And They Hold Up Half the Sky


The legendary Chinese leader Mao Zedong had made a profound proverbial statement about women. He had said, “Women hold up half the sky “.

The Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist couple, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, borrowed from this statement to title their outstanding book: ‘ Half the Sky ‘ which  was published in 2009. This book is a passionate and persuasive account of women in the developing world facing poverty, oppression, violence and exploitation as also their breathtaking bravery and inspiring optimism. It concludes with a graphic plea for sensitisation towards gender equality with a ‘ fierce moral voice’. Narration of inspiring stories by itself is capable of  becoming a powerful tool for empowering!

And that is the focus of the blog this time.

A land mark book published recently is already making waves  through reverting write-ups, raving reviews and wide media attention. The book is titled,  ‘ 30 WOMEN IN POWER: THEIR VOICES, THEIR STORIES’. It is ably edited by Naina Lal Kidwai, executive director of HSBC and HSBC India Chairperson. She is a highly acclaimed manager and a distinguished banker, having held the prestigious position as FICCI president.  The book contains awe-inspiring autobiographical essays of 30 women achievers of India drawn from diverse  settings. The story-tellers include, to mention a few, Naina Lal Kidwai (HSBC), Chanda Kochar (ICICI), Vijaya Lakshmi Iyer  ( Bank of India ), Debjani Ghosh ( Intel India ), Sunita Narain     ( CSE ), Shereen Bhan, (CNBC-TV18), Mallika Srinivasan (TAFE), Shobhana Bharatiya ( HT), Kirtiga Reddy ( Facebook India)  and similar other illustrious women leaders.

In most of these stories, family is recognised to have rendered valuable  support. That includes parents, husband, in-laws and others. Mallika Srinivasan accords tribute to stern and disciplinarian approach of her father. Kirtiga Reddy remembers motivational comments of her middle-class-background mother. Vijaya Lakshmi Iyer credits her mother-in-law for unwavering  backing and consistent encouragement when tragedy of loosing her husband (40) in cancer struck her. And for the husband, Naina Kidwai puts it in a sermonising way:’ Choose your husband well!’. The  support system evidence goes on.

These women toiled unfailingly hard. They have weathered gender bias at home, in office and in society. Despite all that, they carried on in their distinctive style of working and demonstrated unbelievable performance. They harboured dreams, gathered inspiration, craved for accomplishment and cherished achievement. They cultivated proprietary ‘slag-hammers’ to shatter the obstructing ‘glass ceilings’. They define a ‘never say die’ warrior class of managers and leaders.

Are there any connecting themes that bind these power-packed stories of legendary women?

Yes, there are . And they are concluded as 6 generic principles in the book:  

1. Passion as demonstrated through innate willingness to give energetic push to cross high-wall boundaries.

2. Ambition to succeed that is defined by aspiration, vision, self-belief and confidence.

3. Humility: the  hallmark that emits  power and value and which is strengthened   by accomplishments.

4. Integrity: the paramount commitment that decidedly leads to winning  trust of the various relevant constituencies.

5. Scaling the way up through hard work and struggle, without taking recourse to tempting short-cuts.

6. Daring: to take huge failures in one’s stride considering them as stepping stones to achieve astounding success.

Do  these  six summarized qualities sound obvious? Certainly so. And that is the beauty, thus confirming obvious path for achievement  to all aspirants. Adopting  these SIX in a more effective fashion  is the one resolve I would like to make to-day.

What about you?

Author: 17f9fcfProf. Dilip Patel, Dean – Nalanda International Management School, Mumbai, is a Management Advisor – Counseling, Training, Consulting, and Research.

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