By: Jayata Sharma
An interview with Ms. Shubhra Thakur, Head – Health Economics and Government Affairs, Boston Scientific India
Empowerment and strength come from within. At times, a little nudge from the outside helps us discover our inner value and potential. To enable this very light, we bring to you each month, a dialogue with a woman who stands as an example of ownership and standing tall. For all other women out there, to seek and discover their own amazing powers.
What do you think about a man vs. a woman in a work set-up?
I am not a believer of the division based on gender. There should not be disparity based on how a man would approach a certain situation vis-à-vis a woman. Professionals who work together effectively regardless of gender differences make the best teams.
Women professionals need to be head strong just as men would be in bringing their views, ideas and expertise to the table.
Which are the three toughest challenges that you have faced and overcome?
I have taken up very diverse roles in my career to challenge myself. Moving from one role to another often came with a lot friction and its own set of challenges. With perseverance and focus, one can fight any odds.
For a large part of my career, when I had to make tough decisions at work, I wish I had a mentor earlier enough. Not being able to find guidance and astuteness at the right time was an issue.
Women are many times looked at with a subjective lens and breaking stereotypes is another level of challenge. Clarity about which situations to put your energy into and which ones to avoid completely is very useful.
How important is the company’s outlook in all of this?
It is extremely important. In the corporate world, there is a good understanding of the value women can add to an assignment the same way the opposite gender would. Recognizing that merit and competencies alone define an individual’s growth is reassuring.
3 things as per you that women colleagues should do for each other.
As a woman, the first thing I would like to shout out is for women to have the confidence and conviction in themselves and their dreams; and leave no stone unturned in going out and realising them against all odds. This goes out not only to women who are my colleagues, but every girl and woman who may not have the means and direction to make it possible. Positive reinforcements that one can give to fellow women colleagues is vital.
Supporting women colleagues to realise their true potential and excelling at work is also extremely crucial. For we spend a significant amount of time at work and with colleagues, being open to conversations – whether nice or tough, is very basic to recognizing their principles, aspirations and challenges. This is the first step in beginning to support.
Most importantly, never undermine the power of one. The change one woman could bring in another’s life is huge. If we take the onus to support, guide and mentor at least one other woman, if not more, it could be immense help in their growth.
I also think that one doesn’t need the tag of a guide or mentor to do that. The kind of support women colleagues could provide each other through sharing knowledge, training, imparting skills, cultivating an environment of trust and healthy competition, or even emotional support and sharing the load sometimes at work, works wonders and brings a lot of positivity. It may not be as easy as it sounds as oftentimes, we fail to keep our own inhibitions and shortcomings aside.
How can we change the ‘abla naari’ perspective of our own selves?
In this day and age of change and more and more women being empowered and reaching great heights, the “abla naari” is fast diminishing, if not completely absent. I say it is vanishing because we have several examples of women from different walks of life who are doing brilliantly well and inspiring others, however hard their circumstances may have been. Nevertheless, there are many women who face grave challenges being marginalised, which brings us more responsibility to be the catalyst of positive change in their lives. Instead of bearing an “abla nari” mindset, courage to overcome obstacles should be the belief of an “able nari”.
Are we still in a man’s world, trying to fit in? How can we break this cycle?
Women in leadership positions are fewer than men in leadership. In many parts of our country, the gender ratio is still heavily skewed. We still have to cover a lot of ground to come to an equal representation and opportunities. However, instead of making it a man v/s woman arena, men and women need to co-exist harmoniously powering each other’s engines of ambition. There are tasks at which women are best performers while men can perhaps handle certain roles better. It is realising and accepting these differences that will take away the need to fit in and be like a man. The frame of reference should not be the qualities of a man.
Your top 3 suggestions to fellow women professionals.
Find your calling- ‘something’ that we are effortlessly able to do and follow through day in and day out. I have seen many people choosing their professions and hobbies due to its popularity or what I call as the “herd syndrome”.
Also, integrity and self-confidence will help you stay grounded and be a better professional.
Knowledge is power. It can help differentiate your own brand as well as point in the direction of higher pursuits in your career. One must continually keep learning and improving and vice versa. Afterall, there is something to learn from everything and every person.
The mantra that keeps you going.
You are what you make you of yourself. My pursuit to constantly learn and grow in life keeps me going.
What is your secret to a work life balance?
Even though I am a workaholic, I ensure to spend good time with family and take time off once in a while. Spending time with friends even in a simple setting gives me a lot of energy. Since I enjoy being in the profession I am, work life balance is natural and not something to seek. Efficient time management is the key.
How do you unwind and relax?
I believe in introspection and spending time with myself as a means to relax. Having made TV programs and films at some point in my career, I love the art of cinema and music that helps me unwind.
Saying that you follow.
There isn’t one but a few. I’ll list three:
- “This too shall pass”- I find this as a very powerful statement that tells of the impermanence of things – whether good or bad and therefore, to be strong in turbulent times and be humble in the best of all situations.
- “It’s better to burn out than fade away” by Neil Young – it reminds me every time to take up things that excite me, inspire me to keep me on my toes, thereby putting my heart and soul in the work I do. There is no room for complacence.
- “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens” by Khalil Gibran.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal.