In a recent conversation, she shared with us some of the most distinguishing moments of her personal journey as well as her thoughts on promoting gender equality & sensitivity in business education.
Ma’am, what according to you are some of the most important characteristics of a woman, which are essential for her to possess if she dreams of progressing to become a senior corporate leader?
If you ask me, I think for men and women both, determination and dedication are of the utmost importance when considering reaching your goal in any field. However, as women, our journeys have always been more challenging than our male counterparts. I personally feel that the will to not give up under any circumstance has been the strength of most successful women. Strength of character combined with a go-getter attitude has been my personal approach. Humility, along with perseverance is another trait that will aid the young women who dream to climb up the corporate ladder. Personally, more than anything else, it is the hard work along with my love for my profession that has helped me gather love from my peers and students at IMI Kolkata, along with making my way here.
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What led you to take that first step towards setting up your career in the field of business education? What were some of the most defining moments in your journey, which further strengthened your resolute will?
My Professors at the University of Calcutta were my mentors and led me to take my initial steps in the field of research. During my Ph.D., I interacted with industry professionals for context and data. There onwards, the notion of setting up my career in business education was a logical conclusion.
There have been some specific touchpoints along this journey that further induced me to move ahead. The classroom interactions with students, where apart from imparting contemporary knowledge one gets to delve into their mindsets, build bonds and shape careers, mentor them towards being value-driven individuals, engage with them as alumni when they step out into the industry, have all been such defining moments. Going forward, the love and respect from my students at IMI Kolkata and globally have been a huge motivation for me.
If any, what were the challenges you experienced as a woman in business? How did you overcome them?
Women in all fields come across multiple challenges that they overcome to march forward. I am no different. Having been blessed with a great work environment at IMI Kolkata definitely made it easier. Maintaining my work-life balance and carving out personal time for my family and friends, has been a major challenge all through. As a founder-faculty member of a B-school, I have been intricately involved with its minute details. There have been times when daunting work schedules have kept me away from home. The support system from extended family members has helped me to a great extent, though there have been periodical moments of guilt. As a woman-professional, it is important to be mentally equipped to overcome that.
2020 as a year, brought along its share of rewards when I was nominated as the Director of this prestigious institute, IMI Kolkata. Taking up this new responsibility has not only been life-changing but also challenging in its own way. Leading one of the prime B-Schools of India in the times of a pandemic has been formidable, to say the least. Adapting myself as well as the IMI campus to the ‘new normal’ of Business Education has been quite a journey. We are still learning and adapting to these times, in terms of offering a blended mode of learning, best hygiene standards, and safety of students as well as the administration, and faculty members.
Why is embracing diversity and having the right gender balance at the workplace important? What are some of the steps which IMI Kolkata has implemented to nurture future women leaders in business?
Diversity is extremely important as it provides the base for a holistic perspective to an organization’s understanding of issues, the decisions deliberated, and the practices that are implemented. In this regard, gender balance is of great importance in today’s age. Apart from ensuring equal representation while providing opportunities for women, it creates a healthy work environment. Also, having women at the workplace brings about social transformation by silently changing the patriarchal notions that society has lived by for years.
IMI Kolkata has always been a pioneer of nourishing women leaders. Our campus has approximately 42% of students who are women, from all over the country. Over the years, our percentage of girls/women has been higher than many other B-Schools in the country. While on campus, girls are given equal opportunities with live projects to gain practical experience and other industry interfaces to harness their leadership skills. Be it participating in on-campus activities (sports, management fests, events) or organising events and conferences on a corporate level, girls/women at IMI Kolkata are always on the go.
From your incredible experience, how do you suggest to educate B-School students to become more sensitive towards gender equality?
With more and more young ones looking at pursuing an MBA to complete their education, B-Schools are slowly taking the centre stage. Hence, it is the responsibility of B-Schools to set the example. Starting with encouraging a fair diversity among the students, institutes should also engage girls as well as boys in leadership activities such as heading its Clubs and Committees. A judicious mix of boys-girls in the class study groups for doing case-study analysis/presentations will sensitize them towards working together. Similarly, at the administrative level, a greater number of women in leadership roles serves as the perfect example to students as well as other stakeholders like parents, interviewers, and other peer universities.
What would your advice be to all the aspiring female business leaders reading this article?
The stage is set for female business leaders. It is your time to shine. Budding women leaders need to hold on to their dreams and keep working towards their goals. Resolution of purpose, determination in objectives, and grit will help you get there. Remember this, no matter who tells you what – never give up on what you believe in. The world is your oyster!
Check out more details on the PGDM program at IMI Kolkata, here - http://bit.ly/3phFafv
We also spoke to two current candidates Vedika Khetan & Pritha Chakraborty (PGDM Batch 19 – 21) about how they have experienced the difference of studying under Dr. Mohua Banerjee’s leadership at IMI Kolkata.
What were some of the experiences you had at IMI- K which made you believe in the power of women in leadership?
There are examples of female leadership everywhere at IMI-Kolkata. Starting with our Director, our Dean Academics- Mrs. Rachana Chattopadhay, also Head of Department- Marketing, our PGDM Programme Coordinator, and the Head of Admissions, all these offices are held by strong and independent women.
I am a member of the Students Admission Committee and one particular incident that stands out for me would be when I was selected for it. I remember there were a significant number of people who were shortlisted for interviews. When the final list was announced, I realized all the selected members were girls and we had two mentors who were also female. When we had our first meeting, our erstwhile mentor, Professor Mohua Banerjee told us that this was the first time at IMI that an all-girls committee had been formed and she was very proud, because there is nothing that we cannot achieve. Since then, we have gone on to work for two years hand in hand supporting each other every step of the way.
Mohua Ma’am then went on to become the Director of the Institute, she successfully managed to teach us two courses, four times a week, and ease into her new role as the Director effortlessly. Her dedication to her work makes me believe that we can do anything if we can put our minds to it.
Please do tell us if you had any earlier inhibitions which you were able to overcome through mentorship during your classroom lectures or events. How do you feel the change has transcended your growth?
Being an introvert, I used to find public speaking quite intimidating and have often struggled with presentations. At IMI-K, the regular project presentations, class activities, and frequent participation in different events conducted every month, helped me overcome this to a great extent. Working in different teams throughout the year for different purposes helped me become confident, more vocal, and more interactive in different groups, outside the classroom setting. In short, every activity at IMI-K has in one way or the other, developed professionalism in me which I believe is going to be invaluable in the business world.
As a young future leader, what are some of the things you would like to change, about the perception of strong women in business?
Vedika Khetan – “ I feel that there is a perception bias that exists where women are concerned. Women, for instance, are traditionally expected to be caring, warm, deferential, emotional, sensitive, and so on, and men are expected to be assertive, rational, competent, and objective. So, when a woman is decisive, ambitious and assertive, she might be perceived as "brusque" , "rude", and “aggressive” while men having the same qualities are not perceived the same way, because that is how they are “supposed” to be. Due to this bias, I feel that women, even today, miss out on opportunities that would have otherwise come their way. As a young future leader, this is the one thing that I would like to change about the perception of strong women in business.”
Pritha Chakraborty – “Women at a top position are often perceived to have gotten it easy. But in reality, it takes the same amount of hard work that is required from a man, to reach a position of power. A strong woman is not taken as seriously as a man in similar roles or positions. If she gets angry, she is termed as "crazy". If she is giving out instructions, she is called "bossy". Whereas when a man in power shows similar characteristics, he is treated as a true leader and his instructions are taken seriously. As a future leader, I would want to change the way we perceive strong women, the way we talk about them, and the way they are undermined. I would want people to realize success does not knock depending on one's gender, but on how much effort one is willing to put into to achieve it”
IMI Kolkata definitely practices a strong commitment towards changing the landscape of business and the overall mindset towards women in the country. We wish them the best of luck for all their future initiatives towards this extremely important cause.
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