Recently, India and the world witnessed a story of courage and valour of a wing commander, Abhinandan Vartaman, IAF. Vigorous and spirited training that he underwent at the Airforce resulted in making of Abhinandan. He was stoic to endure the pain, never broke down at the enemy’s cell. In addition to this, his firm emotional roots of strength helped him to be firm at his captors. Strong ladies of his home his wife and his mother, helped him to carve this emotional strength that conveyed “come what may, I will be ok and it’s ok”.
Abhinandan’s wife Ms. Tanvi Marwaha, Squadron leader, IAF understood Abhinandan’s roles and responsibilities and always stood by, with her enduring support. Wing commander’s mother, Dr. Shobha Varthaman , who served the conflict zones around the world and serviced with the war-ravaged countries, on-ground to witness worst adversities, inculcated courage and “service comes first” mindset to the wing commander.
When these ladies with undeterred goals could gift wing commander Abhinandan to India, it’s time we women understood and unleashed our strengths to gift our very best to one.
To ponder upon a thought…”how was it possible for these ladies to be their best as humans in adversities?” directs us to “What brings the best in a human?” The answer would be “by being yourself and by persistently exhibiting what you are in your actions and responsibilities”. You are the reflection of your values, traits and strength and most importantly your weaknesses too.
A woman is gifted with “Feminine Traits” that she owns and persistently exhibits it. To name a few they are:
Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. The capacity to place oneself in another’s position.
Sensitivity: it’s the feeling liable to be offended or hurt.
Compassion: concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
Nurturance: emotional and physical nourishment and care given to someone. If you find something good in your team mate, nurture it and let it shine.
Patience: the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.
Inner Instinct and Sixth sense: that guides her to spot the fake.
In past terms sex (male, female) and gender (feminine, masculine) was used interchangeably. Further, it was acknowledged that valuable “feminine” leadership traits, no matter what body they showed up in, proved to impact overall business performance. Those feminine leadership traits are :
Highly communicative: A deeper trust, inspire greater productivity and accountability. Inclusive conversation styles are a hallmark of many women leaders.
- Collaborative: Shared purpose and vision–not using command and control. A collective brainpower is unleashes when people come together.
- Forward-thinking: Though it is a Q2Q story in every corporate, possessing a long-term view for the health and stability of the business is a common trait in female leaders. Women are often planners, and as more females achieve leadership positions, we see more companies concerned with issues like environmental and community impact.
- Vulnerable: Admitting you don’t have all the answers and showing humility when you make a mistake. Leaders who are more self-aware and vulnerable inspire others to be honest with them than saying what the leader want to hear.
- Being Compassionate: Is the reason to build strong professional relationships.
Research proves that companies with more women on the board experience higher financial performance.
I had many opportunities to exhibit valuable Feminine Traits in each phase of my life such as painful divorce, change of job, in leading position at my work and most importantly as a Single Parent. Here I share some of my experiences with you and hope it inspires some.
I am Deepa, a computer science post graduate, once a happy assistant professor and now a researcher at TCS innovation labs, working for future technologies. I faced extreme circumstances during my divorce and faced challenges head-on, single handedly & all- alone (my parents are based in Karnataka). Dealing with divorce is same as hopping on to an expensive (emotionally and financially) roller coaster ride that involves:
- Taking care of your child financially and emotionally.
- Dealing with insensitive, manipulative & rude advocates.
- Negotiating with your Ex on various aspects of the divorce.
- Fixing your mind and soul at work, when at work.
- Having a happy and cheerful home so that your child faced least trauma.
- Last but not the least, letting go of your child to your Ex (in a legally agreed shared custody), so that the child experiences his/her presence to grow up to be a normal individual.
This doesn’t end here, it also requires you to put on a “mature and understanding” cap while dealing with your Ex, for your child’s future!
They say, angels come for your rescue, when most needed. Similarly, some angels like dependable advocate, friends and family helped me to sail through this difficult phase that lasted for more than 4 years. Feminine traits empathy, sensitivity, patience, compassion and sixth sense all got tested and ticked while dealing with the above challenges.
Post divorce, for me, it was a different ball game all-together. I was bombarded with the inner voice that screamed “Deepa…Go, find yourself, listen to your heart and follow your instincts”. To follow my interest in technology and programming, I changed my job from being a comfortable teacher to a hard, IT researcher. Due to initial discomfort of the corporate world, every bit of my mind asked me to quit and go back to my then comfort zone, teaching.
Only my grit and the mantra for patience: “You click, if you stick” helped me to cruise through this corporate storm. It took three long years to get acclimatized to corporate weather, with no oxygen! My annual appraisal ranking was consistently low but steady increase in my learning curve satisfied me and enabled me to explore challenging projects. Constant learning, reading research publications, online tutorials were my channel to upgrade myself. Also, I learnt from some of my juniors who were kind enough to teach me complex & new technologies. When you face the world with no expectations and open arms, you are greeted with interesting ideas and people. Challenge here is to identify what’s good in for you and keep moving. Post four years, I was able file a patent on my work, engage the leads with my fresh ideas, and did contribute significantly to important projects of our group. At times to make my presence felt, I had to act along the quote “If you don’t have a seat at the table, bring your own chair.” I was blessed to work and learnt to deal with different team members who were difficult, genuine but under performing, lazy but demanding and hard working with life threatening problems. This increased my patience & resilience to the next level. My bosses trusted and patiently groomed me to what I am now.
Standing up for my team member (right now, I am the lead of one researcher) and empathising her problems helped me to develop strong bond with her. I always strive to get good work on to the table so that she is exposed to new advancements and technologies. My team member aims to enrol herself in a PhD program at a reputed institute. It’s my responsibility to throw challenging work at her such that her CV grows to a PhD entrant level.
My passion towards art, music (currently, learning a string instrument, Sarod) and social work (active member of a rotary club) kept me firmly grounded. In failures too, my hobbies made me feel good about myself & helped me to think creatively in the field of research. I learnt to be kind to myself and resilient, to stand up after every fall.
Leading Woman leader, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw says “As you become more successful, the gender barrier disappears”. Indira Nooyi quotes ” As a leader, I am tough on myself and raise the standard for everybody; however, I am very caring because I want people to excel at what they are doing so that they can aspire to be me in the future.”. Oprah says “I am a woman in process. I’m just trying like everybody else. I try to take every conflict every experience and learn from it. Life is never Dull” . These are some women leaders that inspire me and their thoughts encourage me to take bold steps.
Last but not the least. Women (and men for that matter), are generally confused on Feminine Traits. Being feminine doesn’t mean that a lady needs to
- Be submissive & sacrificial.
- Stop dreaming & expressing her views.
- Compromise on the pay and quality of work.
- Let go off your rights, your security and most importantly your dignity.
Finally, Just think what if Germany was led by a woman leader, would there be any World War II ?
So we young ladies, we have it in US ! So, be proud and have your own “Woman’s Perspective”.
Celebrate Womanhood and celebrate life!
-This content is prepared (as part of Kreedagala’s worshop, on the Women’s Day) and shared by the author.
- Zeringue, Virginia, “The Power of Femininity: An Examination of the Qualities Women in Leadership Possess” (1997).Senior ThesisProjects, 1993-2002.
- Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg