It’s International Women’s Day and as I read the morning newspaper and flip through television channels, every media platform is talking about women and their transforming role in society – women leaders, women celebrities, amazing feats achieved by amazing women, challenges being faced by them and the promise of an empowered womanhood.
Completely engrossed in these captivating stories, I asked my daughter, a high school student, what she thought of the impact that these amazing women had on society. I was caught completely off guard by her reply. She said: Women have always known the powerful impact that they have on society. It is the men that we should focus on instead – their acceptance, or the lack of it, of the role of women in transforming their lives and their world.
It set me thinking. She was so right. The spotlight was on the wrong side. We men are moulded all through our lives by women. In our families for sure, but also across all our points of interaction in society. Women who have had a powerful influence on us and have nurtured us into who we are today. We need to think about and internalize this impact instead.
Without a doubt, it would begin with my mother, a lady whose strength lay less in words than in deed. She gave us our space and allowed each of her children to find their own feet and path in life; but she also knew what she would not allow. Quietly, she instilled values of hard work, discipline and humility without making a big deal about it.
At school, my teacher, a lady who I still hold in high esteem – not just for the knowledge she imparted, but her ability to make us dream big – taught us to look beyond the obvious, to find solutions that were not immediately evident. She taught us to imagine what lay beyond the mountains that rose before us and then equipped us with the skills that would hold us in good stead when we actually ventured out to see what really lay there.
Once I moved out of my parents’ house and got married, my wife became a pillar of support, standing by and supporting me through my errors and follies, with an unwavering confidence in my ability to find my goal. And today, my daughter and her vision of the world, is teaching me to look at life afresh.
But these were just inside the house. Looking around, I can think of innumerable women who have influenced my thinking as well as my professional path. As I set out on the uncharted waters of a career, my journey has been impacted by the admirable confidence of women – seniors, peers, colleagues and clients. In the early days of my professional journey, there were a growing number of women, pioneering their way through emerging fields in business. I recollect this self-assured lady, among the few senior managers in IT those days, who was completely oblivious to the reservations the establishment had about her professional capabilities. She was sharp and meticulous, giving nobody a chance to take her role lightly, just because she was a lady. She truly taught us that we could prove doubting Thomases wrong simply by our achievements rather than any theoretical arguments. This lesson has kept me in good stead as we went through the first round of doubts of our Employee First philosophy in recession.
Today, my young women colleagues are weaving their personal and professional lives with élan, without compromising on their goals on either. They are as responsible about their roles are daughter, wives, mothers as they are about their professional commitments as team members, managers or leaders.
Everywhere I look, I see women quietly going about their business, completely sure of the direction they want to take individually and collectively with their organisation and society – leaving the noise about how their role has transformed to the rest of us.
On International Women’s Day, I’d like to say is kudos to these champions who have taught us many a crucial lesson in our lives, and more power to womanhood and its unparalleled ability to transform our world. But I would also like to ask my male colleagues: Think about the role that women have played in your lives. How have they influenced your lives? What lessons have you drawn from them?
Our former Vice Chairman & former Joint Managing Director engages with stakeholders through his blog, ‘In Search of New Leaders’ at www.vineetnayar.com
His ideas and thoughts on sustainability, innovation, diversity and leadership are shared regularly through this platform.