SPECIAL INTERVIEW – Dismantling the Myth of Why Women Can’t Have it All 0

As part of our ‘Women in HR’ special interview series, we want to highlight the personal stories, professional challenges, and career aspirations of women leaders in Corporate India. In this story, All Things Talent speaks to Madhavi Lall, Head HR at Deutsche Bank, as she shares how her female perspective helped her in becoming an empathetic and successful leader, why we need to create a culture where people from all backgrounds feel included, overcoming gender barriers, and her advice to women on balancing both work and family.

Many years back, when we were discussing the extension of maternity leave to six months, most of the men on the team were unable to appreciate just how much of a difference it would make to female colleagues. I was able to help them understand how difficult it is for a mother to leave her three-month-old infant at home and come to work.

    Madhavi, how has your rich experience of 30 years across different industries and in diversified functions helped you define your leadership path? How do you think your female perspective contributes to you being a successful leader?
    As a woman, I am able to effectively put forward the female point of view which has helped in gender inclusion becoming a part of the overall agenda and ensuring policies are aligned to attract and retain women in the workforce. For example, many years back, when we were discussing the extension of maternity leave to six months, most of the men on the team were unable to appreciate just how much of a difference it would make to female colleagues. I was able to help them understand how difficult it is for a mother to leave her three-month-old infant at home and come to work. We ended up rolling out a six-month maternity leave policy for our female employees back then.
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    As a leader who has been empowering and transforming individuals for decades, how do you ensure that your workplace provides equal opportunity in the true sense?
    While women constitute more than 50 percent of the workforce at the entry-level, their numbers and their progress dwindle drastically as they move up the organisation. Women tend to take a break or opt-out of work altogether after a few years of working, so we have to fix that. We need to create a culture where people from all backgrounds feel included. At Deutsche Bank, we have built awareness around unconscious biases and how to manage them, reviewed our internal policies to offer fair treatment and equal access to opportunities for all, integrate diversity and inclusion strategies in recruitment, training, performance management, and leadership assessment and last but not the least, ensured we keep measuring outcomes.
    What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?
    Coming from a family where both genders were always treated equally, it took me some time to realise that I was probably losing out on some opportunities at the workplace owing to my gender. This happened early on in my career and I worked very very hard to overcome some of these obstacles. The most critical barrier I faced was that of not being able to network over informal get-togethers, as I prioritised my family. Fortunately, I got the opportunity to work with some of the best inclusive leaders who helped me along my journey.
    Any advice on how women can develop a long-term career plan? Whom do they talk to? Get advice from?
    I would say – Stay the course, don’t give up! Be vocal, talk about the help you need – do not expect or assume that people will know. Talk to senior women leaders, your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your friends. Take in all the advice, but make your own decisions. What works for one person may or may not work for you.

“I would say – Stay the course, don’t give up! Be vocal, talk about the help you need – do not expect or assume that people will know. Talk to senior women leaders, your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your friends. Take in all the advice, but make your own decisions. What works for one person may or may not work for you.”

    Is it (still) necessary as a woman nowadays to decide between career and children, and what advice would you give to young women in this regard?
    In my opinion, it need not be an either/or. Today, there are progressive companies that help women balance both. What one needs to do is decide what one really wants. If you choose to be a career woman, you may not always get to be that mother who knows things like what chapter is currently being taught in your child’s class. And that should be okay if you have made that choice. Once you have decided that you want a career, find people who can help you with support at home. I am not saying it is easy but it is doable. I went through many moments of guilt (I still do at times ;)) when my son was growing up but it all worked out. I am glad I stayed on!
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Head - HR, Deutsche Bank India  Madhavi Lall has been the Head HR at Deutsche Bank India since May 2015 and has more than 30 years of work experience primarily in Human Resources. She has also worked with companies like Accenture, Standard Chartered Bank, ABN Amro Bank, Colgate Palmolive and HCL Hewlett- Packard & GlaxoSmithKline. She graduated in Mathematics from St. Stephen’s college and MBA in HR and systems from XLRI Jamshedpur. She has also completed a Leadership management course from the University of Oxford. Madhavi was conferred the “Women Leadership Award” by the jury and Council of Board Members of the Institute of Public Enterprises-BFSI in 2010. She has been conferred the Distinguished Alumnus Award by XLRI in 2016. She is Chairperson - CII Indian Women Network (IWN) – Western Region and Member- CII National Committee

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