5 key learnings for female CIOs

Sangeeta Gupta, Senior Director – IT, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), shares the lessons she’s learnt as a woman IT leader. By Shweta Gandhi

Sangeeta Gupta really enjoys her job and company, so much so that she’s stayed with the same organisation for the last 25 years—The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). With two masters, one from Delhi University (she is proud to be a Stephanian) and the other from IIT – Delhi, topped with a Global CIO Certification in IT Strategy from the Indian School of Business, Sangeeta is a firm believer in growing hierarchically in one organisation and staying true to it. And she has achieved the goal she set out for—heading the IT function in her company. Sangeeta has also been involved with TERI University for the last 10 years and serves as the Senior Director – IT. She admits the journey hasn’t always been smooth, but adopting a positive mindset has helped tremendously. Here, she lists out some of her key learnings as a female leader.

#1 Establish your identity
“If you’re a woman leader heading a team, don’t be surprised if it takes a while for your team members to start respecting you. But once they do, then it’s all smooth sailing. At such a point, it is crucial that you remain self confident. As a leader, you have to be assertive, not aggressive. Remember to not let emotion come through in the pitch of your tone and be conscious of it while conversing.”

#2 Ignore your detractors
“You will come across various unpleasant factors at work—people, events and circumstances. If a colleague has wronged you, there are two ways you go about it. First, don’t react. Be patient, analyse and reflect on the cues you may be giving the other person, consciously or unconsciously. Or simply ignore it. As long as you have your aim and your objective, you are sorted. Meditate on the situation—if you need to change yourself, you will. If people react, let them. You need to have thick skin and just be indifferent and nonchalant at times to handle difficult situations.”

#3 Open up and let it out
“It’s a fact that women have to manage much more than men. The mantra here is to have a support system that works. Communicating and telling people what you’re going through, what you want, what makes you happy will ease the burden you’re under. From my experience, discussing the issue at hand has helped a lot. When you hear others you realise you’re not the only one, there’s nothing wrong with you. Find whatever medium that helps you achieve it.”

#4 Mentor a junior female colleague
“Make the time to mentor your younger female colleagues because I can tell you from personal experience that there’s something reassuring to have another woman to look up to. I was very fortunate in this regard and I found it to be immensely helpful that a senior female colleague chose to mentor me in my early years. The female workforce in our offices is on the rise and there is an urgent need, now more than ever, to guide them on how to manage their marriage, supervise their houses and do a great job at work. Senior women need to take a proactive role in this. HR can play a role in organising help groups where members can regularly get together and be a support system for each other.”

#5 Don’t be afraid to be yourself
“There is no point in pretending to be tough or harsh at work to show the other sex who is in power. You spend 10-12 hours with them every day, and the wall will come down someday. Don’t be afraid to just be yourself. Take as much inspiration as you can from your peers. Women CIOs are an integral part of Indian and international organisations. I think women leaders in the IT space should come together in solidarity. We should showcase our strength and remember that we are part of the trailblazers who are slowly building their fleet and ushering in a new era.” 

Categories:   Lifestyle, Work Buzz


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