Break the glass ceiling within YOU

Article by Dr. Divya Kumar, Associate Manager – Research, Avtar

Reunions are very always special. It is the time when we take off from our routine, eagerly await to see our pals to relive our cherished moments. It is beautiful to take a trip down our memory lane. It becomes even more special when it is with our all-girls gang. Every year our college alumni association team would send meet invite to our batch. But it was always the “regular few” who come together. This year we speculated whether the meet will be called amidst the COVID-19 , and just then our alumni team sent our first-ever virtual reunion invites. To everyone’s surprise, it was a full house! It was lovely to meet “virtually” every one after so many years. It was amazing to see little kids and families coming together. Truly, we all have come a long way, and each of our lives changed so much. It was amazing!

Reena, our college topper joined the reunion for the first time. She is working in a multinational bank and is a mother of two children at the junior school level. She is in the mid-stage of her amazing career and one of the identified Hi-Po talents at her organization. I was super excited to hear, but Reena did not have that vibrancy as she spoke. Her motherly guilt and more expectations from her at work is not supporting her in any direction and is in the dilemma to choose between family and career. It was just not Reena with this mind-set, but a few more working moms shared the same.

So, I decided to decode the questions that were pondering within me. Why woman like Reena(s) who have made significant progress in being recognized as outstanding managers, aren’t making it to the top? What is derailing them?

In today’s competitive corporate environment, women employees find it a bit more difficult to charter a plan, especially at their mid-career stage. Work-life balance is a major problem for today’s working women. The demands of full-time work conflict with the relational factors in their family life. Women feel they have to make difficult decisions that leads to the sacrifice their career or family, with little understanding of the influences that affect decision making. With the technological advancement of our work modules creating a clear boundary between home and work life is no longer possible. The traditional concept of work-life balance has now evolved as work-life integration. Work-life balance is a separation of your professional and personal lives whereas, work-life integration is a connection between work and personal life. Interestingly, organisations have started to embrace the idea of work-life integration with their career enablers like flexibility, remote work, childcare support etc.

But again, what is still that one factor that often disrupts or derails women professionals? Hay Group examined the performance and paths of 12 of the highest leading women in one Fortune 500 company and other executive women of global organizations. The study reveals that the highest-performing women had in common a strong orientation toward achievement. It is instrumental in driving an advancement to a large extent. To have control over your career requires you to be INTENTIONAL. The word “intent” refers to my mindset at the time of a specific action, and it’s something many don’t think about. While being intentional may mean you have to think more, purposeful actions yield better results as it is the ability to change what requires to be changed with maturity.

Here are the steps which can help you to create alignment of your goals, values and actions-

  • Identify a clear goal that you want to achieve professionally
  • Break down identified big goal into small objectives attached to timelines
  • Assertive and strategic planning enables you to be disciplined with your time and priorities.
  • Invest in professional development by staying open to new opportunities
  • Find innovative solutions to your workplace problems
  • Network and discuss with peers and colleagues to gain new insights
  • Track the progress will motivate to steer it in the direction of attaining your goals
  • Never hesitate to communicate and negotiate on what you want to your reporting managers

Be INTENTIONAL as you will certainly make a DIFFERENCE with more maturity and purposeful engagements to reach your desired GOAL!


FACE IT. CHALLENGE IT. FIX IT.

Article by: Archana Sathish, Strategic Design Unit

Be it Politics, Technical/Non-Technical, Film Fraternity, Sales and many more challenging industries, women are omnipresent. We should feel delighted to have such notable figures in this world as they are proving themselves over and again. But are we looking at it right? Are we witnessing the deeper insights of women being in such varied industries? Are we are just looking at the bright side of it? Every situation has a boon and a bane. The question is have we looked at the bane? How many of us have noted the original reason for women employees quitting their jobs? How many of them speak up in case of serious issues? How many of us know that the darker side dominates over the brighter side in workplace? Women maybe mentally and emotionally strong. But do they have enough strength to face various situations? To be very honest, the challenges faced by men are completely different from the ones faced by women at work.  

As we know that harassment has always been a ‘bone of contention’. According to sources and reports, around 87% of women in workplaces do not file a complaint or do not speak up in case of any harassment. Also, around 60% of women face unwanted sexual advances at workplace. Yet they remain silent for various personal reasons and fear of losing their job. It’s not that it is inexorable, but can be minimized as companies are obliged to maintain a POSH Committee (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) for the safety of their women employees and staff. 

Workplace sexual harassment prevention has been a top priority for companies going into 2020 and will remain that way long after the high-profile scandals of the last year have faded. As a result, companies may have provided mandatory sexual harassment training to employees, consisting of definitions and clichéd examples. Just an insight though, there is an app that can help you track the number of times men speak over women in meetings. It’s called Woman, Interrupted. Load it on your phone and place it on the table. It doesn’t record it simply tracks when a woman’s voice is interrupted by a man’s. There are limits to this app. It’s not completely inclusive of women and men whose voices pitch outside the norm. But it can provide a rough, data-led way to show your boss the problem.  On the other hand, working mothers today who are called as “multitaskers” face good amount of issues due to work-life balancing. Surveys says that 44% reported that work-life balance is the toughest challenge in workplace. It’s 21st century and women from all around the world want it all; a blissful family, a rewarding career and some solitude to find some time for themselves. It’s not easy to juggle this as being a full-time working mom comes with bouts of stress and guilt for not being able to give equal time to work and family. But every will has a way! Women can speak up for flexible working

hours, modification or any amendments in shift timings as it is any day not safe for women to just take a walk alone post 9pm. Working mothers could have talks with their manager to consider scheduling important meetings during the time when the kids are asleep. They could allocate an isolated place for just working. Also, company managers can put themselves in the shoes of a

“People’s Manager” as they regularly inquire about their work-life situations where women communicate to them in case of any difficulties or stress faced by them.

Every job has its own value and today people are paid based on the intensity of their job role and designation. We believe that today the disparity in equal wages/pay aren’t existing as an alarming issue. Yet it’s happening in some parts of the world. Reports say Equal pay was listed as the most significant issue in the workplace by 51% of women in Britain. Over the last decade, male graduates could expect to earn 20% more than female graduates. This is why fair remuneration was of the biggest factors. Hence, women employees decide to move to a new job. 

How do they tackle such issues? Every women wants to be successful, isn’t it?

Firstly, sort out your priorities. Both personally and professionally. Ask yourself, what can be compromised or completely non-negotiable? What are the jobs you need to be marvelous at, what are the jobs you can be ‘just good at’? Try to make such adjustments and be clear in what you prioritize. Also there is nothing to feel ashamed of thinking that “I can’t do so much work” 

Master the art of delegation. But again, you are in the safer side being clear in what you should delegate, and what not to delegate. This can save you from fatigue and burnout situations. When it comes to personal affairs, working mothers can get the situation sorted by splitting house work with family members. In this way, everything gets balanced! While working at your desk, you can always stay connected with your kids by making video calls as technology allows you to get to know about the whereabouts of your loved ones. 

For all working mothers out there, every minute is crucial –at home and at work. If we all need to stay productive, all we need to do is keep chatty co-workers, smartphones, Television, casual surfing and other distractions at bay. Plan your weekend and allot sometime for ‘yourself’. Sometimes, it’s really alright to think about yourself, have some leisure time and pamper yourself. Go to a spa, get a massage, watch your favorite TV series, read a book, travel solo, or just do nothing at all as many most of us prefer doing nothing, but just sitting and glaring all day!

It’s all about compromises, sacrifices and constant adjustments to lead a decent- comfortable life. It’s better to be prepared and learn to make the most of your time and energy. The more we know ourselves and our priorities, the more balanced our life would be. So, the ball is in your court! 

References: https://isight.com/resources/guidetoworkplacesexualharassmentinfographic/


MLM: Musings of a Locked-up Mother

Article by: Lakshmi Vijaykumar, Senior Manager, Media & Public Relations

It has been more than four months that all of us are settling down in the new normal. Wait, have we settled in the real sense?

For starters, let’s define the new normal.

Normal (n): The usual typical unexpected state of a house where nothing is in order and one has to walk on landmines (read: toys, pencils, erasers, newspapers, towels et al).

The Coronavirus Pandemic has ensured that all of us stay cooped up in our respective homes with our “loved” ones. The days or even the nights have been blurred into one. Don’t even get me started on my attempts to leave my loved ones at my house to disappear in an atmosphere called “The office”! An office that was a platform for “me-time”, conversations both meaningful and casual with real people in the real world, and much more!

The new “normal” has ushered in an era for working moms where social distancing is practised externally, but inside the houses, children are yet to discover the meaning of the phrase. They are in constant touch with us and we cannot report to the authorities. By the way, my 8-year old daughter popped in some 10 times as I completed the first three paragraphs of this article. That’s the first layer of MLM – Musings of a locked-up Mother!

The new “normal” has ensured that there is no morning rush to pack multiple dabbas. But the working mothers have learnt to feed their children three meals and some 500 snacks in a day! We have even got innovative with our culinary expertise. We serve “red kidney beans cooked in rich tomato gravy with exotic spices on a flat bread”. And, there is tamarind infused hot & sour sauce boiled in home-ground spices served with fried chips as entrée. We cook a large quantity of something hoping that it lasts for the next meal only to find the pot empty in one meal. Is this what they call, One Pot One Shot cooking?

The other layer of lockdown days is discovering the Savage mom in me. In the first quarantine month, my family comprising two kids and a husband had what I called as “choice day”. So, each of them savoured their favourite dish every day. In the fourth Quarantine month, they still are provided with choices. This time it is simple – Take it or Leave it!

Yes, this is that layer of Covid-19 that no one is talking about! Scheduling grocery delivery for the next day on an online store feels like a celebration now. Not to mention that the delivery man is the most anticipated guest in our house.

They say, necessity is the mother of all inventions or termed the “Jugaad” in this part of the world. So, making use of the “social distancing” era, I tried a few jugaads too on inventing home-made anti-corona medicines, thanks to the Whatsapp university. But none of my inventions could go pass the first phase of trials, as my human guinea pigs ghosted me on those critical trial days.

I never imagined myself in a position of providing my children with their education. In the new stay-at-home days. I have mastered the art of conducting tests, finishing their classwork as well as homework (is there a difference?) and not scream at the insane hours of sitting up late to dole out school worksheets. 

And, finally I had the Mother of all Revelations. When the enforced lockdown began, I promised myself to stick to my workout routine, or the least (note this word) maintain a diet that would if not anything else help curb my weight gain. With the endless washing, cooking, chopping, stirring up a green salad is an added item in the menu. The phrase, “healthy food” has flown out of the kitchen window replacing with “Stick-to-me” type of items. It would be a “medical miracle” if I don’t weigh 10 kgs more than what I did Before Corona!   

Finally, the Pandemic has taught us an important lesson – both Mothers and Fathers are at present facing a re-organization of both work and care-giving time at home. While working mothers are actually busy integrating work and life, fathers are busy too lending their hands in their Whatsapp groups. No offence meant, there is a huge population of men out there who genuinely have begun to help their women folk at home. The Pandemic is likely to change the age old Patriarchal mindsets in Indian homes. This in the long run will (hopefully) have a positive effect on the productivity of both men and women professionals in a Post Pandemic world, if I may say so.


FIVE RITUALS THAT WOULD BE USEFUL FOR WOMEN POST COVID-19

Article by: Shobhika Ramanathan, Associate Research Analyst

There is a powerful saying by Eleanor Roosevelt which reads as, “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water”. The situation in which we are living now is exactly the HOT WATER phase for all and especially for women. It is for her to decide that whether she is going to come out as a cup of refreshing hot tea or just remain soaked.

Women are said to be stronger than men generally because of owning the ability to come out of any situation sooner. But without action words are just ‘words’. The current situation is just a testing phase for everyone. To come out of this is to leave the ‘fear’ which rests in us. It is left to us that whether we ‘compete’ against them or to ‘submerge’ in them.

Nobody would have even dreamt that the start of a new decade would be a bag of surprises – not a good one though. Due to this pandemic, there has been a terrible drop in the economy with many companies actually opting for recession. Jobs are now accompanied by a bad friend – ‘Insecurity’. All women are ‘Left and Right Handed Batsman when it comes to the game of life’. Wondering why? Compared to men, they are to manage both their life at home and life at work with equal concentration, without which a Home would just be a House. This time is hard for men but even harder for women.

 There is a ‘New Normal’ waiting for us ahead of this pandemic. Life would never be the same like before. There would be many changes in the work environment after this disaster. For men, they can adjust to their routine provided but for women, certain things can be tough. Thus, they must have a new plan for their daily work.

Let us see the new 5 rituals that will suit HER to abide by, after this COVID period subsides.

Home Is the New Office

All around the world, there are many organizations that have started to provide many policies for women i.e. flexible work from home – She can decide the time of work for the day. Already saddled with her office work, household chores, and childcare, she is already powered down. But since this situation is going to prevail for a little longer, this puzzle has to be solved soon. Better Sooner than Later! Gear Up!

Ask For Help

Do not hesitate to ask for help or even do one. Wherever possible, extend help to your family, co-workers, teams, and the community at large. The world knows that you have more burden in your shoulders. You can also share your work if it is too much to handle. Have a word with your manager/boss whenever you feel stuck. When your time is tough, remember there is always another person in your life to share it with.

Exercise to Energise

Dear ladies, it is important to first take care of yourself. Take nutritious food and try to exercise at least half an hour to be in-line with your day. Energise your fellow mates around you. Be Positive, Spread Positivity!

Resilience Is the New Mantra

Being resilient is itself a solution. It is true that no-one on earth predicted or were ready for this pandemic. Attaching to the feel of panic does not make this better. It is through these times that you can discover yourselves to be strong. Get back to your childhood! Remind yourself of your hobbies and do those while you are out of track. Be in contact with your colleagues and chit-chat to get relax you mind. It is OK to feel low… provided you BOUNCE BACK soon!                         

Time Table Should Be On Table

You might have come across this – “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” Yes! It is important that you manage your time in the right way. Take a pen now. List all the things in 2 separate lists. Things that you want and things you need to do for the day. Sort them out and figure out a final list with timings mentioned beside it. “Stick to the plan” and start your day. It is not the time which decides your start of the day, it is you who should decide it. Anytime can be your start point. So if you are not on track now, pick up your Time Table and get set for your day!

Do not worry about the situation that you are facing now. Do your job right and every other thing will fall in its place. Another famous quote reads – “The Greatest Job Security Is Performance”. Do remember that. Let us not turn back but look forward to a better future with the help of an optimistic sight!

“She was powerful not because she wasn’t scared but because she went on so strongly, despite the fear.” – Atticus.


Covid and Stress: A three-angle view

Article by: Athira Premarajan, Research and Content Development Associate

Having a positive mentality helps. And that is what makes us enjoy the quarantine trolls and lock down day – xy cooking. It also helps us stay away from all the fear and worry the Pandemic had unleashed. Among the umpteen chapters that Covid has opened, the dangerously active one is stress. It was all a merry phase until the boredom leapt into loneliness and anxiety. And that leads to what can be called a pandemic syndrome.

One thing we all need to understand is that quarantine doesn’t mean something just for ‘you’. The entire globe has been put on hold for achieving a complete recovery. However, it is an understandable fact when someone loses their conscience when the situation goes topsy-turvy. And when you watch the events happening around, the tension tightens, making you vulnerable and unable to access a calm mind, even though you are familiar with the fact that you are not in it alone, but together with all the people around the world. This helplessness, fortunately, can be cured with some ‘social medications’.

The boss’ say:

There is never a better chance to unveil that withheld caring approach from the masquerading tough tone. Or sometimes you may be their ‘boss buddy’ already. And so, this is the perfect time to let your employees know that you are the leader who shows the way. The condition the pandemic has exposed has a predominant effect on the work one does. This overlapped by loneliness will affect their stability, in turn making them lose their mind. More screen time with less physical interaction makes them equivalent to machines. And to add on, the economic transformation that they think is going to affect them mostly. So, they think it is work their comfort bubble, which voluntarily makes them feel the need to work longer hours to hit the boredom. This not in long-term effect, but a very short span effect that can affect them adversely.

As a boss, your commitment during these testing times should be to extend your hand to relieve your employees from the social isolation paranoia. The only thing you may need to do is listen. You are dealing with an anxious person who is anticipating a doubtful career and future. Be the compassionate guide who assures only positivity. Ask them to not overwork and suggest spending time on their hobbies or likes. If they hear this from their boss’s side, there needs no other assurance for them to lean on to normalcy. On the other hand, it is also important to watch out for yourself. Engage with your counter-partners to gauge the different approaches or measures you could take. And, if you think there is a lot on your plate, it is advised to get professional help. Only prevention helps, not avoidance.

To the double-duty warriors:

You are doing a wonderful job. With schools closed and child-care facilities locked down, one can imagine the tiring weekdays of yours. Kudos! To each and every one of you.

Studies confirming psychological challenges to rise-up for working parents post Covid, it is imperative that you take certain measures to curb it before it intensifies. As the pressure on working parents is certainly huge when compared to other professionals, the first measure should be to compare your work with your own strength. It is easier to commit to extra hours when you see your counterpart doing it who has fewer responsibilities. But, take a look around before you commit to any new assignments. It is also a blessing that most of the organizations and managements understand and cope up with the pandemic struggles specially for the working parents – especially for working mothers. So, communicate your challenges, get the achievable target in hand, and commit yourself to complete that with all your potential.

Another challenging part of your routine is to handle kids. You cannot complain as they are also restless as us, as not being able to run around outside and meet their friends is an option now. So, deal with them politely and ensure to involve in game nights and movie nights at least twice a week. Activities and getting involved like how they like it will make you the star and make them happy as well.

The pro-view:

Studies have already confirmed the aftereffects of the pandemic on the mental stability of professionals. So, it becomes crucial to note the essential measures to avoid any adverse conditions that may come up – especially for working parents.

Some useful hacks:

Self-analyse your potential: Quarantine days have unleashed a ‘workaholic wave’, which was a voluntary action of many professionals to prove their potential to their managers. What one needs to know is to ensure the tasks in hand is manageable. Know that you are working the same amount, in fact, more than what you used to do while in office.

Family face-time – A must-do: Social distancing is to keep you away from the virus. A five-minute call with your family can help release a lot of stress that has been accumulated in. In the case of working parents, your children will build the special bond with their grandparents, given their limited access to interact with their class buddies and other routine games which they used to play with neighbours.

Consume healthily:  A major threat to any disease is nutritional food. If you are not aware, know that your body has a self-healing power. And the best treatment for both your physical and mental stress is to eat good homemade food.

So, that’s all folks – essential but simple hacks that could help you during this uncertain time. You are the essential part of your life and so ensure you take care of yourself. Stay healthy, stay safe.


Keeping up with an extended family

Article by: Murugeswari Natarajan, Associate Manager-Diversity Hiring

Like every woman, my marital life had started with pleasant expectations and beautiful dreams. From day one, the relationship with my in-laws was working out well. Being a retired working woman herself, my MIL who I endearingly call, Amma understood my hardships as a professional. Having said that in the later years, I have encountered many conflicts with my mother-in-law, like everyone else. Over time, I have learned to endure. In due course, I realized that this is nothing but my insecurity. It’s part of all our lives. It is surprising that we easily understand the insecurities that others suffer from, but it takes time for us to understand our insecurity.

If we try to identify the insecurities and overcome those, many problems can be solved in advance.

1.      Creating a healthy network

2.      Working out more on your passion

I have learned to do both of these.

As I had mentioned earlier, I perceived the notion that my mother in law was insecure. In the following days, a series of bitter incidents caused me to lose my patience. I sunk into a grave of darkness. And the darkness gradually increased post my delivery. I believe it was ‘Postpartum Depression’. Immediately, a few people around me rose the question of us living as a nuclear family. Yet, I was determined to live with an extended family. Because, in the days that followed, my baby needed support.

During this turbulent phase, my husband offered me a piece of curt but practical advice. He said, “You need to know who you are as a person. Prioritize your aspirations. Building a relationship takes time and effort so don’t hold unnecessary grudges”. His advice pushed me into a new direction of life. I realized that my insecurities and conflicts have affected my overall intention. I decided to work on myself thoroughly. This was one of the main reasons for my early return to work post-maternity.

The solutions I devised for myself were to cleanse my network and spot the supportive relationship to be sustained for the long term. And, the second one was to work out more on my passion. So as planned, I started to keep a check on my network regularly. I have a belief that if we have positively strong supporters in our network, we will be cheerful and will automatically move forward. If you feel uneasy in your relationships or alarmed by people who possess a toxic mentality, get rid of them immediately.

In the personal front too, I adopted a few goals. The first step that I took was to split the duties among everyone in the house. As soon as I figured out what our priorities are, I sat down, set goals, and made plans to maintain the course. I had chalked out individual goals as well as couple goals in terms of our Health, Career, and Finance. So, we have 5 members in my home including my kid. We have 5 personal goals for each and a family goal. The goals we fixed for ourselves gave us success in subsequent years. I always design a family goal that depends on everyone’s responsibilities, it can be achieved only by every member’s co-operation. So we have made the plans intertwined and transparent. At present, the couple’s goal has changed into a family goal. For example, if a family faces a financial crisis, the entire family needs to be attentive in cooperating. In other words, we as a group have transformed our lifestyle slowly instead of trying to work hard to change everyone’s attitudes individually. This transformation has provided us with a lot of time to converse with my family, allows us to listen to each other, and above all, my little one is nurtured in love with her grandparents. Being a working mother I make all the decisions with confidence along with their experienced inputs. We are flattered when our kith & kin appreciate that we drive a family perfectly with ethics.

You can’t get what you want unless you envision it. Give yourself the space to dream what you want. Today’s women prefer to raise their children with grandparents rather than leaving them in kindergarten/day school (until and unless the situation suggests otherwise). This is a good sign. If you learn to accept the challenges, I assure you that your growth will be tremendous in the extended family. Let’s go back to the extended family culture to make our homes a haven.