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Successful women who walk tightrope between life, work

business Updated: Jan 20, 2013 01:19 IST
Himani Chandna Gurtoo
Himani Chandna Gurtoo
Hindustan Times
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With an increasing number of women breaking through male-only bastions to take over as corporate bosses across industrial houses in India, the question that arises is - what makes these individuals tick?

The trick, they say, lies in finding that near-elusive work-life balance.

"When I had my first child, I went through the toughest phase. Today, I travel 16-20 days a month, and manage everything," said Manisha Sood, country manager, SanDisk Corporation.

However, many women still lose out to a bias in appointing men as CEOs.

Shivani Chandra (name changed), an executive with a government-owned oil major, was abruptly moved to a sister company just before an expected promotion.

"My boss wanted another man to move up over me," she said.

That said, the pool of women in C-suite positions in industries that were mostly led by male executives is growing rapidly.

"Smarter companies are beginning to recognise the opportunity in grooming women," said Aditya Mishra, president, Randstad India, an HR firm.

Heinz appointed Seema Modi as its India managing director (MD) last year. Prabha Parameswaran took over as MD of Colgate Palmolive India in late 2011.

Sangeeta Pendurkar took over as MD of Kellogg India in late 2010. Vinita Bali has been the MD of Britannia since 2006.

Marquee British liquor company Diageo's MD in India is Abanti Sankaranarayanan, while Shell's India boss is Yasmine Hilton.

"Achieving professional success is as important as nurturing a family. Even in the middle of a hectic day, I still check with my children on what they want for dinner," said Sankaranarayanan.

Indian women CEOs, however, compare strongly with their global counterparts.

Only 3% of the Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs, the EMA Partners survey said. Of the 1,000 public companies in the US with at least $1 billion in annual revenue, there are only 30 female CEOs.

In the UK's FTSE 100 list, there are just three. While just over 10% of board members are women in Germany, the number is as low as 7% in France.

(With inputs from Mahua Venkatesh and Anupama Airy)