Is it possible to have both a successful career and a family? Anuranjita Kumar (pictured 4th from left) raised the questioned at a recent WeAreTheCity India (WATC India) event.
The ‘Invest in Me’ event was held in association with event partner, Marriott India and sponsor EY. It was hosted by WATC India Chair, Jo Gaglani, Deputy Chair (pictured 5th from left), Tejal Gandhi pictured (far right) and Mumbai committee member Anita Pawaskar.
Caroline Graham, Editor-in-Chief of WATC India (3rd from left), opened the event by asking the audience to consider the following: “What are you doing about your own career? Are you moving forward? Have you even thought about it?
“What am I doing for me? Not for your kids, husband, but what am I doing for me? How do I get to the next step?” She urged attendees to “Invest in yourselves.”
WATC India bloggers, supporters, contributors and members from across India gathered at JW Marriott Hotel, in Juhu, Mumbai to listen to Anuranjita Kumar, Managing Director and Chief Human Resources Officer at Citi South Asia, and the author of recently launched, inspirational new book, ‘Can I have it all?’
Speaking at the event Kumar said: “I speak as a daughter, mother, wife and as a woman. Do I have it all? I don’t know. I’ll let you read the book.”
Kumar has previously studied at medical school, however said it “wasn’t in my heart” so whilst home on a Diwali break she broke it to her parents that it wasn’t what she wanted to do. She change courses and decided to take psychology instead.
She said: “Not all of us are very sure about what we want to do. Why? Someone else told us our purpose to life and it’s not really your purpose. Choices are about making you feel happy.”
Kumar said she finished her studies and later married. She said she never considered giving up her career because she had become a wife: “Once I got married my journey was no different to anyone else is here today. Once married it didn’t strike me at all to give up my career. If I wasn’t happy as a human being I don’t think I’d be a happy spouse. No one else should define your relationship.”
Her job has taken her all over the world, living in India, Singapore, New York and London. Along the way she also had two children.
She explained the mobility issues of having children and a career, since her husband’s job also required him to travel and move internationally: “Sometimes it didn’t always go to plan and it was a case of who was moving first as it didn’t always happen at the same time for both me and my husband Sandeep. At one point I was in London and he was in Mumbai and we had split homes for one year. It was hard but you have to be very passionate and committed. If I had to make the choice again I would.
“You have to want it passionately and when you do everyone gets up to support you – parents, husband and children. One of my children, now 17, said to me recently ‘Mum I’m glad you didn’t give up a job you love, as I’d feel so guilty now.’”
She advised the working mothers in the audience that “it’s not about quantity of time but quality. You have to work through your support structure. You can’t be a super-mum, super-wife, super-daughter, and a super-employee.
“When you can’t achieve it all there is a sense of frustration. It’s how you define it and decide how you manage it. For example there was always one of us in Delhi, when the kids were on holiday, or if not my parents would come in.”
On the topic of maternity leave she said: “No one can prepare you for it. I took four months maternity leave. Most women are torn between personal and professional aspirations. My work had flexi-options for after maternity leave and there is nothing wrong with taking those options but I didn’t want it and I didn’t ask for it. However, they just assumed.
“My boss told me to do projects so I could go home early. I have a good support system in India and I knew how I wanted to raise my children, so I was very frustrated with this. I went to my boss and said if I’m leaving a child at home it had better be worth my while coming here. No choice is wrong, it’s a personal choice and what works for you.”
Kumar said when she worked in investment banking she wondered why there were not more women or a broader range of ethnicities in the sector: “Everyone was white male and over 45. However, some of those jobs required extensive travel and women struggle there. There are lots of challenges in those roles.
“Connecting and collaboration really works well and some of my best mentors have been men. My experience has been that people will throw anything at you even your gender. What I found was that women struggled with the managerial politics and not having the connections needed. Some senior women left because it was too hard for them and too tough.”
Her final thoughts to attendees were to find “the confidence to have the conviction to keep fuelling your beliefs. Marry right, you’re going to need the right partner and the right support.”