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'Women do not assert themselves enough at work'

July 19, 2013 10:07 IST

'Women do not assert themselves enough at work'

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Abhishek Mande

Radio City CEO Apurva Purohit takes questions on issues women face at work.

Women make for better team members, work harder than men, multitask better and are more sincere, says Apurva Purohit. The CEO of Radio City has also written her first book Lady, You're Not a Man in which she talks about the burden of coping with deadlines, recalcitrant children, lazy husbands, difficult bosses and equally difficult in-laws among other things.

In an interview with Rediff.com, Purohit speaks about workplace ethics, women and just what she wished fresh-off-the-boat women graduates knew.

What is the general attitude towards women in workplaces? Has it changed in the last ten years? If so why?

With more women entering the work space in the last two decades, clearly organisations are more comfortable dealing with women now. There is a huge attempt by companies to create a safe and inclusive environment for women. To encourage women to remain in the workforce, organisations are doing a lot to make their policies gender-diverse. The big change that has happened in the last decade is that employing women is no longer tokenism or a CSR initiative. Organisations are witnessing how diversity can actually help drive performance and improve profitability and thus are working very hard towards this.

What strengths would you say women can bring to the workplace that men perhaps lack?

Both men and women have unique strengths and the complementary impact of these strengths can deliver huge dividends to organisations.

For example, I find women are more inclusive, they believe in the consensus style of management and are better listeners. As a result they are able to draw out a lot more ideas from youngsters and also create quick alignment for their strategies. In a younger and innovation-led work force I think women managers do far better.


Image: Apurva Purohit of Radio City believes that organisations are now more comfortable dealing with women.
Photographs: Courtesy Radio City

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'Indian women have the talent; all they need is just a little more belief in themselves'

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What are the challenges that women face while making it to the top?

The challenges that women face today, are more internal to them rather than external. Viz. they don't believe that they can do both i.e. be successful at work and at home. In their mind it is an either/or situation or at best a compromise. If they start believing that by putting in additional effort, organising family support and working with their companies to create a conducive work environment, they can do well in both parts of their lives and certainly make it to the top.

They have the talent; all they need is just a little more belief in themselves.

How do you deal with the expectations that a woman must also manage home and work? Does it exasperate you that people have such expectations?

Yes sometimes it bothers me to see that women are expected to take the larger share of the home burden despite working, but at the same time I also see things are changing. If there are enough examples of women working, where the spouses or the families are pitching in to support her, there will be enough groundswell built up to make it a social change -- where husbands help at home equally.

I also believe once woman contributes economically and financially to the household, respect for her will automatically go up. Of course for this to happen, women too should demand respect and not be willing to be treated badly.


Image: Women are often expected to take care of household chores such as cooking, irrespective of whether they keep a day job or not.
Photographs: Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters
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'Indian women clearly work harder (than men)'

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Do you believe people who are ethical in their personal lives also ethical professionally and vice versa)? Why?

Yes I very strongly believe that.

I think depending on how you are brought up and the family values that surround you, people have their own moral compasses which develop within them. These compasses help them decide what is right and what is wrong -- and right and wrong cannot be different professionally or personally. So honesty, greed etc. apply equally at work and at home.

I also believe that one needs to ingrain these values from childhood. Like an arrogant child will grow up to be an arrogant man and a boy who is not taught to respect women will never have an equal relationship with his wife.

What are the things Indian women employees do right and the five things they must work on according to you?

Things they do right:

  • They clearly work harder (than men)
  • They multitask better
  • They are more sincere
  • They are willing to take feedback and work on it

Things they should work on:

  • They often try to do everything on their own and are not good at asking for help
  • They do not assert themselves enough
  • They start sitting on the sidelines while mentally preparing for marriage and motherhood far earlier than they need to
  • They do not celebrate or talk about their achievements enough

Image: Women often work harder than men, says Purohit, but do not assert themselves enough.
Photographs: Reuters
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'I think women are able to walk away from power more easily while men hold on to it'

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How does one deal with sexual harassment at work?

I haven't faced it nor do I know anyone who has so I can't comment, but clearly it is completely unacceptable that we cannot create a culture of trust for our women at places of work. It should clearly be a non-negotiable value in an organisation.

How differently do women deal with power than men according to you?

Again, this is individual dependent and not so much a gender specific behaviour, but because women work better in teams (having been brought up from the cave women days to stay in groups while men were more individual hunters) they are able to deal with power more maturely and in balanced manner, rather than letting it go to their heads.

I think they are also able to walk away from power more easily while men hold on to it.

Could you offer some tips for female bosses?

  • Working with male subordinates is very different from working with female subordinate -- men have to be made to believe it is their idea.
  • Celebrate your achievements, don't always pass on the credit to team, boss, husband, dog!
  • While consensus building comes naturally to you, there are times to get alignment and there are times to be directional and give orders. Change your style depending on the need of the hour

 


Image: Women tend to be better team players, Purohit believes.
Photographs: Beck Diefenbach/Reuters
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'In the quest of building a good resume we often compromise on our values'

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Where do you think female bosses go wrong?

They try to be too much like the male counterparts and are afraid of showing their emotions fearing that it will be treated as a sign of weakness. True leadership is when you are able to command respect from your team in spite of having cried in front of them! If you are confident of your skill and your ability you don't have to become a man to project the same.

Do you believe certain industries are more 'women-friendly' than the others?

The newer industries like media and telecom and some of the more traditional ones like advertising saw women enter them far earlier, since possibly they were seen as 'soft-skill industries'.

Hence over a period of time they have evolved in their ability to handle diversity and are seen as more women friendly. Today however all kinds of industries are making a concentrated attempt to get women into their teams, realising that they are losing out on the talent of the workforce.

Finally, what are the five things you wish young Indian women employees knew and don't?

Firstly, you have to believe you can have it all: Life is not about choosing between career and family, it is about adapting your circumstances to help you have both -- a fulfilling family life and a career.

Working hard is a given. If anyone believes that life owes them a living, they will not achieve anything. And if you are a woman and want both -- a successful family and career you have to work very, very hard.

Life is not unfair only to you. It is equally unfair to your husband/father/brother who can't walk away from a dead end job and sit at home like a woman can, because society has labelled him too -- as chief wage earner.

Only you can decide whether you are the victim or the heroine of your story -- not your mother, not your boss, not your husband!

It is more important to have a great reputation than a great CV. In the quest of building a good resume we often compromise on our values.


Image: Female bosses, Purohit says, often try to imitate their male counterparts.
Photographs: Reuters
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