The Times of India, Mumbai
8 March 2011
Rajashree Birla is the chairperson of the Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development. She does not believe that men and women face different set of challenges and her advice to women is that a work-life balance can be maintained through focus and determination. Birla is a director on the boards of major Aditya Birla Group companies like Grasim Industries, Hindalco, UltraTech Cement and Aditya Birla Nuvo. Excerpts from an interview:
What were the turning points in your life as a woman, in particular as one who has inspired growth for the family business?
My engagement with our Group is focused on our Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development. We are engaged in helping improve the quality of life of the poorer sections of society. The turning point in my life, I would say that was setting up an orphanage – The Aditya Birla Centre for the Welfare of Children – in Mumbai, almost 30 years ago, with my husband Adityaji. It was a dream come true as right from my childhood, I wanted to open an orphanage, where we could look after destitute children.
A woman leader is invariably faced with more responsibilities. Apart from just managing the workplace, she has to face challenges of kids, managing the house, etc. How easy or difficult is that? What's your advice to women on work-life balance?
For women in India it's truly a tough slog. Even though it's not easy, it is possible to maintain work-life balance. Both, the office front and the home front call for tremendous focus and dedication. It's a lot of juggling. I am much encouraged when I see today's young men lending a helping hand in the household chores. I find a huge relationship evolution underway. Having said that, even as women grapple with this issue, I think in the core set of responsibilities, being a mother first, should be the priority.
Some say women do not necessarily make good bosses. Do you think that is misplaced?
This is a blinkered view. We have a number of women bosses in our group and their teams are delivering great results.
Do you think women face a different set of challenges than men when it comes to breaking the glass ceiling?
I don't think so, particularly when the company is a meritocracy. The only things that matter are— the values, competencies and unbridled passion. These are hygiene for both, men and women. If these are in place, then the sky is the limit. At our group, 11% of our managerial executives are women and if I have to include the supervisory category it jumps up to 18%. And the number is growing year-after-year. I recall reading a research report by Grant Thornton International, which said that 24% of senior management positions globally are held by women. Soon there may come a day when the glass ceiling will be just a myth.
Padma Bhushan conferred on Mrs. Rajashree Birla
Dr. Pragnya RamGroup Executive President, Corporate Communications & CSRAditya Birla Management Corporation Private LimitedAditya Birla Centre, 1st Floor, 'C' WingS.K. Ahire Marg, WorliMumbai 400 030.
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