‘As we are transitioning into a women’s world, men are going to have a problem. The men who are not inhibited about the women in them (are in touch with their feminine side), will be more successful’
By: Jayata Sharma
Shobha Mishra Ghosh is one of those who motivate you to stand tall as a woman. Once you get talking to her, the conversation just flows. Clarity in thoughts and confidence that speaks, makes her an inspirational woman leader. She has the calmness of the sea and the strength of a mountain.
Not many would know that Ms. Shobha started her career as an architect and later moved into the healthcare sector.
In an exclusive chat with this powerhouse, we discover more about her thoughts and aspirations.
Does it make a difference if you are a woman in a professional world?
I never thought about gender-specificity, as I was born in a family where there was no gender discrimination; equal weightage in education, choosing your own professional career, we had it all.
In my profession life as well, I have not faced any gender discrimination overtly. I did take a break in my career and getting back was a struggle, but I think that’s the case with either gender.
I am also an ardent believer that hard work pays off and if you are dedicated, committed, focused then even your organisation does not look at you as a man or a woman. It is always the output of that professional that matters.
Having said this, maybe after a certain level of growth, gender perhaps does matter, because you do hit the glass ceiling. There are certain limitations that come across your way. For instance, being a woman there are limitations in networking, socialising, which unfortunately, a woman is at times unable to do without the support of either a male colleague or the spouse. Such a limitation is not faced by men.
Do you think women leaders have an upper hand in certain areas?
Yes. Women are usually more sensitive, more emotional, they understand better. Although, I have worked with some male bosses who have been fantastic, and as empathetic and as understanding as a woman can be.
As a leader, you need to be capable of leading the way, which does not necessarily mean that you need to be super capable with everything. You will have your strengths and weaknesses, and as a leader, all you need is to identify that and if you have someone in your team with complementary skillset and qualities, then instead of being insecure, use it as a strength by bringing in people together.
Every evolved leader is a good people’s person and women tend to be more of a people’s person. They usually have lesser ego and are mostly not overtly power-hungry, which men can be. Women are a bit more evolved and they do not have much inhibitions.
What were the 3 toughest challenges in your career?
The first challenge was when my daughter was born and I took a 4-year break. When I returned, I realized that technology has slowly taken over and it was a struggle to get back at work and be at the same level as my peers.
To create a niche in the organisation was a challenge. I overcame that by learning Autocad (a designing software used by architects) just by watching, not by any training. I used to sit with architects who knew Autocad and just watch, without touching anything due to the fear of pressing a wrong button!
However, one day an architect did not come and I used the opportunity and worked with Autocad. I realized that I can do it too and perhaps a tad better (smiles). This helped me overcome the hesitation to deal with technology.
The second challenge was, when after 10 years of being an architect, I realized that I was not happy with what I was doing. By that time, I was a senior and was doing my own projects, was a consultant too, but I realized it was not giving me satisfaction. This is when I ended up doing urban planning in the Netherlands and realized the value of a post-graduation study. I also discovered my writing skills, when I wrote the thesis. This was also the time I realized my leadership qualities; in all the group discussions, I was a natural leader.
The third challenge was being aware of my second challenge and not knowing what to do next. After my return from the Netherlands, I was a different individual, who knew what she “did not” want to do.
It was year 2000, and I had decided to change my careers. In my quest, I was introduced to a government professional, who was designing the first urban renewal project for India. I did the designing of that project (with no payment). Money was not important at that point in my career. After a year of similar works, I became a part of a 5-city project and was the project manager for the Delhi section. I also landed up being the project manager of the Yamuna action plan.
All of these ventures ultimately lead me to my future endeavors and where I am right now.
How have you enhanced the workplace for other women around you?
Women who are excellent in their work and have to leave due to various reasons, I have made sure to reach out and help them. I have a personal reason also for doing this, as I had not received this support in my own difficult phase of life.
I had a female working for me, who had a young daughter. After 2 years, the colleague insisted that she has to leave the job as her child was being influenced by the maid’s language and nobody in her family was willing to help her with raising the kid. I guided her and counselled her during this phase of her life and ensured that she keeps her job.
Another colleague of mine with a child had an issue as the husband had shifted away due to some reason and again, she had no family support. I managed to convince the authorities at FICCI to allow her to work from home.
However, this kind of support can only be provided by women who themselves are confident in their capabilities and are free from insecurities. Only then a woman can really help another. Otherwise, you just end up minting the opportunity and put your peers in a tight spot.
How can women change the ‘abla nari’ perspective of their own self?
It should start when a girl is young. If a girl child is instilled the confidence that she can be as good or as bad as the other person, that will take the whole abla nari image away. You become brave when you start taking the responsibility of your own actions, whether good, bad or ugly.
It is important to have conviction and the ability to take decisions. Also, having a mentor in your life, a guiding voice who you can trust, helps too. For me, my husband has been one. Although it is not necessary that the mentor has to be a man.
Do you think we are in a man’s world trying to fit in?
We are transiting into a women’s world. It was a man’s world earlier, but today as we are becoming a knowledgeable society, it is not the brawn that matters, it is more of EQ and SQ. In both EQ and SQ, women are more adept, the level of maturity is much more in women.
As we are transitioning into a women’s world, men are going to have a problem. The men who are not inhibited about the women in them (are in touch with their feminine side), will be more successful.
How would you define yourself in one word?
I am a Karmayogi, and believe in doing karma without wishing for the end result.
What keeps you going all the time?
Optimism, the next day will be better than today.
Your secret of maintaining work life balance
(laughs) My husband says that I am a workaholic and do not maintain a work life balance! I am very single mindedly focused on my work and I believe in giving 200%. I also carry my work home. However, I do take breaks, we do go for holidays and when I am on holidays, I completely switch off from the work. We take at least 10 days off, twice a year.
How do you unwind after a long day?
During the weekdays, television is my relaxation. I watch a lot of news and once in a while, watch Netflix for a short movie or series. Social media also keeps me engaged. On the weekend, I love going shopping, socializing with friends, catching up a movie, and reading books.
Suggestions to your fellow women professionals
- In today’s world, what is really important is updating your skills and remaining relevant to the industry
- If you want to become a leader, you have to develop as a wholesome person, you have to overcome your own insecurities and perhaps connect with your philosophical side
- Just be empathetic towards everything and everyone, be aware of the social and environmental sustainability
- Listen to your mentor, but don’t blindly follow it