In the patriarchal structure of Indian society, women have always struggled when it comes to voicing their opinions or working in offices. Many times they are pushed to prove their mettle at work where it is still said that if the woman has risen then she must have ‘slept with the boss’! Vinika Devasar Rao, who is the Executive Director of the INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute, will soon be a panellist at the upcoming Asian Women Leadership Summit – Mumbai 2018 and believes that there has been a positive change in that very attitude.
After completing her MBA from IIM, Bengaluru, Rao started her career with a multinational bank in India. She went on to become general manager of an American-Asian joint venture in the field of industrial chemicals and later became the managing director of a listed real estate company in Indonesia. She co-founded a boutique advisory firm that worked on restructuring South East Asian companies, before transitioning to the education sector. Vinika taught business strategy to MBAs and executives before moving to head INSEAD’s career development centre in Asia. She subsequently became the head of the INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute.
Team of HerZindagi got talking with Rao to know more about her struggles and her take on the working women today.
No, that was never an option. Challenges, both personal and professional, are an expected part of life. The key is to find a dynamic balance between the two. I say ‘dynamic’ because there is no one optimal balance, it will need to keep changing as circumstances change. There will be times when personal issues will need to take priority over work ones and vice versa.
Yes, there is a positive change in attitudes and awareness. A combination of regulatory, organisational and individual changes is leading to the beginnings of a more balanced environment for women at work. But the pace of change is still very slow and there’s a long way to go before we can expect gender equality in the workplace. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report released last November gave the frightening assessment that it will take 217 years for disparities in wages and employment opportunities between men and women to equalise. Clearly, we have a lot to do if we are unwilling to wait for two centuries!