Point Of View: Women In Leadership Roles In The Industry. If Not Now, When?

Babita Baruah, September 12, 2017

Talking about women and leadership today, we see how women have overcome the shackles of the world and how they've now been receiving support. But what happens when they get past that interview and what does it take to make that change?

In 2004, I was part of a 12 women delegate to the U.K for a course on Women and Leadership. The agenda included engaging with working women. Most of the conversation was about flexi time, job sharing, work life balance.

A well balanced life that juggled the hours between workplace and home seemed to define the sweet spot most women wanted to be in. I came back, thinking that these are the things that could draw women to work. And keep them going.

I have now spent two decades in three cities in the industry. I sense a shift. Diversity has stormed into the boardroom agenda. We see an increasingly healthy mix of women, specially in junior and middle management. In the last couple of years, we have also witnessed some powerful role changes on the other side of the so called glass ceiling. Green shoots, but it’s happening.

I see the cultural change in management schools where I take guest sessions. Not just in gender headcount. But in the show of hands,  the debates, the power of expression. Young women who have overcome the shackles or maybe have been brought up without them. In my recruitment interviews with women, I am told about the good support system at home. More a reassurance to avoid being stereotyped. Could be demons in their heads or past experience of being painted with that brush.

What gives me strong confidence is what happens when they make it past the interview. The ability to walk the talk, to make that difference in thinking and action on the floor as part of the team. Could be skewed more in metros, but that’s where our industry lies.

However, the story changes as we go up the ranks. The numbers thin out. Visibly.

Relatively, the ratios in our industry as presented in media and industry forums, look more robust than what they were ten years ago. The jury is still out on what happens when the pyramid narrows down and it comes down to the last mile. I have experienced positive moves myself and in the career moves of industry colleagues. But the numbers do suggest that it is still lonely at the top.

The question is, what does it take to make that change?

We are poised today to write our story. We are now empowered to voice ourselves at work and outside. Share views. Ideas. Be disruptive. Define who we are. We have inspirations. Women leaders who have author books on experiences, created communities, shared their lives.

What irks me is that, perhaps, we don’t make enough of the opportunities. And I wonder why. Do some of us find socio economic comfort making us take that back seat without the demands of a leadership role? Are we better represented in certain functions and not others? What are the pressures that lead to drop outs Cultural? Organisational? Personal?

Hard to pin down one single determining factor without the right admissions and data. What we can do better as an industry is drive conversations on experiences and expectations.

Address challenges.

Focus spotlights on impactful leadership.

Mentor promising talent.

Celebrate compelling accomplishments.

Create the ecosystem of opportunities.

What we can do better as women leaders in the making is to be clear about our goal.

Pursue it relentlessly.

Recognise that it does mean family taking a backseat at times. Maybe more often than we would like.

Focus on productivity, ideas, business growth, talent.

Planned career growth.


Work those hours.

And love working those hours.

We are in a good place today.
When culture, technology and industry can change the game.

Boost those numbers at the top.

There is no better time than now.

Every month we publish the Melt Magazine, which takes a deeper, more analytical look at the industry of marketing and media in India, including features contributed by experts in the field. To subscribe to Melt Magazine or to buy any of our older issues, email [email protected]