Social Samosa Superwomen 2020 winner, Kavita Lakhani affirms that women in the boardroom and in leadership roles tend to encourage nurturing space for ideas to thrive.
Apart from being the Executive Director and part of the Leadership Team at GolinOpinion, Kavita Lakhani also dons the role of Co-Chair, India, IPG Women’s Leadership Network. She is also a core team member of Lintas India’s Sexual Harassment Committee and a part of the Group’s Crisis Response Team.
With a career spanning nearly three decades, Lakhani shares her thoughts on the changing industry dynamics, views on the evolving world for women and superpower she wishes to possess.
How would you define a Superwoman in today’s day and age?
A Superwoman belongs to a rare breed of persevering people, who redefine themselves and those around them. Age, income level, job status – they have nothing to do with it. Superwomen are confident, compassionate women who know they are incredible, radiant beings; in other words; they are in all of us. They write their own rules, pave their own way, believe in themselves and in others.
One quality that you think every superwoman has and that helped you win Social Samosa Superwomen…
Unwavering patience and resilience are trademarks of every superwoman. I am a change-maker and truly believe in uplifting others (women and men), as I move through my life and professional journey.
How successful have women been in shattering the glass ceiling in the Media & Advertising field? Does the ‘boardroom inequality’ phrase still stand true?
In our industry and in my organization Lintas, I think the glass ceiling has been shattered long since. The truth is that, for similar skill sets required for a specific role, a male and female leader earn similar compensation, which is what standard economic theory would suggest anyways and most people would like to see happen in society.
Boardroom inequality is a myth too. As you will agree with me, this passionate push for diversity is only about a decade old. With the globalization-cum-information era, we are in, to stay ahead, they know there is one thing organizations cannot survive without – and that is innovation. When different ideas collide in an open, non-judgmental space of allowing, creation takes place, which leads to innovation. To get diverse ideas, you need people that have had varied life experiences, have dissimilar values, and heterogeneous genetic makeup.
You need to have the same things looked at from different perspectives. It is just not possible to do that without diversity. Women in the boardroom and in leadership roles tend to encourage nurturing space for ideas to thrive. They listen, collaborate, and are accessible. Of course, good leaders of any gender can facilitate this, but it’s just that women have had generations of practice at this.
However, in non-media, traditionally male-dominated industries like agriculture, manufacturing, finance, or real estate, there aren’t enough women at any level, and even fewer still in leadership roles – so gender parity and pay parity are real issues that need to be tackled.
Also Read: #Superwomen2020 By embracing our unique leadership potential, we can blaze a path to success in any field: Bhavya Doshi
What are the key changes this industry needs in order to make workplaces gender-neutral, safe, and nurturing?
The financial benefits of gender parity in the corporate world are well documented. Fortune 500 companies with the greatest representation of women in management positions deliver returns to shareholders that are 34% higher than for companies with the lowest representation. Any initiative to address diversity in the boardroom must go hand in hand with efforts to address diversity more broadly throughout an organization. One without the other isn’t just inconsistent and insincere – it’s also ineffective.
Firms must aim to reduce bias in recruitment and development processes and roll out mentorship and sponsorship initiatives to support women. To encourage the retention and ascension of more women in the workplace, organizations should also implement programs to increase flexibility for working parents returning from parental leave, and establish programs to smoothly transition those reentering the workforce from a career gap.
Additionally, organizations should focus on the critical “middle management” level, where women generally stall their careers owing to childcare or eldercare responsibilities. Providing women with elevated responsibilities and the opportunity to manage high-value assignments may actually be the greatest predictor of success and advancement. Firms should feel empowered to challenge women in the workplace while supporting a modernized and flexible working environment where everyone can thrive, be themselves, and balance a successful career with their lives outside of work.
One Superpower you wish you had?
I wish I could really help more women (and men!)unleash their true potential to become the Superwomen and Supermen, they really are. And contribute to society as a whole, in a greater way.
I devote a lot of time to mentoring and training young minds at the workplace. I am visiting faculty at leading communication institutes (XIC, Symbiosis, EMDI, Jai Hind College, Mumbai, MET & ISBM Pune, ISDI WPP School). I am also a Jury Panelist for several industry awards like PRMoment 3030 and EMDI’s Bright Sparks.
Giving back to the community is so important! My professional life has always been extremely successful. I had an epiphany, that success, money, and fame can only give you so much. 5 years back, I discovered music! Music is magic. It’s what sets your soul on fire that gives you the passion to live and do something more. I have been singing devotional and folk music at fundraisers and charity events. I would like to raise and donate Rs. 100 crores through my performances, before I die.
The ‘Superwomen’ you diligently follow and who inspired you…
Ahhh there are many! Indra Nooyi and Malala Yousafai top the list.
As former president, chairwoman and CEO of Pepsico, a 160-billion dollar snack-food and beverage corporation, Nooyi represented one of the less-than-5% of women in the world who lead major public corporations, and one of the world’s highest-ranking Indian women. Today, she serves as a member of the board of directors at Amazon. Being a woman born into a conservative Indian family, her climb to the top wasn’t an easy one. She began her life in Chennai and finished her bachelor’s degree in the field of Physics, Mathematics, and Chemistry. She then went on to study management, first in the Indian Institute of Management, Chennai, and then at the prestigious Yale Management School, USA. While she studied at Yale, she worked part-time as a receptionist.
It is said that she was saving up to by a western outfit for her first job interview as a Yale graduate. She was rejected at the interview. For the next one, she was advised to ‘be herself’ which lead her to score the job in a saree! Ever since she has stayed true to her roots and reached heights today. Apart from her personal growth from Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning to Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy and Development, and then Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer to finally landing CFO and a seat on PepsiCo’s Board of Directors group, she managed to increase PepsiCo’s annual profits by more than double. Today, she has credited the title of being one of the world’s most powerful women by several top business publications.
She has also been awarded the prestigious Padma Bhushan. Many would not be able to handle this kind of fame, money, and success as gracefully as Nooyi has. She remains grounded, giving top priority to her family of four and her Indian roots.
Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her fight for the right of every child to receive an education. She was born in the Swat Valley in Pakistan. When the Islamic Taliban movement took control of the valley in 2008, girls’ schools were burned down. Malala kept a diary of the events, which was published in 2009 by BBC Urdu. In her diary, she spoke out against the Taliban’s terrorist regime.
An American documentary film made Malala internationally famous. In 2012, Malala was shot in the head on a school bus by a Taliban gunman. She survived but had to flee to England and live in exile there because a fatwa was issued against her. On her 16th birthday, she spoke in the United Nations. In her speech, Malala called for the equal right to education for girls all over the world and became a symbol of this cause. At such a young age, she is already changing the world through her words and her work.
One tip to women out there attempting to scale heights…
If you want something, go for it. Don’t allow the world or anyone else to put limitations on you! Let your light shine. Sparkle like only you can.
I would like to share one of my favourite thoughts that I hope will guide you in your actions and your words:
“We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?”
– Marianne Williamson