This year, dentsu's International Women's Day theme is #ChoosetoChallenge: How women can reclaim their energy, confidence, and will power. This month, we talked to Anuradha Manna, Priyanka Kunjeer, and Saloni Kwatra from Merkle's office in Pune, India about what inspires them and more.
1) What inspired you to become a part of DEI, specifically becoming a lead for women in the Pune, India office?
Anuradha: India has culturally been a very patriarchal society where women have traditionally only been playing the role of a home maker. While there is change happening, it is still far from ideal. I have seen many women not get what they deserve because they have been groomed from a very early age to accept what is given to them and to not fight for what is rightfully theirs. I have always strived to change that. When I got an opportunity to be a part of the DEI initiative, especially as it pertains to empowering women, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Priyanka: I like the idea of WIL to promote yourself and help other ladies do the same. So, it inspired me to know more about other women in the group who were doing a fabulous job by stand confidently and supporting each other by helping with the mental health pillars and standing strong in the workplace.
Saloni: Growing up in a patriarchal culture, I noticed how women in India have less freedom to make decisions. During my early days at Merkle, I observed how women shape their early careers around the men in their lives ― where societal obligations, rather than aspirations, drive career choices. The missing piece is the lack of guidance and ways to utilize our passion in the right direction. In my early career, I was lucky to have women mentors and I always dreamt of working toward a cause that was focused on enabling women to break these stereotypes. DEI was a perfect platform for me to work toward my aspiration of building a workplace environment with a gender-neutral career trajectory.
2) Describe a moment in your life that defined or shaped who you are today?
Anuradha: There are two moments that shaped who I am today: One was the loss of my father (he was only 54 but suffered for a very long time) and the other was becoming a mom of two daughters. My dad’s loss taught me to be strong, and I learned that life goes on. My daughters give me strength to make an extra effort towards making the world a fairer place for them.
Priyanka: Part of my childhood that made me who I am today is when I was young and other children in my colony abandoned me. That experience taught me that no one can stand for me, or help me, except myself.
Saloni: From my early days, I have seen how society demands women to behave in a certain way. I have been fortunate that my mother’s ideology was ahead of her time - she sent me to pursue engineering and the job of my choice. These choices have equipped me to become financially independent, which enables me to make my own decisions. Choices made by my mother became an integral part of my personality.
3) How do you choose to challenge stereotypical gender roles in your office today?
Anuradha: I try to make simple changes, like ensuring work gets equally distributed among both men and women, depending on interests and qualifications. For example, “fun” activities are not just the prerogative of women – men can participate, too! I encourage women to speak up and help to ensure they are not spoken over. I have 1:1 sessions with women who reach out to me for help and I prep them for discussions with their peers/managers on difficult issues, like appraisals, where they can confidently voice their achievements. My team has seen that I have been available for them through my pregnancies and being a mother of two toddlers. Everyone can see that it’s possible to be a woman with a family and still be career-minded.
Priyanka: We can challenge stereotypes by showing self-confidence in our workplaces and by promoting ourselves. Also, continuously learning can boost your morale as knowledge is the key to beat any challenges.
Saloni: Since the start of my career, I have wished for a platform focused on addressing challenges specific to women leaders. The lack of proper mentorship and managerial skills to tackle career challenges are a few of the roadblocks women experience with regards to corporate growth. I try to enhance the management quotient among women in our office by providing them with the stage for proper upskilling driven by practically implementable success stories from other women. I believe that this small step will help inspire women and catalyze the journey of building future women leaders.
4) What inspires you about your workplace culture and the women you work with today?
Anuradha: The women in my organization are fierce and I am amazed by their grit and determination every day! The flexible workplace culture stimulates everyone’s creativity and pushes everyone to give their best. I have found my tribe of wonderful women here to lean on!
Priyanka: Today, in my workplace, some people still subscribe to stereotypes but most of them are open to accepting gender equality. And, they appreciate the efforts and opinions of female employees, which makes me happy. We have a great bunch of energetic women in the workplace who make a difference by accepting the challenge to change stereotypes.
Saloni: The willingness of women colleagues to grow, learn, and adapt inspires me the most. Even in these unprecedented times, we have helped each other grow, upskill, strike a balance between work and personal life, and adapt to support the business and our families without dropping the ball.
5) Rapid Fire
a. Favorite food
Priyanka: Indian and Italian
b. Favorite musician
Priyanka: A.R Reheman, BTS (Kpop)
Saloni: Taylor Swift
c. Favorite TV show/movie
Anuradha: The Office (US version only)
Priyanka: Big fan of Asian drama and all type of web series and animations / movies - Jab we Met, Zindagi na milegi dobara
d. Favorite hobby/activity
Anuradha: Dancing with my kids
Priyanka: Traveling, swimming, drawing, listening to music, and surfing the internet
Saloni: Painting and baking
e. Favorite book
Anuradha: The Secret Garden
Priyanka: Many books, mostly written by Marathi writer, Suhas Shiravlkar
Saloni: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
f. Guilty pleasure
Priyanka: I want to eat everything and still be fit
Saloni: Sweet dishes
g. Best advice or mantra you live by (in your own words)
Anuradha: You never know ‘til you actually give it a shot!
Priyanka: Be happy, do whatever you like, be honest with yourself, and live in your own skin.
Saloni: “Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think and twice as beautiful as you’ve ever imagined.”– Dr. Seuss