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Successful Corporate Women - What sets them apart?

Smriti Krishna
Smriti Krishna
Senior Vice President and Head-HR, SET India
Smriti has a rich background in Human Resources & has been recognized for driving many leade... more>>
At the outset, let me qualify that my comments are solely based on my personal opinion, personal experience and observation of successful women around me.   

I think successful women have five things in common :

1.   They do not dwell on their gender – they just get on with it.

2.   They leverage their natural "female" instincts - Using their intuition and empathy they are able to quickly assess the environment around them, build relationships with people across levels and they are not afraid to show their sensitive side when required which makes them "human" and likeable.

3.   Their natural inclination is to be perfectionists and they can be very tough managers. However, they have learnt to trade their need for perfection and detail for the sake of the bigger picture. They understand that getting a couple of big ticket items mostly right is wiser and more beneficial to the organization and all stakeholders than getting a number of small things exactly right.

4.   They work extremely hard and put in long hours but never verbalize how hard they work. They may also work in a non traditional manner outside the 9 am to 6 pm schedule. They may start their day much earlier or log in to their email after their kids have gone to bed. They are committed to their job BUT they do not feel the need to verbalize their commitment. They recognize that others may stay late at work because they start work late, take multiple breaks and waste a lot of time during work but these women have a life outside of work and they get their job done, meet the people they need to meet and go home when they have to. Their commitment just shows in the quality of their work.

5.   However, they make an effort to socialize and show up for all key Corporate events putting in the late hours where required. While networking does not come naturally to a lot of women, they make an effort to get out of their comfort zone and network at these events. To them this isn’t about “partying” but about being relevant and important to their organization. They recognize that they are in a position which demands their public presence. They know their obligations and don’t shy away from it. They also typically do not hesitate from having a good time when they are out at such events.

6.   They have a great support system at home that allows them to be who they are at work. Their work life balance is not about maintaining strict timings for work and home on a daily basis. It is about making home sacrifices sometimes for work and work sacrifices sometime for home. They have figured out which are the non negotiables on the family front and these could be that Sunday lunch with the parents, children’s concerts, examination times etc and they try not to miss these core events on the home front. (However, every successful woman I know still feels a little guilty about the time she spends away from her home and they realize its about getting comfortable with you they are and that they can never be a 100% in both places at all times)

7.   They are an expert an something. It could be market knowledge or functional, technical knowledge and their expertise is known by a wide set of people

8.   They are solid at Execution i.e. They get things done in a no nonsense manner

9.   They are NOT all about work. They are knowledgeable about many topics and are able to hold a conversation with a diverse group of people.

10. They learn from their mistakes and are open to feedback. They are true to themselves and do not make an effort to behave like a man or be someone who they are not. They are comfortable in their skin and work hard at having as much balance in their life as possible – kids, husband, family, team, manager, colleagues are all part of one harmonious circle and they make a conscious effort to make it all work together most of the time.

I am sure there are many other characteristics that define successful women and not all of the above may be true of all successful women. As I mentioned at the outset, the above is just my opinion and an attempt to simplify a very complex topic that has generated and I am sure will continue to generate a very active debate for as long as there are men and women competing in the same environment.
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