When Debanjali Sen, 40, went to a producer in Bollywood a few years back hoping to work on a film project, she was shockingly reminded of her age. The producer told her that he cannot offer her a job because as a woman in her mid-30s, Sen’s career would end in two years when she gets married and “settles down.” The producer went on to give his expert take and said that no matter how accomplished a woman is, she always needs a man for stability. Many aspirational women have been in Sen’s place and they all have felt humiliation.
The notion of climbing up the ladder seems to be different for women in our society. While men can go on with their lives with a single focus of doing well professionally, women are often reminded of their duties in the household. The result of this is seen in reports about deceasing number of women in workforce. In Indian societies, women have had to fight different battles in order to advance in their careers and not just get stuck with managing the household. Debanjali Sen is one of the many women who did not allow men to demotivate her. She is a self-made woman who owns her own production company. In order to grow more, she started to prepare for GMAT exam during the pandemic. Sen suffered the great loss when her mother succumbed to COVID-19.
She describes the tough time as a “lonely ride.” With her father’s support, she continued to prepare for the exam and got in Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (IIM-A). The one year Post Graduate Program in Management for Executives (PGPX) at the institute provides professionals from diverse industries and cultures rich learning experience to grow in their fields. Sen shared a piece of advice for other women who want to grow professionally. She said, “Everything is possible. Just don’t listen to what people are saying just because they could not achieve what they wanted to just go all out. “At the institute, Sen met many women like her who inspired her with their journey.
PGPX IIMA Women Share Their Experience
Ati Alok Kumar, 29, is a professional chef. When she started to work in big kitchens wearing the white attire, she found herself to be the only woman among 150 chefs. She describes the industry to be “notorious for women.” Much like Sen, Kumar also had to hear people making up her marriage plans. During the pandemic when the hospitality industry took a hit, Kumar decided to upskill and enrolled herself in the PGPX course at IIM-A after facing many setbacks.
Explaining why she chose to pursue the program, Kumar says, “I’ve achieved a position in my career where I felt that I’m just repeating all of the learnings that I have had so far. There was nothing novel that I was doing. I could wake up in my sleep and robot, I could have carried out my 14 -16 hours worth of work and everything. That ingenuity and that creativity that I longed for is the reason I joined the very profession that I chose. It wasn’t there and that is when I realised that I need to learn skills that I can apply to not only in one particular industry but in multiple sectors.” Kumar comes from a progressive family where women have never faced hurdles while advancing in their careers. She says, “My father and my mother, who have stood their ground despite of societal pressure to let me chase my dreams at the pace that I wanted to.”
Architect Vrienda Raizada, 33, started earning very early in life as she had to support her sister and her mother. She worked for 12 years during which she took on the role of consultant, project manager, landscape architect. Raizada’s priority was professional commitments which often led her to miss out on her personal life. Unlike what society would like us to believe, women too want to advance in their career like men, even if it comes at the cost of missing family time. Even though Raizada had to hear negative remarks about herself over her homemaker duties, she continued to choose herself. When she had to lose out on a big offer during the pandemic, she decided to pursue higher education and reached IIM-A like Ati Alok Kumar and Debanjali Sen.
She says, ” I was doing very well for myself and I decided that if I have to move on to the next steps and climb up the ladder, this [PGPX] would be a great kickstart. It was just taking a step back, deciding and reimagining and learning what was missing because to go forward in life, you really need a certain amount of training, a certain level of formal knowledge about certain topics in our general understanding, which you will get eventually with the work experience, but this kind of training is actually required to be hands-on to not every time look for alternatives and solutions there.”
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Raizada also spoke about what organisations can do to help women upskill themselves. She said, “One thing that organisations can do is promote young leaders and they can have their internal programs. I’m not saying just make reservation for women, but encourage them to participate in such programs. Each of the organisations have a lot of female centric programs. It’s about how it is reaching to the last beneficiary. That’s important and there needs to be more engagement and involvement. if we work together and we push this whole idea then only change can be seen. They barely can drive it to a certain level, but as collective group, if you push the whole idea in the community to encourage young people.”
The PGPX course has enrolled a record number of female professionals at 33. Debanjali Sen while talking about the group of women in her program says, “It’s a very dynamic batch of women that we have. They come from different, different professions, some of them are mothers, they’re really restarting their career probably after a long break and across ages, they’re not stopping. Nothing is stopping them. Their families have been quite supportive. We have great examples here and it’s very motivating. It keeps us going and we are really quite united as a female group out here and we are always there for supporting each other. “