lives of the less fortunate across India via the medium of Art, Cinema, Sports and Culture by providing them with opportunities, activities and experiences.

Rati Shetty, Chief Product Officer and Co-founder,

Rati at the helm of the team that is the face of the company. She is no stranger to consumer understanding, drawing on her experience managing the launch and go-to-market operations of many Kraft Food’s brands in export markets across the world, including Toblerone in Brazil and Milka in the US. As the company’s CPO, Rati is the driving force behind the team that strives to deliver innovative and simple product experiences for complex financial products such as loans, credit cards and insurance through intelligent interface design and smart technology. She ensures that whether it is building a world-class user experience, a sharp focus on conversion or industry-first innovations such as paperless transactions, there’s always a whole lot to write home about.

Mamta Sundara, General Counsel of Diageo India (United Spirits Limited). 

In this role, Mamta leads the legal function, which balances and mitigates the company’s risks, owns the company’s objectives and partners with the business to help deliver these. Additionally, she also has responsibility for the real estate portfolio of Diageo India. With over 17 years of experience as a legal professional, spanning corporate in-house roles as well as private practice across a diverse range of industries and geographies including India, South East Asia and the UK.

BW Education, asked these women who are leaders in their own paths as to, what does it take for a woman to be a successful leader where our society expects them to ace both at home and at work. How should young women, CEOs, entrepreneurs and women in leadership roles cope with the pressure? This is what they had to say...

"I believe that for any person to succeed, 3 qualities are critical. Courage – to embrace new and challenging experiences that demand more from us than we feel we can sometimes give, to be vulnerable and open to learning and to differences. Integrity – to stand for fairness and for doing the right thing, even in the face of opposition and at personal cost. Resilience – to persevere through difficult personal and professional experiences, and to not lose perspective in the face of seemingly insurmountable problems. Underpinning this is hard work, stellar performance and raising the bar for oneself always, says Mamta Sundara. She advises, "Juggling multiple responsibilities is the harsh reality for women and I feel the only way to progress is to make peace with this by accepting that sometimes we will be less than perfect, being kind when we disappoint ourselves because often it is we who demand the most from ourselves, and enjoying the struggle and the journey – if we don’t seek happiness in the here and now, no amount of professional progress will make us successful people.

"Leadership has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with ability as well as attitude. A woman has the inherent ability to don many hats and she walks many paths in a single lifetime, work being just one of them. The balance between home and work life can be achieved if the physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual scales are balanced too. Passion and belief in what you do and how you do it, setting boundaries for yourself and others, not taking a single aspect of your life too seriously and a supportive family are the right mix of ingredients. One must also take inspiration from many women leaders who have effortlessly and fearlessly marched forward, and today are running the world. The metaphor of the Glass ceiling rightfully highlights a given demographic, in this context, women, from rising beyond a certain level in a corporate hierarchy," explains Farzana Cama Balpande.

According to Neerja Birla, "The modern Indian woman is independent and ambitious. Acing leadership roles, definitely going places.However, she’s also a daughter, a mother and her family’s emotional anchor. As a result, working women are constantly multi-tasking – juggling work-related stresses,and office politics with the responsibilities of home and children. When it all gets too much to handle, they fall prey to various mental illnesses – stress, anxiety, depression and other psychological disorders. Being financially independent and having a career should be liberating for women. But the ratio mental health of working women and those who don't stand skewed. Mental well-being is of utmost importance and women must strive for a work-life balance that is satisfying, both mentally and emotionally. 

"Indian women must stop sacrificing their own needs for those of the family. Don't lose sight of your personal goals and learn to set aside ‘a bit of me time’. If there is a serious mental concern, seek professional help, without feeling stigmatized," she advises.

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