The W Suite | Gender stereotypes should be discouraged: Hema Malik

With a rapidly evolving business and economic landscape there is a dire requirement of fresh thinking, new skill sets, greater flexibility & adaptability, more collaboration as well as the ability to think on one’s feet. 

Gone are the days when the thinking was more on the lines of ‘get a man to do this job’. 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 proudly presents ‘The W-Suite’ (taken from the C-Suite), our feature series wherein we will be featuring 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. The initial plan was to have one comprehensive report, however, the response has been so overwhelming that we have decided to create a series out of this, wherein we will feature one woman leader at a time over the next few weeks. 

Hema Malik, COO, Lodestar UM, has been in the industry for over 21 years. She studied Psychology Honours from Delhi University. But the world of advertising beckoned and she opted for a diploma course in Advertising and PR and in 1995 entered the world of advertising with little knowledge of media. Her journey began in the industry with four months of training at Lintas Media. Malik takes pride in leading the successful launch of Tata DoCoMo through Do the New campaign. She has handled clients like Coke, MasterCard, Whirlpool, HCL, Metlife, Samsung, and Dabur, among many others, in the course of her career. She is also a trained painter. 

What defines a woman leader in today’s ecosystem?
I don’t understand why a women leader should have a separate definition. A leader is a leader. Period. Such gender stereotypes should be discouraged. I see no gender differences in the quality required in a good leader. A woman leader in any given field of work has equal and same qualities if not more. 

Why do you think a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions?
There are social and cultural norms that sometimes make career choices challenging for women and many of them quit working at an early stage or do not enter the workforce. But for the ones who stay and climb up; their achievement is a by-product of hard work and merit and there are no gender biases in that. At IPG Mediabrands, there are several other women across the group in leadership positions who have achieved this through vision, commitment and hard work. 

Do you think women leaders are still scrutinised as much for style as for substance?
There are several prominent men around the world across different field of work who are known for their style statement. Does it make them any less successful in what they do? Therefore, why such gender stereotypes should be constructed around women? A successful leader defines a style or a trait and not the other way around. 

Do you think the leadership effectiveness of women is higher than men? Why?
There could be differences in leadership style, but I don’t think the effectiveness of a successful leader has got anything to do with gender. Similarly, a weak leader of any gender can never be effective. 

Women leaders in the 80’s and 90’s and women leaders today - what are the key differences? And what are the things that haven’t changed much?
The changes are true for any leader and are not limited to any gender. I think technology has made us more savvy and has made the world our oyster. 

How do you maintain a balance between career goals and family responsibilities? How frequently do you have to sacrifice one for the other?
It is a matter of discipline, time management and prioritising what’s more important. I will also emphasise here on the family support that helps women make right choices and set priorities. If one follows these simple steps, then they need not sacrifice anything. 

Do you think pay parity exists in our corporates today across levels? What about pay parity at the leadership levels?
I don’t think pay parity has got anything to do with gender; at least I have not experienced it. It is clearly an output of market driven forces. 

What would be your advice to women aiming for the C-suite?
Don’t worry about being successful. Just focus on making significant contributions every day and success will follow. 

What, according to you, are the 3 important lessons new women leaders need to learn?
I would like to rephrase it as emerging leaders. The traits or the lessons for the emerging leader are not defined by gender stereotypes. However, I would like to say that women’s natural nurturing competencies can take them really far if rest of the other leadership traits are intact.


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