Sunayan Shahani talks about dealing with mental health and maintaining a work-life balance, shares tips for aspiring A&M professionals, and more
Sunayan Shahani, Sr. PR Director of Publicis Groupe and Social Samosa Superwomen 2022 winner, talks about the work-life in pandemic and shares how we were already battling one P – patriarchy, but 2020 added one more.
What do you think it means to be a superwoman in the New Normal?
The pandemic has taught us so many things. The most important lesson is to be more human. So I think a Superwoman is someone who realises their powers and limitations as a human. Someone who understands that we don't need to live up to society's expectations but just be our own brand of authenticity.
I also feel that the pandemic has been more challenging for women, with them being primary caregivers and housemakers even when they have jobs. So, I think behind every Superwoman is a battalion of supportive women, men, and children.
We were already battling one P – patriarchy, but 2020 added one more!
A big part of success is mental health & work-life balance - how do you ensure to create work-life balance for yourself & those around you?
As someone who battles anxiety, I have made mental and physical well-being my top priority. Of course, the pandemic fuelled it further, and for the first time, I saw anxiety and depression manifesting in even some of the bravest, strongest people I know.
I follow a 5 point program to maintain a healthy body and mind. I call it the 'GcubeEH.'
- Good Friends: Just nice people to co-regulate with. It's such a blessing.
- Good Food: I have realised (although very late and I keep faltering) that the way to a healthy mind is through a healthy gut.
- Gratitude: I maintain a diary for affirmations and gratitude. It releases happy hormones.
- Exercise: Consistent and regular exercise helps cognitive abilities.
- Help: Seeking professional help is so important. Not every battle can be fought alone. Seeking help is the bravest thing one can do for themselves and the people around them.
While a lot has changed for the better in the A&M industry, what kind of challenges continue to exist for women? Especially with the whole WFH & hybrid work situation
As I mentioned, women are expected to be primary caregivers even if they are working, and when one is at home, the lines get blurred. You are expected to multi-task, and the sanctity of personal time gets abused.
But work from home also has its benefits. Many women have been able to integrate their personal and professional lives seamlessly. So, I think a hybrid model is the way of the future.
The A&M industry is finally taking cognisance of the 'this call could have been a mail' problem and that the lack of physical proximity need not be a deterrent to creativity.
I have been fortunate to work with an organisation where leaders have been flexible and understanding.
What I will say is that I have seen a difference between multinational companies and their discipline at honouring work-life balance rules, while some Indian start-ups work on the whims and fancies of their founders, with meetings being held at 2 am, making it more challenging for women. There is no point in becoming a unicorn when your employees are dying of burnout.
What in your opinion, helped you excel in your career?
- Curiosity: It keeps me on my toes and doesn't allow for complacency.
- Taking to a mentor: My mentor Dr, Daisaku Ikeda's guidance and life is a source of hope and encouragement for me.
- A supportive family: It just helps to focus on work when you have your cheerleaders in place.
One Superwoman you look up to & why?
My mother-in-law. She is a super practical woman. Unlike the other mothers-in-law I have seen, she has always encouraged me to have a career and has supported me by not expecting me to do things she can't ask of her son. Never once questioned my choices – clothes, kids, career, friends or hobbies. Doesn’t suffer from ‘hamare zamaane mein aisa hota tha’ syndrome.
It's hard sometimes to think that many women are not as fortunate as me. That women of previous generations understand the difficulties but want the next generation to suffer all the same instead of helping them.
One thing you would like to change about this industry?
The degree of delusional self-importance.
One thing that this industry desperately needs?
More women leaders. Also, more diversity across the board in terms of race, sexual orientation, social and ethnic backgrounds
One tip for all aspiring A&M professionals out there?
Create your own brand and wear it on your sleeve.
Treat yourself like a brand, carve a niche, write a tagline for yourself, and use in-person conversations and social media to put it out there. People are anyways judging you. You might as well control the narrative.