Hey woman, be yourself, don't try to be a man

Suma Nair, Vice-President, Head of Marketing, CNBC Cluster, CNN-News18, Forbes India, writes about her 20-year journey in the industry as a woman and what keeps her going

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Hey woman, be yourself, don't try to be a man

For some reason, what I do in my professional sphere comes to my mind first. I guess because I spend a lot of hours at work or then thinking about work, team, etc.

So yes, a marketing professional, consumer insights expert, content lover, believer in the power of brand and culture. A mother to a naughty six-year-old toddler and blessed to have a partner who is most encouraging in all aspects of life and career.

What have been my struggles?

In my 20 years of career, I have been most fortunate to work for organisations that have neither discriminated against nor given special privileges to women. There was never a question mark on my capabilities because I am a woman, nor was there any concession on the crazy deadlines or long working hours. The only struggle I faced was more of an internal battle. The struggle to prove to myself that I am as good as, or at times better, than my male colleagues. I would hesitate to say ‘no’ to some work or admitting that I didn’t have a clear understanding of a certain issue, lest it is seen as a weakness.

What really inspired me all these years are all the women around me; working with women who are knowledgeable, ambitious, who know how to navigate life and the corporate world. Women who have empathy, know how to handle teams, people, their issues and, sometimes, their tantrums too. Women who have interests beyond work are proud to embrace their feminine side and roles. Women who can talk dispassionately and try and solve a work crisis and then next minute talk passionately about their children, gardening and maid issues. The ability to change gears, the ability to compartmentalise, the ability to add lightness to an otherwise tense moment.

And the countless women whom I have met in the course of numerous consumer visits, who have a burning desire to have an identity of their own. Not every time it meant having a career but being able to contribute in some form to the household, no matter which part of India they resided in or which socio-economic strata they came from. Just that the self-awareness is mind-blowing.

There is this one incident that is etched in my memory forever. A couple of years ago, my son was running a high temperature and had mild convulsions. I had just got back from the hospital and the next day had a very critical presentation to the Managing Director of the company on the ‘state of women’ in our country and the brand identity route discussion, in spite of the emotional upheaval I was facing at that point. I could get my thought back on track only with the help of my husband. At that point, I realised what gave me the necessary strength was the fact that a man was standing right behind me, my son whom I wanted not to just take care of but inspire too. The presentation was a super hit show but my takeaway was about resilience, people in your life (incidentally men) and the intangibles. Those are the learnings I also carry in my professional life as the thumb rule.

It has kept me encouraged and kept the fire in my belly burning bright to date.

My only two bits to my fellow women co-workers and team is simply ‘Just be yourself, don’t try to be a man’. What we get to the table is far more nuanced, has empathy and beauty attached to it. Something the world desperately needs, now more than ever.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

CNN-News18 Forbes India Suma Nair CNBC Cluster