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Sonali Dhawan, Ashni Biyani, Sarvita Sethi: ET Women Ahead List Is A Power-Packed One

ET Bureau|
Women For The Win
1/23

Women For The Win

The Economic Times Women Ahead listing shines the spotlight on the most successful women in business.

In pic clockwise from left: (Sonali Dhawan, Ashni Biyani, Sarvita Sethi)

Agencies
Tara Vachani, MD & CEO, Antara Senior Living
2/23

Tara Vachani, MD & CEO, Antara Senior Living

What I enjoy most about work:
For me work is the ability to create impact and feel that one has contributed to the ecosystem. The industry that I currently work in is heavily based on emotions and the ability to create change in a space that has a total mismatch of demand and supply.

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
For me, it’s about being organised. It is also about taking all the help one can get. I have a very supportive husband and a superb team who make my life as a businesswoman, wife and a mother very enjoyable.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
It starts with being aware of the benefits of having women in your workplace. Statistics show how productivity and overall business performance increases when women are involved.

My advice to other career women:
Love what you do, be financially sensible, and find moments to take care of yourself.

BCCL
Suman Mishra, Senior VP, Group Strategy, Mahindra & Mahindra
3/23

Suman Mishra, Senior VP, Group Strategy, Mahindra & Mahindra

What I enjoy most about work:
Partnering with the CEOs of our group companies to help shape the strategic direction and drive impact.

What I have learnt about work-life balance: We have to make conscious choices to prioritise one over the other depending on the situation. As a working mother, I completely understand and appreciate the multiple hats my team members wear; I strive to provide them a work environment where they are able to balance both their professional and personal lives.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
It starts with intent. Companies have to truly believe in the need for gender diversity. It has to be a business priority. Once intent is solidified, the levers are — establishing targets, fair hiring and promotions and having champions of diversity.

My advice to other career women:
Find something that you love, be authentic and fearless.

Agencies
Vinati Saraf Mutreja, Managing Director, Vinati Organics
4/23

Vinati Saraf Mutreja, Managing Director, Vinati Organics

What I enjoy most about work:
Coming up with innovative processes to make our niche chemicals. I enjoy reading about green, clean and lean chemistry. I take pride in our excellent record in environment, health and safety.

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
Is actually easy to achieve if you stop believing in face time. My most innovative and out of box ideas have come to me when not in office.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
Most women leave the workforce some point after having children. To encourage women to take higher leadership roles, companies need to demonstrate that quality time at work is more valued than quantity time. Providing flexible work hours and reduced emphasis on after-hours networking are some ways organisations can achieve this.

My advice to other career women
Take risks; women tend to be more risk averse and while this has its benefits it also limits our potential.

Agencies
Sonali Dhawan CMO, Procter & Gamble India
5/23

Sonali Dhawan CMO, Procter & Gamble India

What I enjoy most about work:
The opportunity to make a difference for the better, and to leave a legacy that stays even after you are gone. I love the fact that my work allows me to work with great people. P&G people are really fabulous!

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
The biggest thing is to ask for help – from whichever quarter possible. We often try to put all the onus of this balance on ourselves as mother and wives. It is amazing how it is easier to manage this balance when more people pitch in and give their best.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
Treat diversity like we do any business goal and plan. First declare the vision and the objectives. Then set measures, and finally have a clear plan to get there with the entire organisation engaged on these goals and plans.

My advice to other career women
Balance is a process rather than an end state. It’s barely ever that the scales are perfectly balanced — the two sides keep alternating in the quest for equilibrium. One needs to get comfortable with this oscillation and keep an even keel.

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Shilpa Mankar Ahluwalia, Partner, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co
6/23

Shilpa Mankar Ahluwalia, Partner, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co

What I enjoy most about work:
Every transaction brings with it a new set of challenges. I learn something new every day.

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
Work-life balance needs discipline. Most of all, it needs a support system. I have relied heavily on my support structures - my husband, my in-laws, my parents. Support is equally important at work, especially during the period when one has young children. I was fortunate to have amazing mentors at the firm, who encouraged me, supported me, and allowed me the flexibility I needed in those critical years.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
Women mostly leave after they get married and at the time they have children. Focusing on re-entry as opposed to just early entry is one of the most critical pieces in improving gender diversity at senior levels. It has certainly worked at my firm.

My advice to other career women
Seek out challenges. Seek out mentors. Seek out support. Everybody’s circumstances are different, so don’t be afraid to pace yourself. Take things one step at a time, in a way that allows you to sustainably build a career.

Agencies
Kainaz Karmakar, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy & Mather
7/23

Kainaz Karmakar, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy & Mather

What I enjoy most about work:
To create. To enable people to create. To fight for what we create. I have never mistaken my visiting card for my job. My job was, is and will remain, making sure the best idea wins What I have learnt about work-life balance:
At any given moment one part of my life weighs heavier than the other. There are times when my family needs me more than my work and vice versa. I like to be absolutely present in the moment and true to the moment. In the end, people don’t count how much time you spent at office or at home, but how you made them feel, when you were around them.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
By making it a priority. Believe it is important and you will find a way to achieve it.

My advice to other career women
Excel at your work. Have a dialogue when something is bothering you. Being a woman, a wife, a mother, are all great qualities and only add to the wonder of what you can bring to an organisation.

Agencies
Meenakshi Nevatia, EVATIA Managing Director, Stryker India
8/23

Meenakshi Nevatia, EVATIA Managing Director, Stryker India

What I enjoy most about work:
Three things that give me tremendous energy — conversations and decisions around top talent development; problem solving discussions on how to up our game when it comes to execution and the regular step backs with my leadership team to think about the big picture and where our business is headed.

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
Balance for me is about believing that I have the choice to spend my time the way I want; it is about keeping all the balls moving through the air without having to wonder what would happen if one were to drop; balance is about having no regrets regarding how I choose to spend my time.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
Make it a priority in the same way that hitting the numbers and increasing shareholder value is a priority.

My advice to other career women
The rules were written by men for men but it is within our power and abilities to imagine a place for ourselves in this world. I believe that women now have a better chance than ever before to demonstrate their value to an organisation, and an increasing number of organisations are realising the value that women add.

Agencies
Kalpana Unadkat Partner, Khaitan & Co
9/23

Kalpana Unadkat Partner, Khaitan & Co

What I enjoy most about work:
As laws change, business conditions change, clients’ expectations change, I am constantly learning something new even after 20 years in this profession. I never get bored.

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
For me, it is about making enough “me time” so that I can recharge. One cannot be an effective leader if one is not taking the time to invest in oneself both as a person and as a professional.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
Mentorship is crucial, especially for women.

My advice to other career women
The rules were written by men for men but it is within our power to imagine a place for ourselves in this world. I believe that women now have a better chance than ever before to demonstrate their value to an organisation.

Agencies
Ashni Biyani, Managing Director, Future Consumer
10/23

Ashni Biyani, Managing Director, Future Consumer

What I enjoy most about work:
It brings immense satisfaction to see a new creation — a brand, a product or a new initiative — bring in a new experience, or excitement or happiness in the lives of lots of people.

What I have learnt about worklife balance:
If you enjoy your work and the life around it, life blends into work and work blends into life.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
The world primarily consists of masculine and feminine energy. Yin and Yang, Yama and Kama, Shiv and Shakti compose the world. Organisations too must recognise that and balance the forces. Organisations that pursue creativity and innovation will always find value in diversity.

My advice to other career women
Do not allow your gender to define you.

Agencies
​Sarvita Sethi CFO, COCA-COLA INDIA
11/23

​Sarvita Sethi CFO, COCA-COLA INDIA

What I enjoy most about work:
My favourite days are when we are brainstorming an issue together as a team, debating it out, challenging each other, listening to different points of view and then co-creating a solution.

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
We have one life and therefore, we must make the most of it. I still abide by “work hard, play hard”.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
My view on this is you have to nurture the roots, and then only the trees will grow. With unwavering belief, continuous support, encouragement and investment, from an early age, we will enable our gender to aspire to reach their dreams, whether that’s the boardroom or not.

My advice to other career women
Take risks on yourself. We can change perceptions by firstly betting upon ourselves. After all, if you will not bet on yourself, how will someone else?

BCCL
Beena Kothadia, PLANT DIRECTOR, GM INDIA
12/23

Beena Kothadia, PLANT DIRECTOR, GM INDIA

What I enjoy most about work:
The best part is to work with people from a diverse backgrounds and help them achieve their potential while learning from each other.

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
I’ve learnt about the importance of prioritising my responsibilities and nurturing myself. Learning all of this came with its own challenges. Balancing my work and home life became much more difficult when I became a mother. My husband and in laws have been a strong support for me.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
Diversity candidates need to be very visible. Provide them with personal mentoring and coaching in order to develop their leadership potential.

My advice to other career women
Believe in yourselves at all times, even when no one else does. Face all obstacles courageously because the effort you put into nurturing that tree, will result in the sweetest fruit.

Agencies
Namrata Dubashi, Partner, MCKINSEY & COMPANY INDIA
13/23

Namrata Dubashi, Partner, MCKINSEY & COMPANY INDIA

What I enjoy most about work:
Never having to stand still. The opportunity to engage with leaders in Indian Industry at a time of immense transformation.

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
It’s about tradeoffs. For me, it is the flexibility to make my own choices.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
Do senior men and women have equal access to leadership grooming opportunities in the organisation? The need is to create a level playing field; equality of outcomes will follow.

My advice to other career women
Define your top nonnegotiables and fight every step of the way to protect them. Let the rest be.

Agencies
Lakshmi Iyer, Chief Investment Officer, KOTAK MAHINDRA ASSET MANAGEMENT COMPANY
14/23

Lakshmi Iyer, Chief Investment Officer, KOTAK MAHINDRA ASSET MANAGEMENT COMPANY

What I enjoy most about work:
Dynamic nature of markets is what excites me the most. That breaks the monotony and ensures the enjoyment quotient remains intact.

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
Honestly, it is all in the mind. Train your mind to make space for work and family and see it work.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
Walk the talk.

My advice to other career women
Mai kar sakti hai, says Vidya Balan in the movie 'Tumhari Sulu'. Well that’s my advice to the career women. Always be positive because hum kisi se kum nahi.

Agencies
Ananya Tripathi, Director, KKR INDIA ADVISORS
15/23

Ananya Tripathi, Director, KKR INDIA ADVISORS

What I enjoy most about work:
The fact that I learn something new everyday.

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
Balance by priorities not by the clock and location. It is important to be clear about non-negotiables in your life at-work and beyond-work. Solve for making time for those rather than time as pre 6 pm work in office and post 6 pm non-work outside office. That is an outdated world view in the always mobile and connected world.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
Acknowledge change comes at a cost. Striving for more women, especially in mid-senior roles, could come at a potentially higher business cost in short term. You need to provide for flexible work times, allow for maternity breaks, part time work models for certain years in career, while finding a way to ensure outcome accountability. Commit to diversity only if you are comfortable with these trade-offs and truly believe it will be value accretive in the long term for your business.

My advice to other career women
Find your purpose and think deeply about why you are working. When the going gets tough (and it definitely will), that is what will keep you going.

Agencies
Smriti K Singh, CHRO, FLIPKART
16/23

Smriti K Singh, CHRO, FLIPKART

What I enjoy most about work:
The ability to create a difference in the organisation through our people.

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
The more we integrate the two, the happier we can be.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
Gender diversity needs to be a part of the growth strategy of a company. There are several ways to go about improving the ratio at the top level, including tweaking the hiring process from language used in job descriptions to ensuring diversity of interviewers, flexible work programmes, unconscious bias training for leaders, networking activities.

My advice to other career women
Be authentic, be focused, be human.

Agencies
Avaantika Kakkar, Partner, CYRIL AMERCHAND MANGALDAS
17/23

Avaantika Kakkar, Partner, CYRIL AMERCHAND MANGALDAS

What I enjoy most about work:
The thrill of the challenge; the opportunity to create solutions.

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
A mirage, if you look too hard; an oasis, if you let it find you. There is no litmus test for balance, no brightline test that defines the end of work and the beginning of life.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
Support both men and women with parenting responsibilities – this will go a long way in blurring the lines to automatically ensure gender diversity at the top.

My advice to other career women
If you enjoy your work, don’t be in a rush to give it up. Insist on a marriage of equals. Do not underestimate the importance of professional child care – it is an investment that you will make towards your career, as well as for your children. Work with your organisation towards accommodating your special needs – no amount of institutional support will help if you decide you cannot manage a career after childbirth.

Agencies
Shubhra Chaddha, Co-Founder, CHUMBAK DESIGN
18/23

Shubhra Chaddha, Co-Founder, CHUMBAK DESIGN

What I enjoy most about work:
There’s never a dull day at Chumbak. We’re constantly working on new projects and when one wakes up to all the love for the stuff we’re putting out there, it just keeps you going.

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
Fortunately, I am at a phase in my career when it’s simple for me to draw a line. While at work think about work and once you’re home just shut down and concentrate on family.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
At Chumbak 62% of our leadership team is women who inspire and their contributions to the company are matchless. If there is a gender bias in a company, they don’t know what they are missing out on.

My advice to other career women
My advice to every working woman, especially entrepreneurs, is that there are no short cuts to success. So, go out there & get your hands dirty.

BCCL
Ramya Venkataraman, Founder & CEO, CENTRE FOR TEACHER ACCREDITATION
19/23

Ramya Venkataraman, Founder & CEO, CENTRE FOR TEACHER ACCREDITATION

What I enjoy most about work:
I enjoy being an entrepreneur trying to both build a company and solve a large problem.

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
Transparency with one’s stakeholders is important. If you are going to do late nights at work, prepare your family upfront; if you are going to be away for family stuff during working days, align your colleagues upfront. Transparency builds trust and gets you the support you need.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
Top management needs to figure out how to make it happen, like any other business priority, rather than like a social obligation which will constantly get de-prioritised.

My advice to other career women
Recognise that both men and women can be your role models, mentors, close colleagues, bosses and team members.

Agencies
Avani Saglani-Davda, Managing Director, GODREJ NATURE’S BASKET
20/23

Avani Saglani-Davda, Managing Director, GODREJ NATURE’S BASKET

What I enjoy most about work:
I am passionate about leading my teams towards their goals and creating impact beyond business. I enjoy the independence to deliver and drive change.

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
Work should not be the definition of one’s identity; it is only one of the roles I play in my life. For me, it is about maintaining a fine balance between all the hats I don in my life as a leader, a duty-bound daughter, wife, mother or friend.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
Companies should look at diversity through lenses of meritocracy and work on ensuring they have an environment where women are given an opportunity to lead and grow, before going out to increase the intake of women.

My advice to other career women
Leadership is about humanity. It is imperative to live with courage, to speak your mind with stakeholders at home as well as at workplace.

Agencies
Kanchan Samtani, Partner, THE BOSTON CONSULTING GROUP INDIA
21/23

Kanchan Samtani, Partner, THE BOSTON CONSULTING GROUP INDIA

What I enjoy most about work:
The challenge of dealing with different problems, meeting smart motivated people, working with teams and friends What I have learnt about work-life balance: If you truly only do the things that are important, both at work and at home, work-life balance will follow.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
The true unlock comes from having senior women role models in the organisation.

My advice to other career women
Don’t imagine situations in your mind and decide that you can’t do it. There is always a way and you will find it, if you want it enough. Don’t feel shy asking for help.

Agencies
Rashmi Daga, Founder and CEO, FRESHMENU
22/23

Rashmi Daga, Founder and CEO, FRESHMENU

What I enjoy most about work:
The smile on the face of our customers.

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
Work and life go hand in hand when you are an entrepreneur and balance is not about equal time for both work and home. Different days demand different time commitments and if you are satisfied about the time spent without feeling guilty, you are doing fine.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
Trust in one’s own capability, risk taking and social encouragement would go a long way in improving gender diversity at the top.

My advice to other career women
Follow your passion, plan well and never look back. Look for support. There are a lot more people willing to support you than you would imagine.

BCCL
Sukhleen Aneja, Marketing Director, RECKITT BENCKISER INDIA
23/23

Sukhleen Aneja, Marketing Director, RECKITT BENCKISER INDIA

What I enjoy most about work:
The everyday process of solving problems together with some of the finest minds as colleagues and partners.

What I have learnt about work-life balance:
Over the years I’ve come to realise that ‘balance’ means different things to different people. All of us have our own individual dreams, aspirations and passions. Creating the space for ourselves and others enables us all to grow together. It’s important to find your inner Zen and create the space for it.

How companies can improve gender diversity at the top:
What organisations need is a gender intelligent workforce where both genders can harness each other’s unique strengths and actively work towards recognising unconscious biases that cloud our judgement.

My advice to other career women
Don’t second guess yourself. In moments of self doubt always start with asking ‘what’s the worst that can happen? In the end, every experience adds to our learning & growth.

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