Tell us a about yourself, your background and what you do currently
I was born to a middle class family in India as the middle of three daughters. I went to school and college in Delhi before studying to become a chartered accountant. I was very lucky that, unlike in general society, my parents believed in educating girls and allowing us to choose our careers. Education was incredibly important to my father and in fact one of the biggest pleasures in his life was seeing me become a chartered accountant shortly before he passed away. I started working for EY 20 years ago in July 1994 and did everything from book keeping to tax and advisory. As the firm grew, I began to deepen my specialism in the area of employee taxes and human capital focussed on employee mobility related issues. I now lead the Human Capital Tax Practice for India. In addition, I am the lead partner for Diversity & Inclusiveness in the EY India Practice.
It is by coincidence that the year I joined the partnership it was a landmark year for EY as the firm gained its first four women partners (three home grown and one direct hire). It was at this point that the firm had the leaders to take ownership for the women’s agenda – not that it wasn’t a priority before – but with women partners it became easier to focus and to understand and take corrective actions to encourage women to stay in the firm. At that time, it was at the senior consultant and manager level where we lost most of our women. It is one of our biggest achievements that statistically we are much better at retaining women at this level now. We still lose women, but now a couple of years later in the journey. We also see more and more women aspiring to get to the top which gives me a huge sense of achievement.
Tell us about any initiatives you are currently working on
I am very excited about the EY initiative “My Life” – a program which aims to provide EY professionals with the flexibility to help in achieving balance between work and personal lives. Under this initiative we have launched various programs including flexi-time arrangements, extended maternity benefit, part working arrangements, telecommuting, adoption leave, paternity leave and day care centers.
I also lead our Women’s India Network (WIN) which is in place at all our locations and run locally by either a woman partner or a senior woman professional and supported by the HR team. WIN acts as a platform to showcase role models and leaders of the firm both from within India and international offices. Apart from this we also invite various successful women belonging to different walks of life, to come and share their success stories with our employees. Capability building and health and wellness workshops for our employees are also conducted as a part of the WIN network.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
My biggest challenge has been my own inhibitions, my self-imposed dos and don’ts of what I can and can’t do and my aspirational deficit.
What has been your greatest achievement personally?
Getting to where I am today has been my biggest achievement but I look at this philosophically – not everyone has the same opportunities in life. It’s been a combination of the right place, right time and God has been very kind helping me to get here. I know it’s quite stereotypical for women to look at external factors for their success but I believe it’s a combination of all of these things.
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?
What I am doing today is all consuming – good or bad I can’t see myself doing anything else!
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
To know that my father would be proud of me was a big inspiration by itself and inspiration also came from the presence of my Spiritual Guru who always blessed me with – ‘You will do it. Go for it ‘– then success itself and what it entails was an inspiration. Ultimately, the objective is to be happy and to be rewarded with success for what I do happily is great.
In my office I also keep two cuttings – one called ‘Divine Design’ (author unknown) and the other is ‘The big if’ by Rudyard Kipling. Both provide another way of viewing the challenges and different paths that our lives can take and provide me with an inspirational pick me up.
What does the future hold for you?
If I’m honest I never planned what I have achieved today – and yet it has been beautiful to date. So que sera sera – I’m never one to plan so far ahead. I want to be able to stay in this role for as long as I can and see what doors open next…