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Organisations Need To Be Welcoming Women More After Breaks: Dr. Rohini Anand, Sodexo

Dr. Rohini Anand emphasizes on the assumption of what women can or cannot do

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Dr. Rohini Anand is Global Chief Diversity Officer for Sodexo, responsible for the strategic direction, implementation and alignment of Sodexo's integrated global diversity and inclusion initiatives. Talking to Rajguru Tandon, Anand emphasizes on the assumption of what women can or cannot do. 

What are the biggest challenges for women in leadership roles?

The biggest challenge is the assumption that managers make on what women can or cannot do. Somehow, an unconscious bias still exists, which cuts out jobs for women. Our leadership models are predominantly male-driven. Women are largely found in staff positions in HR, finance and communications. Another important aspect is the genuine lack of strategic networks and sponsors for women. Women are offered fewer high visibility roles, mission-critical roles or international jobs. Also, I think women sometimes create barriers for themselves by having pre-conceived notions on their ability to take up challenging roles.

What progress have women made in terms of being perceived as a leader and what more can be done?

Progressive women demonstrate the risk-taking appetite; they ask for more responsibilities, more critical roles. To fuel the process, both managers and HR play an important role. Career planning for women can help them move to Profit and Loss roles and offer them the high-visibility jobs, when they are ready to take it on. And, we need more men as sponsors and mentors for women candidates. Sponsorship is more important than mentorship. A mentor helps perform better in your current job and progress, while a sponsor advocates you; both being necessary.

What are the work-life balance issues for the women in the corporate world? How can they find the perfect balance?

There is no perfect balance. Each individual has to find his/her own equilibrium. You are the best judge to make the most appropriate choice in a given circumstance. There will be times when you need to give 200 percent to work and then equal times when you need to cut off and concentrate on your personal lives. Women largely associate themselves as the caretakers of home/kids. If men start sharing the responsibility equally, women will possibly be able to free themselves up to take more challenging roles. Also, organisations need to be welcoming women more after breaks and reintegrate them into the process.

Women are perceived to have a better EQ while men with better IQ. Do you think women leaders are better suited for some particular areas like HR?

These are again stereotypes. As per Catalyst research, there is myth that “All good leaders are men”. The persistent stereotype is that men take charge, women take care. Women are unfairly judged as either too hard or too soft, but never just right. So, we start clustering them in particular roles, which shouldn’t be the case. It is a question of what one can draw on a particular role.

How can a woman achieve domain expertise in the technology sector to equalise gender diversity?

We need to start early. We need to encourage more and more girls to pursue a career in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Infact, corporations need to work with academia to build a conducive environment for women to make their careers in the unconventional space, with role models and concentrate examples.

How has leadership shaped you as a person?

Leadership to me is, enabling my team to be successful by providing the right environment for them to excel in their careers. It also means being behind-the-scenes and seeing them shine at the most appropriate platforms. Transparency is also equally important, because you will see results coming when you’re able to build the trust within your teams.


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