Most of the questions or concerns of women in the corporate circle are on the lines of –
How do you manage to create the work-life balance? Does your kid resent you being away? Is your family supportive enough? How did you overcome the societal pressure and step forward with career requirements as opposed to family needs? How do they look at you in office? Is it like how Katherine Johnson had to say in the movie Hidden Figures “So yes, they let women do some things at NASA, Mr Johnson. And it’s not because we wear skirts”?
And, women would like to ask these to the successful women they see. But unfortunately, apart from the generic interviews and personal views that are opined through them, we don’t have access to answers or assurances as much as we would want to. Though there are these ‘open door’ policies we preach and propose to practice, there is this social stigma that the doors for the ‘not yet there’ people are ‘not yet’ open.
Vaishali Kature has probably pointed it out more accurately- “women need role models whom they can touch, feel.” “It is important to show them your vulnerable side, to tell them that you went through the same issues too.”
That was precisely why these words in one of her post inspired me to no ends: (She had posted about her marathon achievements and the learnings therein)
“So what’s the point? For someone like me – who had no athletic capability …I have come a long way. As I discovered and started enjoying running – it made all other aspects of my life richer and more meaningful. It made me a more honest person – I discovered that when you train for a marathon … time is a precious commodity…I stopped spending time on people and things that I didn’t love. It taught me that I have only one life.. and it’s my moral duty to extract the best out of every aspect – family, work and my passions.”
To me, her words project ‘humility, passion and most importantly – what is hard to find – a situation I could relate to coming from someone who is at a height I never dreamed of reaching! It was reassurance at two different levels. Yes, people who have achieved great heights had faced the very same issues I struggled with while they started. Yes, I may be late to start my journey, but ‘late’ is a relative term in each one.
When I wrote to her asking for some time to talk, I half-expected – ‘let me get back to you when I get time’, ‘Maybe later,’ ‘remind me later, please’? But I was admiring her commitment when I saw those emails on agreeing to it, proposing a schedule and being there for the conversation.
Her Story – having reached the zenith of excellence at academics and career, then taking a sabbatical where after trials and errors finding a 3rd dimension to life and eventually excelling at that as well – all at the age of 34.
Her marathon track records are out there; I would like to focus on the ‘work’ and inspiration part of the story. She credits her family and upbringing for having a head start in the career. Academic excellence was always the focus in the family – gender no bias. In her career, she has seen that her biggest male sceptics became her trusted mentors. Because from childhood, she never had the notion that gender could play any role in you reaching your full potential – that confidence in herself got her the confidence from her colleagues and bosses as well.
However, she realised that this was not the case with other women. She saw that women somehow belittle themselves. Either the fear of hurdles stops them from the first step, or in difficulties they don’t trust a man to help them out, and other women don’t step in either.
“Women with family consider it their sole responsibility – to be equally good at work and family. That is the mistake. Relying on a healthy support system and as Sheryll Sandberg says, making your life partner an actual partner is essential for a woman at work. We often underestimate our kids’ resilience and wisdom. I ask my 10-year-old if he wants me to stop work and be with him and he very clearly states to me that he would rather I worked. Coming out of the pre-conceived notions of your potential, the support systems you can summon when in need, your partner’s partnership in the family which eventually extends to each other’s career and your kid’s tolerance levels is important.”
“Also, Technology and flexible operating modes are rolled out to ensure work-life integration for all. The boundaries are blurring – it is about being available for your kid’s annual day and responding to that mail at the same time. I feel 10% of my job is to be the role model women are seeking. I give the time to the women who come to catch up with me. I love the 10-minute conversations I have with them. And only if women step forward to help other women can we tap into the incredible potential that our women workforce possess.”
A gold medallist from JBIMS, Managing Director and Country Head of Experian and someone who ‘experimented’ running at the age of 34 and a decade later has covered an excess of 20,000 km across four continents and ten countries – practically half-way around the equator. Vaishali Kasture’s story is not a Midas touch – but one of grit, perseverance and confidence.
Success for her is not just about the winning streaks but passing the baton to the other women around her. To empower female founders, Vaishali, along with her friends have formed ‘Sonder Connect’ – a not for profit organization which aims to identify, nurture, and champion high potential women, equipping them with the tools they need to succeed through in-depth mentoring from international experts. Over the last one year, they have mentored over 50 female founders.
It is inspiring to see women succeed. But the actual inspiration that gives you the chisel in your hands and pushes you to carve out that perfect niche you were born for – are women who want other women to succeed!