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What An Elevating Talk Show At The Launch Of ‘FLO Women Director’ Initiative!

  • IWB Post
  •  September 5, 2015


FLO Jaipur is making sure women of Jaipur stay empowered. Under the Chairmanship of Ms. Alka Batra, the organization has announced many women empowerment schemes, one of which is nurturing company directors.

1Now this may sound very synthetic to some of you, but it is actually possible to nurture Board of Directors. How? FLO Jaipur invited 3 prodigies to speak on the topic. This included –

Manisha Girotra – an investment banker who is currently the country head for India of Moelis & Company. She was the only Indian woman to be listed as one of the powerful women in Banking in Forbes 2012.

Dr.Jyoti Kiran Shukla – An economist, academician, author and social activist.

Leela Bordia – A Jaipur based entrepreneur and founder of Neerja International for Blue Pottery.19

The 3 women went on to indulge in a very enriching conversation with the audience, about which we will brief you up in following points:

How did the trend to involve women in boardroom meetings begin?

Manisha: US took the lead few years back, and other countries took inspiration thereby. I am impressed the way Norway is doing it. It has about 40% women directors in the country. India is creating commendable examples too – Chanda Kochhar, Naina Lal Kidwani, Indra Nooyi, there are numerous names to count. 11

What have been the most significant reasons behind this growth?

Jyoti Kiran: I think the language and representation have made a huge difference. The world only noticed us when we women began to present our-self in the most powerful way.

Can doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc become members of Board of Directors (BOD)?

Jyoti Kiran: Why not? Look at me!

Leela: Even entrepreneurs can be members, considering Jaipur has hundreds of quality designers who have got their own business units.21

What qualifications are needed to become an independent director?

Manisha: Most crucial is to be an expert in your field of work. Strengthen your forte and you can win the fight with competitors. For example: I am into banking. I take decisions on mergers and acquisitions. Nobody comes to take my advice on how to make gears and car powerful!

Secondly, one should be aware of what is going around – in own profession, world’s economy, politics, etc.4

Jyoti Kiran: For this, women must start reading Economic Times and magazines like Business Today & Indian Today. I know, most of you aren’t interested in such texts, but it is a must.

Leela: Educationally, I don’t think it is that important to have degrees. Unless you are really a star in your work-field, of course. One has to be a good mix of both.

Manisha: However, a basic understanding of finance is important. As a member of BOD, your responsibility is also to make sure there is no fraud happening in the company.

12How can one get inside the circuit?

Jyoti Kiran: Do well in your work of domain. If you are, then visibility matters.

Manisha: And for visibility, reach out to directors & do networking. Meet the CFO, audit committee, etc of the companies and see if you feel comfortable in their environment. Once you are, it is easy to learn in the on-going process. Be in touch with concerned people since they may want to act like your referrals. Also, promote each other!

How different is a woman from a man in BOD?

Manisha: A lot. Men, mostly, are number-oriented. I have noticed how in so many board meetings, all they care about is regulatory figures, stocks, share markets, etc. But there is much more than the shareholders, right? Women, on the other hand, bring in a lot of strategic thinking to the desk. Women love to talk, they love to discuss; they even love to listen to others, unlike men.


Jyoti Kiran: Everything fails in front of a talented woman. Determination & talent in a woman, when combined, form a very dangerous combination. (laughs)7

Leela: People ask me if I am afraid of China, for it can replicate my original art of Blue-pottery. I tell them ‘not at all’! Ask yourself if you are confident enough to step in the market which is tough. Ask yourself if you are tough enough.

Manisha: The women are competitors in reality. You may ask why. The reason is, women have soft skills that majority of men lack. Using the power of their knowledgeable mind and soft emotions, they can win any battle. We are good at nurturing successors, we are good in communication, we know how to deal with stress, the way we communicate is truly the Buddha way. So yes, we have it all inside us!

Why do we have less ‘women on top’ in India?8Manisha: Because there is minimal training opportunities for them. Again the question arises – we have so many girls exceeding boys in school academics every year, but we hardly see them in top corporate seats. The reason is – we don’t nurture them, giving opportunity is second issue.

Also, when women are given chance must prove themselves. Work harder than others when you know you have family and office to look after. And don’t be shy in asking questions from seniors. I have had my bad when I had asked silliest of questions. I didn’t bother because I wanted to learn.

Talk about the stereotypes you might have face in the journey.

Manisha: Many! I am a part of Ashok Leyland’s BOD that belongs to the male dominated sector. When I joined it, people thought I was just there to sit quietly and enjoy the nuts on the table. I wasn’t taken seriously because I am a woman. During one of the meetings, someone even confused me with a secretary and journalist! Their perception was changed with the course of time.15

Jyoti Kiran: The truth might pinch you, but women HAVE to prove themselves four times more than their male counterparts. The roots of these stereotypes are quite strong.

Leela: Though not stronger than our resolves. It took me 30 years to prove myself and gain trust of international buyers. The main thing is, I never gave up.22

Manisha: I remember getting acquainted with this one woman in a French company’s board-room. She brought along her tiny triplets to the board-meeting and everyone was staring at her. In the middle of the meeting, she even breastfed them! I was so happy seeing the alpha women among all those white men. Not to mention, they were shocked! But with such incidents, the world is changing steadily.

How is a director compensated financially?

Manisha: There are two parts – Basic salary and then the Commission which improve significantly once you are fully absorbed in your job.17

Jyoti Kiran: Each company has its own policies. But however intangible, the real satisfaction lies in being the member of BOD and working for the progress of company and your own. Agree?

How can a woman’s family support?

Manisha: When I was associated with a French company, I found out that I was the only (brown) woman there in the BOD. It was frustrating to see those men communicate in French while I would just stare at them. When I told my family about it, my daughter said – “Big deal. Go and attend French classes na.” As simple as that. I think this is how your family supports you. They bring out the best form of rebellion from within you.

Is gender really an issue when we are talking of ‘women of board’?

Manisha: It is, that’s why we are sitting here commemorating their brilliant initiative of FLO. Let’s together change that.16

Leela: If it is an issue, I propose to bring in lots of young women on-board. What we have accomplished in last 10, they can do it in mere 5 years.

Jyoti Kiran: And most importantly, don’t carry that baggage of gender inequality.

We have noted these gem-points. Have you?

Photo courtesy: Pallav Bhargava

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