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Namita Thapar: "Women do 6 hrs of unpaid work daily v/s men doing 1 hr. Can men do more, along with better family support and childcare?"
The Dolphin and the Shark by Namita Thapar is born out of her experiences of running the pharma company Emcure, being on several boards, investing in start-ups, and mentoring many budding women leaders in corporate India.
Following is an excerpt.
Here, I would like to talk about the importance of mental and physical fitness. Like everything else, this becomes low priority or is usually pursued as the occasional do-ordie diet for an upcoming wedding or event. Unless this becomes a consistent activity, and an integral part of our lives, we will not get the benefits of high productivity that will help us reach our full potential.
As a teen and young adult, I went through massive emotional eating due to stress. As a result, before my tenth and twelfth class boards, when I was alone in the US for the first time, and during other such occasions, I would put on almost 20–25 pounds, feel crappy about myself and then go on crazy diets to lose weight. Over the last ten years, I have become super disciplined about my physical fitness.
I work out six days a week and do a combination of functional training, yoga, dance aerobics and evening walks. I stopped dieting as I saw it impacting my skin and made me look dehydrated and dull. For me, a few extra pounds are ok, but your face must radiate a healthy glow even without make-up. I have achieved this with a gluten-free diet and ensuring that I eat and sleep early on most days. Being a vegetarian and a teetotaller have helped. I believe in the power of Ayurveda and homeopathy to build a strong immune system. Eating soaked almonds first thing in the morning, having a cooling drink in summer, the power of turmeric, and such other small things in your daily routine can really rejuvenate you.
What I started really late is meditation. It is a must to detach and stay calm and positive. Given the number of changes a woman’s body and health go through right from periods to pregnancy to mid-age hormonal issues, it is critical to stay fit as this helps in maintaining work productivity. However, women don’t prioritize their health, don’t prioritize their fitness and don’t realize that investing in physical and mental fitness is as important as investing in good books or a good seminar to keep yourself productive and sharp!
At Emcure and other places, I have often seen women limiting themselves. They stop themselves from asking for that much-deserved raise or promotion during appraisals. They don’t promote themselves and their work enough.
Change this. Speak up more often. I have also seen many get defensive or emotional when objective and harsh yet well-meaning feedback is given. When you react strongly, it puts your manager on guard and you will lose out on the growth and fulfillment that comes from being a patient and open listener. However, you may not always agree with the feedback given and this must be politely yet firmly put across.
Let me share my personal experience on this. I have been told several times during my appraisal that I speak too loudly and that I need to speak softer; I speak too much and I am too direct. I did not agree with this as I felt that my unique personality (talking and joking) is what helps me break the ice and build bonds with my team and external stakeholders. This trait is unique to me and something I am proud of. As long as I am getting the desired outcomes, I don’t feel the need to change.
Firstly, we need to stop being in denial and accept that these statistics need to change. Second, we need to stop labelling and judging as a society. Third and most importantly, we need to have a more accepting support system for women. On average, Indian women perform six hours of unpaid housework a day v/s the average Indian man who puts in an hour a day. Can we have more men help out, more family support and better childcare?
Lastly, women need to be proud of the power of their voices. They need to speak up more and have more women role models who empower them to do all of the above. Kiran Shaw is one woman role model who I am close to and personally admire. She uses the power of her voice to support the right causes. While I was talking to a dear friend, Zia Mody, one of India’s most reputed lawyers and business leaders, we discussed how a couple of small steps can go a long way in ensuring we have more women at the workplace. Firstly, for every role, have your HR send you at least two resumes of women for every five that are sent in for that vacancy. Secondly, diversity goals should be built into KRAs of senior leaders. These direct policies and signals are important if we want to change the statistics.
So let’s all pledge to change these statistics and mindsets. This, indeed, is the beauty of the entertainment world and shows like Shark Tank India and I am so proud to be part of a show that truly showcased stories of courage and candour by women founders that touched our hearts and hopefully busted stereotypes and changed many mindsets along the way!
1) Get rid of the guilt: I often say that women are great at time management but terrible at guilt management. I feel it’s a mental disorder that we need to work on. A simple example: When I miss my child’s school event for a work commitment, I feel guilty. If I were to be a homemaker, I would have felt guilty about wasting my degrees. There is no right answer. Each to her own. Whatever your decision and your path, make peace with it and stop beating yourself up!
2) It’s okay to be labelled selfish: Women feel bad when they make time for themselves, their needs, and their dreams. It is important to take this time to refresh and rejuvenate one’s body and soul. If you take care of yourself and are happy, you will be a better mother, wife, daughter, employer and employee!
3) Ask for help and not permission: Women don’t ask for help. They wonder what ‘people might think’ or ‘they may find me incompetent, etc.’ But that’s not the case. Everyone should ask for help whenever needed. You will be surprised how many well-meaning family members, friends and colleagues are happy to chip in. You don’t need to be a perfectionist or superwoman.
4) Learn to listen to your inner voice: Trust your gut instinct. Take time to be in touch with your intuition and like Steve Jobs said, ‘Don’t let the voice of others drown your inner voice.’ This also
means that once we learn to trust our inner voice as our biggest teacher, we must learn to ignore labels and stop seeking external validation.
5) Don’t limit yourself: Women have a habit of blaming others, especially society. We create our own mental barriers and stop ourselves from reaching our true potential. Stop doing that. Dare to dream really big dreams.
In summary, take pride in being flawsome (awesome in spite of your flaws) and always remember my favourite line, ‘Be you. The world will adjust!’
Excerpted from The Dolphin and the Shark: Stories on Entrepreneurship by Namita Thapar with permission from Penguin Random House India.
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Image source: Namita Thapar and book cover Amazon
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