The W Suite | Women at one level are more aggressive than men: Sundar Swamy

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. 

There are way too many trend-setters and convention-breakers today. And we don’t have to look far, as there are several inspiring women leaders in the Indian advertising and media industry, who have achieved much and paved the way for many to follow. 

AdGully proudly presents ‘The W-Suite’ (taken from the C-Suite), our feature series, wherein we are 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. 

While in the last few weeks we have been featuring women leaders sharing their views, what do the male leaders in the industry think about women taking the lead? How do corporate support and encourage women to take up leadership roles? 

Srinivasan (Sundar) Swamy, Chairman & Managing Director, RK Swamy BBDO, needs no introduction. An advertising industry veteran, Swamy has witnessed several landmark changes taking place in the industry and is in a unique position to share his views on women leaders in the industry. 

What defines a women leader in today’s ecosystem?
I don’t think today there’s a big difference between a leader of one sex and the other. From my perspective, I think women leaders have been molded as natural leaders as much as men leaders. It is the individual who actually makes the difference and today there’s little difference between men and women. I think maybe 20 years ago there were some issues. Particularly in the advertising agency business there have been more women leaders. We’ve had some strong women leaders like Rhoda Mehta. 

Why do you think there’s a smaller percentage of women than men that reach the top of their professions?
I think it is a question of liberty – of not wanting to do things. Nobody is stopping women, it’s just that they sometimes have assigned priorities to maybe children or maybe to issues at home. Then again, we’ve seen this in a movie made by R Balki (‘Ki and Ka’), where the lady goes to work while the man stays at home, so that is also there. So, it depends on what equation they want to have. I know that in my family the lady became MD of a company, while the man desired to retire early and be at home. So, it’s just how men and women desire to share their responsibilities. It is a decision they have to take and how they want to balance that. It so happens that women are quite comfortable to lead the home front and men are comfortable leading the business work. Sometimes you may want to be leader of your house and then there’s somebody playing a supportive role. And you need to have a spouse who also wants to deal with that. So, it depends on how you deal with that balance, many people may not have that support system. I think opportunities are there for both and each have a choice the make for themselves. 

What do men think about woman leaders?
I think women at one level are more aggressive than men. If you put a woman on top, I think there’s something in heir DNA that gets more aggressive than men. At home, too, more often than not they think differently and are more aggressive. 

Do you think that women leaders today are still scrutinised for their style as much for their substance?
No, I think the style and substance are now merging; we cannot have no style or no substance. If you are shallow, then you will be found out very soon. So, style won’t get you very far, it gives you a break and it will be soon found out if you have only style but no substance. If you don’t have substance, you can’t go to the top, you will be found out. 

Do you think pay parity exists in our corporates today across levels? What about pay parity at the leadership levels?
I don’t believe it has. I know when we are at work, these questions are raised. It is possible that maybe in some smaller companies, where pay parity doesn’t exist. But that may be at the operational level, I don’t think it is there at the leadership level. Those ladies probably are... I don’t know... maybe quite happy where they are and not aspire to be leaders or take on responsibilities more than what is required of them. But anybody who is ambitious and wants to move far ahead in the corporate ladder, I do know they get paid as well as men. If they are not, then they will not remain in the company because the more the discrimination happening in that company, the faster will they move out because they are ambitious. If they know their goal is to climb up the corporate ladder and they are not getting the opportunity to be there in terms of salary, position, they will move on, the ladies today are quite clear-headed. 

In the advertising industry, somehow there are more woman leaders in the media side of the business than the creative side of the business. 

What are the organisational factors that can impact the leadership effectiveness of a woman?
We have no restrictive policies in recruitment or promotion with respect to sex, religion, caste, whatever the divisions. The only thing that matters is whether the person has the right attitude and the right competence for the job, because both are important. We don’t worry about religion, caste, sex; everybody today is working hard. They all are committed, they all want to perform, they all want to meet their deadlines, satisfying their clients – all of that.


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