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Cover Story
As Shatter-Proof as Ever!
Women have broken a lot of Gender Barriers in Society, But The Glass ceiling is not Exactly in that List Yet
Issue Date - 17/03/2011
Divya Gugnani is a former Goldman Sachs analyst and venture capitalist, and currently CEO of Behind the Burner and Send the Trend. Gugnani discusses her views on the traits and conditions that tend to hold women back. “The glass ceiling still exists. I don’t think I would have ever made it to the top of Goldman Sachs. I think the history and precedence there is too significant. I could also never have seen myself as the managing partner of my VC firm. On the other hand, so many women are starting successful companies. The entrepreneurial path was the better one for me. Some women need to work on projecting confidence, and embracing a habit of taking action rather than over-thinking things. When I was a venture capitalist, I saw many women get passed up because they didn’t present enough confidence. I also saw a pattern of women taking a longer time gaining expertise before striking out on their own. Men tended to jump into something with confidence even if they hadn’t done it before. Postponing action to gain expertise can prevent you from succeeding. It’s better to think critically about what skills you lack and then partner with other people to fill in the blanks” says Gugnani

So, is entrepreneurship for everyone? No, says Sabina Nawaz, an experienced executive coach and educator for CEOs who brought her successful approach on leadership development to Microsoft’s top echelons for fourteen years. “What’s important is that a woman is true to her DNA. When she understands and values her own priorities, and she’s willing to let go of the things that don’t matter as much to her, then she will be more successful. Some women are by nature entrepreneurs. They value the flexibility and autonomy but are also prepared to work long hours. The corporate world, by contrast, may be male-dominated in terms of numbers, but it offers consistency and a support net which striking out on one’s own doesn’t offer.” And even in corporations, Nawaz adds, the glass ceiling is only there if you think it is. Women in high-profile positions in the corporate world may have worked harder and smarter to get where they are, but they still network and help one another to achieve their goals.

Alla Khramtsova, VP, Business Development, Intenium and former CEO of Absolutist Ltd, a Ukraine-based gaming company, provides another view on the glass ceiling. “I think the presence of a glass ceiling keeping qualified females from top management positions depends on the industry and the mindset of the company owners, as well as the culture of the specific country. For example, in ex-USSR countries, where maternity leave often continues for two to three years, promotion through the corporate ranks can be more difficult for women. However, some companies understand the value that women bring to an organization and will promote them anyway.”

The biggest challenge for women, Nawaz says, whether corporate or entrepreneurial, is to nurture and preserve the “white space” in the activities of everyday life. “Female entrepreneurs and executives often don’t have an off switch,” she continues. “Once women are through with the business portion of their day, they often have other obligations, like family, fitness, friends and community service. Many times they can’t flip the off-switch because it isn’t realistic to do so. Yet the white space, or that space of exploration and playfulness, is the state of mind which gave them great ideas for businesses in the first place. The trick is to find that white space in the whirlwind.”

The overwhelming advice of numerous influential women interviewed for this column is that women should go for it. Examine your motivations and goals, they say, and make sure they’re a true reflection of who you are. Then prune your priorities and partner with others – and if you do what you love then the money will follow.

Coordinated By : Angshuman Paul

Shaping The Brands
It’s Lazarus’ Powerful Vision and Success that has Earned her Top Awards and Recognition in her field, and not The Novelty of being a Woman at The Helm

We live in a world that has immensely talented professionals and as such poaching is a common fad, and so is moving from one job to another to grab better opportunities. It all seems logical so far, but there is one woman in the corporate arena who defies this logic. Shelly Lazarus, Chairman and CEO of the global advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather (O&M) Worldwide, is currently running her 40th year in O&M and has no plans of quitting as of now, nor has she thought of moving out in her last decades at Ogilvy.

Today, at a time when women comprise only 12% of corporate officers in the Fortune 500 list of biggest companies in America, Lazarus (one of a handful of women to graduate from Columbia University with an MBA in the early 1970s) has successfully carved a niche for herself and is one of the most powerful executives not only in the world of advertising, but in the business as well. And it all started as a sign of the slow, but progressive change in attitude toward the glass ceiling, when Lazarus replaced Ogilvy’s first woman CEO, Charlotte Beers, in 1997, making O&M the first firm in the industry to have one female CEO succeed another.

While Charlotte had got the energy back into the company during the 90s, thereby restoring momentum, what Lazarus did was that she established the principles that were meaningful to clients. “In the decade of 90s, my job was to grow the company, get it focused on new technology, new media, and organise work to serve clients globally. To epitomise, it was all about getting all the pieces integrated,” Lazarus tells B&E. In the 90s, while Ogilvy Direct was dealing with one set of clients, Ogilvy Advertising was handling the creative duties of a different bunch of clients altogether. Even Ogilvy PR was a completely separate unit. It was Lazarus who took up the task of integrating them and making people think about the brand as an organising principle. And that’s when Ogilvy launched the 360-degree branding (a process which involves making a significant impression on a consumer at every point of contact between that consumer and the brand), an initiative that took O&M to new heights.

In fact, the integration of all the functional departments at Ogilvy helped the organisation in more than one way. Firstly, by the end of 2000, Ogilvy was earning more than half of its total revenues from the non-advertising business. Secondly, by the time everybody else woke up to the merits of 360-degree branding, Lazarus and her agency had already mastered the field and were prepared for a smooth transition to the 21st century. It was that one decision that helped O&M post a double-digit CAGR (over the last 10 years) in revenues from its non-advertising businesses.

Further, it was Lazarus who roped in American Express as a client for O&M in the 1990s, and convinced IBM to consolidate its scattered advertising operations into one account at Ogilvy. Lazarus is also lauded for redefining what brands stood for and the campaigns she did for Dove and IBM, wherein she shunned the idea of using pencil thin models in the former and redefined what IBM stood for with ‘Smarter Planet’ campaign, are paradigms in this regard. Lazarus feels that the response to such campaigns have been tremendous simply because companies are not looking at advertising, they are looking at ideas that can shape their brands and that’s exactly what she has been doing all this time. Emphatically, at that, she states that O&M Worldwide has grown over 400% in the last 40 years and while the scenario was grim during recession, O&M has managed to gain single-digit growth in many parts of the world (India, China & Brazil being the most vibrant markets), in the last two years.


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