Punita Sinha On How It Was To Achieve Excellence In A Patriarchal Setup
An entrepreneur, a financial advisor, a chemical engineer from IIT and much more, Punita Kumar Sinha dons many hats. A believer in achieving excellence, Sinha has worked in the investment management and financial market space for over 25 years now. And would you believe that she actually studied to be a chemical engineer from IIT in 1985 and that IIT has even honoured her with ‘Distinguished Alumni of the year’ in 2012? She was only the third woman to get the award in the history of the prestigious institute.
“I remember that a lot of companies said it was because of safety and security and that they did not even have facilities like toilets on the plants for women. They felt that there were so few women and if a woman joins and goes to the plant, then the men will get distracted and they won’t be able to focus on their work”- Punita Sinha to SheThePeople.TV
FROM CHEMICAL ENGINEERING TO FINANCIAL SERVICES
When she graduated as a chemical engineer, Sinha had no idea what was in store for her. She thought of beginning her career as a chemical engineer, but soon she realised that there was no job for a woman in that profession. “Many companies in fact had a criterion of ‘no woman allowed’ while calling for interviews,” recollects Sinha, who is also the founder at Pacific Paradigm Advisors, an Asia-focused investment and management consultancy firm. Shocking as it seems now, it was quite normal then.
COMPANIES WON’T HIRE A WOMAN CHEMICAL ENGINEER
“I remember that a lot of companies said it was because of safety and security and that they did not even have facilities like toilets on the plants for women. They felt that there were so few women and if a woman joins and goes to the plant, then the men will get distracted and they won’t be able to focus on their work,” she recalled.
Sinha added, “There was not much opportunity for women in chemical engineering in professional roles. Only the R&D roles were available for women. I worked in Larson and Toubro in R&D department and then I got my full-time letter at Engineers India Limited, but in R&D again. However, I really felt that I did not want to stay restricted in the R&D role and I wanted to broaden my horizon and in those days, about 80% of our class went to the US and so I followed that path,” shares Sinha about starting out as a chemical engineer and making a shift to US to eventually pursuing a career in the financial sector.
INTRODUCTION TO THE WORLD OF FINANCE
She did not quite know what awaited her in the US and she enrolled herself in a Master in Management Information System course at Wharton University. “I started liking finance a lot, so started specializing in it. I loved finance because there is mathematics involved in it,” she said.
Sinha shed light on the west’s view on accepting women in the workplace. She clearly remembers her own subjugation in the foreign country on the basis of gender and nationality.
“It was interesting because there were not many Indian women in financial services at that time. So when I was applying for jobs, people had never seen a resume of an Indian woman. And while there was a lot of resistance in bringing someone who was so different, also the people who did finally hire me were the people who I thought were wonderful to work with. And these people were actually embracing the globalizing world and diversity,”
“Jayant is a fanatic for cleanliness and being organised, so he was doing more of the cleaning and organisation at home. And I loved my Indian food, so I would cook”
DISTRIBUTION OF WORK AT HOME
Talking about managing family and home with her husband, MoS Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha and herself, she revealed, “We both contributed, whoever could do whatever they could. There were no established gender-based chores, that I had to do cooking or anything like that. Jayant is a fanatic for cleanliness and being organised, so he was doing more of the cleaning and organisation at home. And I loved my Indian food, so I would cook that while he wasn’t much bothered about that,” revealed Sinha about her personal life.
PERILS OF BEING A SUCCESSFUL WOMAN FROM A SUCCESSFUL FAMILY
And finally, we talked about how it feels to be recognized by her husband’s name in the media even after achieving over two-and-a-half decades of excellence in her work. She said, “It’s a bit annoying at times. You always wish that people would not take it for granted that a woman’s success is only because of the family or the husband. And that they start focusing on the individual and their own accomplishments. But you have to realize that it will take many more decades for people to reach that emancipated state of mind. One has to learn to ignore it.”
Feature Picture Credit- Infosys