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Women in Leadership : Neelam Manwani

Editor's note: You can follow Vineet Nayar on twitter at @vineetnayar.

I’ve often wondered about the book ‘Nice girls don’t make the corner office’ by Dr Lois P Frankel. The author cautions women that their careers could get sabotaged by “girlish behaviour” learned in childhood, such as working non-stop without a break, worrying about offending others, backing down too easily, explaining too much when asked for information or “polling” friends and colleagues before making a decision…

Just as I get concerned when women are stereotyped in the workplace, I worry when women in turn typecast the work environment and how they must change to succeed in it.

And then I look around at my own organization HCL with a sigh of relief. Looking at all our successful women leaders completely oblivious of such hypotheses as they go about their daily routine, I can quote Bollywood director Raju Hirani’s popular line without hesitation and declare: “All is well.”

Today I would like to profile one such woman leader in our organization. A woman who loves what she does and successfully integrates this passion and her own character into her work. While the narrative is about one, it is reflective of the many wonder women who work in our midst and who make our organization a better place with their unique nature.

Neelam ManwaniNeelam Manwani was born in Hyderabad. In her formative years, she moved cities with her family every two years as her father worked at a transferable job in government. These transfers took her across India and the Middle East and gave her an opportunity to get to know a new city, live a new neighbourhood, go to a new school, and make new friends with every move. In the beginning, Neelam didn’t quite like leaving her comfort zone of friends so often. In hindsight, however, she believes it provided her with exposure and, therefore, adaptability to different environments. Most of all, it made her the person she is today.

At work, this grounding makes Neelam a fearless team leader. She challenges the status quo and adapts quickly to all things “new”. Having joined HCL as part of campus placements 15 years ago, she has worked with a varied set of technologies and customers; made horizontal and vertical movements – widely encouraged and accepted at HCL – and grabbed new opportunities that came along the way.

Yet the feisty young lady is also very sentimental and has always placed great value on maintaining relationships – despite her frequent moves through childhood. As a woman, she believes she is better equipped at building and nurturing relationships with her peers, direct reports and teams. She is convinced that she can be successful only if each one of her team members feels valued, appreciated and important, and has worked hard at achieving that.

Such emotional intelligence has only worked to Neelam’s advantage. Ever since her early years, her sentiments were paid back in equal measure with ready support forthcoming from colleagues and managers, whether it was for a critical project or simply for commuting while working late. On her part, rather than giving directions all the time, she tries to be supportive and encourage team members to take the lead, discuss options with her before arriving at a collective action plan.

Neelam is of the opinion that women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition! Fiercely independent, she believes that women are much more versatile, dynamic and adept at multi-tasking, which comes to them naturally as they play the multiple roles of executive, mother and spouse.

Neelam has lived this belief at work. Life does throw in many a challenge along the way but she works through them with resolve. Her motivation to think beyond the normal allowed her to evolve as an individual and kept her going even in tough situations.

According to her, no one can stop women from succeeding, but only if they believe in themselves, dream big, work smart and hard. “Listen to your heart. Be sure. Be strong. Stay focused. Keep up the spirit of a woman,” says she.

Now that you’ve had the opportunity to know one of the many amazing women leaders we are privileged to have at HCL, do you think Neelam is successful because of her unique qualities as a woman, or despite them? I invite you to write in about what you feel about women in leadership. Don’t you think they add an inimitable value to our workplace?

This post was originally published on Vineet Nayar's Scrapbook.

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ellen-weber's picture
Thanks for your courage and generosity to write on a topic that may one day become lived reality Vneet:-). How refreshing!

Until we support more women leaders, we miss out on the amazing proclivities that follow when men and women (in balanced numbers)  both bring their unique brainpower to the table. We know much more about the differences That research and wisdom will only work in our favor if it's acted upon though.

Imagine if the MIX found courage to balance each leadership category represented here with good men and women leaders. Imagine if webinars were led by as many of each gender. Some would argue that women have not had resources or mentors to prepare as many great leaders as they might otherwise. Others want men moved aside to make room for women who have been excluded. I say that brainpower comes from the balance of male and female brainpower - in balanced numbers - and with support because of the great facilitation skills they learn to work together:-)

Your fine research and writing gave me courage to throw out this 2-bit proposal. Others likely have far better ideas to get the most from men and women as innovation leadership forward:-) Thanks for the inspiration!

paola-de-vecchi-galbiati's picture
‎"Neelam is of the opinion that women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition! Fiercely independent, she believes that women are much more versatile, dynamic and adept at multi-tasking, which comes to them naturally as they play the multiple roles of executive, mother and spouse.

Neelam has lived this belief at work. Life does throw in many a challenge along the way but she works through them with resolve. Her motivation to think beyond the normal allowed her to evolve as an individual and kept her going even in tough situations.

According to her, no one can stop women from succeeding, but only if they believe in themselves, dream big, work smart and hard. “Listen to your heart. Be sure. Be strong. Stay focused. Keep up the spirit of a woman,” says she.

I'm a woman, and I agree with Neelam: cooperation and collaboration, relations care, love working, long terms' impacts are recognized as 'female qualities'.

Men and women can have these 'female qualities': please note these are also the milestones of new sustanaible economies... the future is female?

I don't think so... but we can combine our gender differences, for instance adding in a male organization (i'm thinking about Italian situation...) a female approach.
 

Geert Hofstade, in his "Cultures and Organizations: the Software for the Mind" defines 'female and male countries in the world' starting from the differences between man and women approach to: the power, the family, etc.

 

Neelam's example confirms that we need and we can open us and include differences.

 
with my best regards,
Paola
maureen-kelsey's picture

Everything in Mother Nature’s realm is coextensive with everything else in the cosmos and interlinked in slumber on a physical and psychological “webbing” ever created by her. Even to see this basic truth takes an Eros-consciousness, since this interconnectedness in the undifferentiated, unifying, ever-bonding oneness of the Eros mother principle. To recognize it outside ourselves, we first must notice and understand it inside ourselves.

 Individuals, male or female, who are entirely in the grips of Logos principle (logic, left-brain dominated), displaying no developed Eros whatsoever, are often involved in unrelated, authoritarian, cruel and relentless power plays with an emphasis on “law and order”—qualities that typify one-sided, austere patriarchal societies.

 Whenever the earthy feminine principle, the Great Mother goddess, is rejected and not honored and respected for what she represents, she takes her revenge on oppressive patriarchalism by appearing negatively and destructively. She is a major archetypal force to be contended with, whether we like the idea of a feminine deity or not.

If we do not allow her to express through us the Eros principle of instinctual friendliness, bonding and oneness with all creatures and plants and the Earth herself, she manifests in our psyches with a vengeance as compulsive and enslaving materialism and addictive consumerism, which really is a display of how much Logos power we can yield.

 When we do not cultivate a healthy Eros-relatedness with the things of the feminine materials world, relations with her turn sour, and the things of the earth become prey to the power-mongering, greed, manipulation and control of a one-sidedly developed Logos principle.

Consider women entering professions dominated by men were initially expected to dress and act like men. The only persona they were allowed was a masculine one, but as long as a woman tries to come on as a man, she is going to be “inferior”. It is the same situation as a “feeler” trying to act like a “thinker” or vice versa. Women sporting masculine personas might be more acceptable in “masculine” careers, but one wonders if they will ever be accepted as women.

It need not be so, and as we see from this article, things are progressing in a better direction; still, it is not enough.

It is important to remember that feminine is different and complementary to the masculine; it is not inferior, since “difference” does not imply inferiority or secondary station.

The rift between head and heart manifested itself since Classical Times and spread virulently and evolved to the present psychic stance and views of rigid hyper-rationalism that calls itself scientific, a term intended to make us believe in its infallible all-knowingness.

 This shortsighted mentality is solely based on extraverted sensation and thinking and left-brain dominance. Thus, the unconscious non-rational sides consequently strike back with vengeance—amorality, violence, chaotic relationships, destruction of our ecology, drug and alcohol abuse....

 Neelam’s message to women--“Listen to your heart. Be sure. Be strong. Stay focused. Keep up the spirit of a woman,” says she.—is a message for men as well. Sorry, nature made you this way. Please start integrating this!

It is through the marriage of these two sides of our psyches / brains (balance) and aligning ego with the Self through the individuation process that we can ALL be all that we can be.

This is a message for all sectors; for example, how many woman leaders are part of the G20?

So, imagine how much better, healthier and balanced the world could be if there were more balance in leadership by women!!! 

 Men—make room for us; you need us. No need to be afraid; we are very friendly.

(ref. Carl Jung, Eugene Pascal)