The W Suite | Emotions are no longer a weakness, they're an asset: Preeti Sawarkar
Diversity in the workforce has become a necessity today, and more so in the leadership positions. It can’t be denied that women bring a high level of creativity and empathy while solving problems and handling crises. Women leaders bring to the table a different level of dexterity.
AdGully’s ‘The W-Suite’ series features interactions with influential women leaders in India, who share some deep insights on what being a woman leader means in India’s business landscape, the mantras to succeed, achieving work-life balance, pay parity and much more.
A 16-year veteran in the field of Rural Marketing & Communications, Retail Branding and Brand Activation programmes, Preeti Sawarkar is the CEO of ZtoA Marketing Solutions, the BTL arm of Triton Communications.
Throughout her career, Sawarkar has been able to repeatedly contribute to the clients’ business and build long standing relationships with key stakeholders, while contributing to consistent revenue growth under dynamic market conditions. She has worked with some of the most high profile brands in the business, including Mahindra & Mahindra, Apollo Tyres, Tata Motors, John Deere Tractors, Piaggio, Bajaj Auto, Hero Motor Corp, Mondelez, Colgate, Hindustan Unilever, P&G, Hersheys, Godrej Consumers, Tata Chemicals, Abbott, Nerolac, Pidilite and Monsanto, to name a few.
In the past, Preeti Sawarkar has held key positions at renowned agencies, quickly moving up the ladder, backed by her dedication, passion, hard work and skill.
Within this professional front, Sawarkar has specialised in planning and implementing any BTL plan for brands, including Consumer Activations, Engagement Programmes, Trade Channel Activations, Events & Exhibitions, Retail Branding & Visibility and so on, into the rural terrains, semi urban & urban markets as well.
How would you define today’s woman leader?
“A leader is a leader”. I don’t think we should be defining a leader by gender. For some, it apparently means “Lead like a woman”, while to me it means “Lead while being a woman”.
Today’s woman leader is more solutions-oriented, a natural multitasker, and she tends to have a personal connection with her colleagues. Women have an innate motherly instinct with loads of emotions. I have actually learned being emotional is as valuable as being analytical. Emotions are no longer a weakness that one should ‘hide’, rather should be treated as an ‘asset’ that can be shared. And then win the world!
What are the foremost attributes that women leaders in today’s business ecosystem must possess?
Women must possess the power of being stiff, tough and accurate in decision making. Having said that, passion, aggression, self-confidence with self-motivation and a risk taking ability are surely the pre-requisites.
Despite the qualifications, aptitude and experience, why do you think we don’t see the expected number of women business leaders, especially when it comes to boardroom decision-making?
Though many corporates are providing opportunities and investing in women empowerment, we see fewer leaders, primarily due to the harder choices that a woman has to face – between professional success and personal fulfilment. It’s all about perception and expectations.
What more do Indian corporates need to do to encourage and groom women leaders?
The world is changing. It’s time for us to promote diversity in leadership, while not being biased with the criteria/ qualities that we use to define excellence in leadership. Women are often portrayed by their fashion over their accomplishments and this creates double bias.
Women leaders are expected to be lady like, but then they are perceived as being weak.
There is a strong need of having a transformational leadership model with a vision of promoting change, inspiration, innovation and having charisma – along with collaborative leadership and relationship building.
Let’s recognise the strengths of women and in what they bring of themselves using an affirmative paradigm instead of pointing to the weakness of their being too emotional.
Train them to maximise their strengths rather than apologising for the weakness and learn to own your power. Use your power in a positive way for altruism, to create the change you want to, to influence the outcomes that you need, be benevolent and use your powers to empower others.
In the conclusion, know who you are, use an affirmative paradigm, recognise the strength you bring, and prepare yourself to leave, when the time comes.
According to you, what are the Do’s and Don’ts for today’s women to break through the glass ceiling?
- Aim High: Give wings to your dreams though it may seem farfetched. Grab the opportunities that come your way. Be hungry to achieve your ambitions and never be satisfied with it.
- Believe in ‘Success is plentiful’: Be greedy. Power and success are not limited resources.
- Failure is not a weakness: Everyone faces failure at some point in their lives. The best way to overcome is to move ahead. Learn from your mistakes and take it forward as an experience. Rise from your failures!
- Do take risks: The most successful women are big risk takers. Be bold and take calculated risks.
- Positivity: Surround yourself with positive people who believe in you and who will not backstab you.
- Don’t be afraid of change: Change is the only constant. Embrace it.
- Do not compromise: Never settle for less. Don’t let anyone dictate who you are and how you should lead yourself. Be self aware – Who are you? Bring in all your identities into your leadership.
- Don’t be judgemental: Don’t judge anyone. Evaluate the situation and then arrive at a conclusion.
- Don’t ever forget your roots & the struggle you made to achieve your current position. Stay grounded.
How acute is the gender pay gap issue in India today? What needs to be done to address this in an effective manner?
In India, the gender pay gap does exist at all levels, starting from the lowest to the top, though the gap would differ at each levels, this seems to decreasing as time passes.
Many organisations are working towards mending the gap – by providing flexi work hours, salary transparency, promoting women entrepreneurship and so on. I would just say, there is still a long way to go.
Do you think the leadership effectiveness of women is higher than men? Why?
Frankly speaking, there’s no reason for men to be better leaders than women or vice versa. There are many different ways that a person can be an effective leader. It all depends on the type of leadership one follows. Even in different socialisation, the answer to being an effective leader is rarely to do things in a “masculine way”, or in a “feminine way”. It depends on the individuals.
What are the five most effective lessons that you have learned as a woman leader?
- Be self aware: Who you are and what you stand for. Don’t evaluate yourself with others yardsticks.
- Every day is a new day: Challenges, mistakes, rift, time management and quick decisions.
- Believe in the power of failure.
- Trust your inner compass: (Even when the naysayers do not). Take the risks that take you somewhere new.
- Never stop learning, because it gives you courage: The more knowledgeable you are, the more comfortable you feel.
Today, getting a seat at the table is not enough in leadership roles. It’s time for us, women, to be at the head of the table – if we want to have a future moving forward together.
How challenging has it been for you to maintain a balance between career goals and family responsibilities? What is your mantra to maintain that balance?
It is indeed a challenge. There have been times where I have had to trade-off between my career goals and family responsibilities, but I have never considered it as regret. The credit goes to my family, who have been my strong support in maintaining the balance.
How proactive have our corporates been when it comes to addressing a serious issue like sexual harassment at workplace?
There are no fixed guidelines or training that can prove to be a cure-all for the problem of inappropriate behaviour at the workplace. As of today, this topic still needs quite a lot of attention and the highest level of involvement from the management of any company. It’s all about the workplace culture that has an impact on allowing this issue to flourish or prevent it.