Celebrating International Women’s Day in India
Celebrating the women that make FCM soar
Discover Noami's story, what she thinks about women in business, and her inspiring advice for young professionals
Head - Account Management - FCM India
Tell us a little bit about your career history and how you got into your position at FCM
After Graduating in Hotel Management, I began my first job in hotel sales then moved on to working as a flight attendant for Air Sahara. After I got married I became a stay-at-home Mom for almost 10 years in the Kingdom of Bahrain, then later took some part-time tele sales roles to get myself back in the workforce. When I returned to India it was tough to land a job with the change of geography and having a career break. In 100 applications I only landed one interview but I did get the job, as a Business Development Manager with a social business in rural tourism. I eventually moved to Cox & Kings where I was for a short time, because I got cold called for an interview at FCM. I walked in just to see what FCM is about, and I fell in love with the vibe of the place! I was placed in the Sales Team as a BDM. Now, I’m responsible for the fabulous Key Account Management team in India.
India is recognised as a socially conservative country, where change is slow. How can this be overcome to ensure more gender equity in leadership positions?
The challenge of fewer women in leadership is universal, and not specific to India. This country is a melting pot of geographies and cultures and things are changing very rapidly. Women are far more aware and ambitious. Lots of organisations have made changes in their policies, and we have many who are hiring and recruiting women talent pool in tier 2 and tier 3 cities as a strategy. Today, women-only managed factories and restaurants are rare and make headlines, but at 50% of the population it is just a matter of time this becomes commonplace. So many decisions are now made by women. It just makes great business sense to have women on your board, in leadership and have that strength on your side at all levels. When it makes business sense, it will translate downwards to all strata of society. Economics rules :)
Being a female, did you overcome any challenges as you moved into a leadership role?
The biggest challenge was to work on being open to receiving feedback (no matter who gave it). As a female, and a born people pleaser – this is still very hard, and it is a constant work in progress. We are always told, ‘it is unfortunate that women have to work 2x harder to grow’. Accepting the unfairness of this was another tough one for me. I have focused and put in the work, and I have been very privileged and to have a great personal support system, and to have worked with leaders and mentors who invested in my growth. I have also had to raise my hand, taken risks, take on additional responsibilities.
I will keep asking for what I want. It’s not always easy, and harder for women, but then everything is, isn’t it? If the efforts are there, and the results are there, it is then a matter of WHEN and not IF.
Have you seen the landscape for women in leadership change in India over the last 20 years?
Drastically! When I was growing up, a well-meaning relative asked me to sign up for a secretarial course (typing & shorthand) and the goal was to then find a good boss in a good company. I was all of 14 in 1991 and I told her, why can’t I become a boss? She laughed. I am sure when a 14-year-old girl in urban India says the same thing today, no one will laugh. In fact, she will be encouraged, and every support provided. There are so many more role models now. Thanks to the internet, even rural India is touched. Young girls are aspirational. So many sports success stories. It is a fantastic time and place, and I am so excited for what the future will bring!
International Women’s Day’s focus this year is #EmbraceEquity, how do you ensure equality between genders in the workplace?
As Chairperson of Womenwise chapter of FCM India for the last 3 years, the team has been trying to change mindsets and bring in awareness in various ways. We worked on ‘Women Rise’ last year – a mentorship programme for 15 high potentials. This year we worked on ‘Project Udaan’ – a future leadership programme for 30 Individual contributors to help them work on their leadership skills.
The feedback from participants has been amazing! However, it’s not enough. In this area, I will never feel I am doing enough, and it does not stop till there is equity across the board.
Do you have any advice for upcoming professionals?
- Focus on out-performing yourself every day, at work or on personal front. No need to compare to others. Set your own standards. There is no other sustainable road to success.
- Create secondary avenues of income, be it a side hustle or investments. COVID taught us we are all expendable. Women in particular have so many hobbies – look to monetise!
- Make time for your loved ones. Laugh or cry with them. They are your true wealth.
- Read! Best way to learn through other’s experiences and have years of compressed wisdom between few pages of a book.
- Learn to accept yourself as you are, yet continue to work on changes you want to make.
- Always be kind – also to yourself :)