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BW Businessworld

Taking Diverse Roles Will Help Women Establish Themselves: Monika Mital Gupta,Microsoft India

Monika Mital Gupta talks about the challenges for women in climbing the ladder of leadership, women in tech and gender diversity.

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Monika Mital Gupta is leading the Release, Security and Distribution Services engineering team in the Microsoft India Development Center. Talking to BW Businessworld, she talks about the challenges for women in climbing the ladder of leadership, women in tech and gender diversity.    

What are the biggest challenges for women in leadership roles?

Unconscious biases, stereotypes and frail support network are some of the biggest challenges that women face in leadership roles. On top of it, women themselves fall into the trap of trying to fit their leadership style to a pre-conceived image construed of male characteristics predominantly.

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

Women are breaking new ground continuously, in almost every profession. They are not letting societal norms define how high they can aim and how far they can go. We can see it in every sector - women are taking up top/senior leadership roles in many companies, more and more women are making their mark as entrepreneurs or getting into professions which were traditionally male dominated. This is changing the perceptions for sure. What is required is to continue to have open dialogues, address biases and invest in building a pipeline of budding leaders.

What are the work-life balance issues for women in the corporate world?

One of the biggest issues is the pressure on women to be perfect in every way – manage expectations of home and work; maintain great relationships with family, friends and/or colleagues. Such unrealistic expectations from women are fueling such myths and add extra pressure on women in the corporate world. Apart from external expectations, we ourselves want to be aces – in every sphere of life, always! Apart from this, travel poses a challenge and can be one of the inhibitors for women while considering career options.

How can women find the perfect balance between personal and professional life? How is Microsoft helping them out?

A perfect balance is a myth, for anyone! It is really an individual’s choice about what someone defines as their perfect balance. Being able to define and focus on your goals, accept what cannot be achieved (considering changing priorities in life) and being comfortable in saying “no”, can help in finding a right balance and peace of mind.

I can share my own example - for a long time, I have been running a quasi-single parent household with two young kids and a practically non-existent support system. At the same I have taken on challenging assignments, travelled for business, experimented with multiple roles and continued to grow professionally. One of the main reasons I have been able to walk this tight rope this far, is due to empathetic and supportive environment at Microsoft.

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?

I think that being smart (IQ) and being empathetic (EQ) are critical qualities for leaders to be successful in the new era -irrespective of gender. However, to say that women leaders are better suited for areas like HR is taking this generalization too far. Women may have chosen/are choosing to be in certain professions based on a natural gravitation towards people-oriented roles or due to certain professions seen as more “suitable” or “women oriented” in the past. Women leaders are striking the right balance and are suited to take on challenges in different industries, particularly technology sectors.

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

Women need to stretch their experience and experiment. Taking on diverse roles or foraying into unknown tech areas will help in establishing themselves as experts with a versatile skill set and broaden their base. This will also help in bridging the gap.