Friday, January 11, 2008

Work Like a Woman

I have always believed that women make better managers. There are several reasons for it, some pathological and some simply because of the way women are conditioned. Women are better at reasoning and use more of their emotional brain centres that in itself make them approachable and affable. Women are stronger in times of crisis and ultimately women are the perfect combination of patience and pursuit. More and more companies are realizing the worth of their women employees; stories of rising from the ranks are making news all over the world. Whether it is Priya Paul, Chairman of Apeejay Park Hotels, who stepped into an established business or Kiran Mazumdar Shaw who started her career as a trainee brewer at Carlton & United Breweries and is now the CEO of Biocon, both have that one thing in common, indomitable spirit!

The most notable change has been in the finance sector. Out of the profiled top 21 Indian businesswomen, 7 were from banks and financial institutions. Naina Lal Kidwai was first to make news at Deputy CEO of HSBC bank followed by Lalita Gupte, Joint MD of ICICI Bank. This brings me back to why women are attracted to largely male dominated business sectors. It could be the lure of the unconquerable or that women fair well throughout school and university across India. It seems more like a scenario where women want to seize the moment and squeeze every opportunity because things finally different from what they were a generation ago. National progress can be quantified by the presence of women as a work force. It is the trickle effect that will benefit India in the long run; educated women will rear educated children. The most noted book of 2005 ‘Freakonomics’ cites ‘working mothers’ as one main reason behind successful people.

Even at a grass root level, I have noticed a new breed of Indian businesswomen, the enterprising housewives. Last Diwali I walked into a small shop selling terracotta lamps and idols, the women manning the counter had her head covered, spoke only Hindi (Indian regional language) and had a mobile ringing constantly around her neck. She knew every product and its price in her shop; it was 200 square feet and stocked 2000 things! She was a shark when it came to bargaining and all the while she was polite and courteous. The other such woman I know is one who runs a plant nursery. She is always cutting deals on landscaping and grass prices, she won’t budge on the price of exotics and if I saw her on the street I would never imagine she could run an enterprise that sold over 500 varieties of plants and was spread across 2 acres of land. The third woman I have been lucky to encounter was the lady I rented DVD’s from. She escaped an abusive marriage, started a movie rental service with the money she made from selling her wedding jewellery, all the while she was bringing up three children. She then expanded into electronic repairs, hired a talented electronics engineer and went on to marry him. They still have that little shop but its full of love, good service and a definite mark of sheer enterprise.

Even as far as global achievements by Indian women are concerned, Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo stands out as an exceptional achiever. Born and brought up in Chennai, she went to the US for higher studies, started with major corporate, has a successful marriage and is a mother to two children. Now that’s commendable.

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