I have the privilege to be a coach to the returning women participants of SPJIMR’s Post Graduate Management Programme for Women (PGMPW), an 11-month full time accelerated management programme for women returning from a break to their professional careers.
Bright, capable, hard-working, determined, multi – tasking and committed. That’s how I would describe each of them. Along with these wonderful qualities there are two other aspects which often stand out – a hesitation to leverage their relationships and a meek confidence in presenting who they are.
Let’s start with the hesitation. At home women are able to ask their neighbour for a cooking ingredient which may have fallen short and reciprocate when their neighbour needs something. However they are unable to translate this mutual support scenario and thinking to their work place. One of thebeliefs behind this seems to be that leveraging their network is somehow equal to ‘using’ another which is not good. Many also harbour an apprehension of being ‘used’ similarly at a later date and fear being in an awkward spot.
I had once asked one of the women participants I was coaching if she was in touch with her previous bosses and colleagues. Although she had not been in touch with any of them for 2-3 years she did have their mobiles numbers and had even saved the names of their children. I checked with her if a message from any of them asking how she and her family were would be offensive to her. Obviously not she said. Then why would she assume that a message from her would be disconcerting for them! She started by sending greetings to her previous boss and his family mentioning names of his children.
Every small start is a worthy beginning. Quid pro quo makes good business sense. We are all resources and not valuing ourselves so, leaving any resource untapped, is a thought up for review.
Leveraging our network of relationships is a powerful way to keep oneself abreast of the environment and participate actively in it as well. It is strategic when two people can be of relevant assistance to each other as they grow and their sphere of influence gains strength.
The other underlying thought mentioned earlier links to the meek confidence with which we present ourselves. Returning from a break has an element of self -doubt and women are unable to see themselves as a worthy resource. An addendum to this is the need for many women to seek perfection or wait to feel 100% ready.
All of us who invest in our development learn that we are good enough today… and there is always scope to develop and grow further. We are actors on the corporate stage. We have to make sure that we are seen and we are heard. How can we keep waiting to be noticed in this busy often self- serving and competitive environment? As the saying goes, ‘If we don’t blow our own trumpet it will be used as a spittoon ‘, not brazen and loud but not muffled either.
Yes, there may be fewer women role models when it comes to exhibiting a well -founded confidence or leveraging their network with panache. But then I ask how many role models are there who have invested in rigorous study to reskill and up-skill themselves as the participants of PGMPW have?
PGMPW participants are these select few women who have overcome the shackles of their dated beliefs, of family compulsions, of societal ideologies, of corporate ceilings. It is an admirable and commendable leap. They have become role models in themselves and serve as an invitation to all professional women on a break aspiring to return to their careers to make a similar leap of faith.