Does it bother you when people attach a ‘woman’ prefix to your every achievement? A friend once told me that you have to remember, that women who do well, and I am not talking about myself, have to be mentoring and inspiring other women. When you take that into consideration, then you stop being worried. You are proud of being a woman, so it’s ok. If they recognise you only for being a woman, then yes, it’s not nice. But they recognise the institution, the team. I always look at the fact that me and my other women colleagues typify the institution. ICICI is really an equal opportunities employer. It so happened that women have come up significantly in last several years. The face of corporate India is changing, you see more and more women up there... it is moving towards become an equal opportunities country. It is a recognition of your womanhood, your company, your teamwork. Me as Lalita Gupte am insignificant. It is about recognising womanhood ... And I think in five years it will go away. This is an interim transition period... If in any way it serves to encourage other women, I am fine with it. You started your career three decades ago, in a field like finance, how do you look back at what you have achieved? I don’t look at it as if I have done something great. I happened to be at the right place and the right time. Women in finance? It is a very exciting area; it keeps your adrenalin going year in and year out... If you work in organisations that are stimulating and catalytic in wanting you to achieve beyond the limit you have set for yourself. It touches all that is happening in the economy. You touch people, industries... You change people’s lifestyle. You are trying to finance the poorest of the poor, create capacity... you are really touching every aspect of India. Women love working with people, so it works well. There are lots of exciting opportunities, outside of banks as well. Even here in Qatar, I am very impressed with what I have heard and what
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has been done here... in terms of education and social development. You think working women means the end of the extended family? On the contrary. We have gone back to families helping their daughters. It hasn’t alienated families. With two incomes, you are definitely able to get a better standard of living for your family. However, it is an individual decision, whether to work or not. It is both financial and about being interested in your career. As a working mother, how did you cope with the juggle? I have been married for 35 years, and I have two kids (32 and 25) and when they were young, I was working my way up. But in a way you spend quality time with them. And children of working mothers are very independent, very mature. Working women have a different horizon, and contribute to the development of their children in a different way. Quality of time is important too. Are women losing focus of their larger role, as they get sucked into the corporate rat race? What is the single most common mistake women tend to make, in their ambition to succeed professionally? I feel working women are extremely well focussed, dedicated and hard workingotherwise they would l not have been able to succeed in a competitive corporate world, otherwise. It is up to individuals to work out their own work-life balance. Every woman has a way of working out her work-life balance at a level and to a degree that meets the needs of her home and family. I believe the family is not merely a responsibility. So it is an instinctive response to want to be with them. But I also believe working women are less nagging mothers and on the contrary they turn out to be more efficient and devote quality time to the family. They are classic advocates of teamwork at home and at work. They learn to cope with pressure better and adapt more easily. Fortunately, for working women in India, the support system
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Leading a new gener ation
She is the Joint Managing Director of India’s largest private sector bank – ICICI Bank; and is a pioneer in her field. Lalita D Gupte began her career in 1971, and rose quickly within the organisation, being elevated to her current post in 1999. She was instrumental in transforming ICICI Bank from a primarily term lending institution into a technology led diversified financial services group with a strong presence in India’s retail financial services market. Disarmingly simple, Gupte’s business acumen and dedication to her every commitment, comes across immediately, as she spoke to Woman Today about being a woman in finance, and coping with the demands of family and career. And about being a role model to thousands of women in her country.

is well in place with family and domestic help. Hence, it is a lot easier to cope with dual pressures of work and home. I must add that this does not in any way mean that the mother who does not work is in any way less efficient or less caring or less loving. Do you think it is easier for women to climb the corporate ladder now? Women climb the corporate ladder based on their performance. A prerequisite for is, that the employer has to ensure that the environment is one that facilitates equal opportunity for all to succeed irrespective of the gender and promotion is based on meritocracy What was your biggest challenge? The toughest bit was getting the work life balance right while my kids were growing up. And frankly this is an issue which faces men and women alike. I was lucky to be working in ICICI Bank which has always been a fair employer and very supportive. Also earlier, there were every few women in executive management across Indian Industry. However this is not the case with ICICI Bank, there was/is a very conducive atmosphere for growth irrespective if gender. Hence, it has never been an issue and I cannot really complain much. Who was your biggest cynic? Even the criticism has been very beneficial and so I look at it positively and as an area of improvement. I have been fortunate to have a lot of support from family, colleagues and some very good friends Which regions have made great strides in improving the lot of women in business/corporate world? I feel it is difficult for me to comment on the western world as much of my work experience has been in India. I do however see that Asia, and particularly India, has made great strides – we see many more women in senior positions in the workplace – be it the Banks, Corporate sector, NGO sector or the Government

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