Case Studies and bedtime stories

The EMBABE Diaries

Incredible India Part 2 – Incredible Women

on October 16, 2013

It’s been over a month since I came back from India and it’s safe to say I’m still processing the experience. I don’t want to go all “Eat, Pray, Love” here, but the experience was completely out of this world – from the people I met to the conversations I had to the sights I saw, everything was unexpected, thought-provoking and, well, incredible. I’ve promised myself I will focus on incredible women in this post, but before I dive into that let me set the scene here, courtesy of my very talented colleague Niels Chabot. I was there when he took these photos and I can vouch that the colours are for real – I still get goosebumps when I think about that sunset.


The backwaters at Alleppey

The backwaters at Alleppey, in Kerala



























Now let me tell you about the amazing women I met in India (in chronological order):

1. Super-cool LBS professors

Celia Moore and Lourdes Sosa are the two wonderful professors who were our coordinators (as well as cheerleaders and life savers) during the India International assignment. I have yet to fathom how they managed to keep up with all our different projects – and where they got the energy and patience to deal with all of us, especially during “never-ending Thursday” when we prepared our presentations well into the night. Lourdes, an Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, focuses her research on “technological discontinuities”, market disruption brought on by radical changes in technologies. Celia, whose website I invite you to visit here, is an Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour. In her research, she investigates the unanticipated causes and consequences of corruption and unethical behaviour. She has written a lot about a very topical phenomenon called “moral disengagement”, defined as “a process that enables people to engage in negative behaviors, from small misdeeds to great atrocities, without believing that they are causing harm or doing wrong”. I don’t know about you, but I for one think that this moral disengagement thingy may have had quite a bit to do with all sorts of recent nasties, from the fall of Enron to the financial crisis!

With the Agastya programme coordinators - I'm the one with the boring clothes :)

With the Agastya programme coordinators – I’m the one with the boring clothes 🙂

2. The Women of Agastya

I have already told you about Agastya in a previous post, but I really wanted to say how much I enjoyed meeting Agastya’s programme coordinators – super-smart, highly educated, cosmopolitan young women who use their considerable talents and energy to help bring science to life for millions of children across India. Great inspiration, especially since no. 1 on my “Post-EMBA dream list” is replicating the Agastya model in my own country.

3. Apurva Purohit: India’s answer to Lean In

My greatest holiday fear is running out of things to read (which is probably a sign that I should be more adventurous with my holidays). So, as the International Assignment was drawing to a close and I prepared for a week of travelling around Kerala (nicknamed “God’s own country”, and with good reason!), I popped to the bookshop in the shopping mall across from our hotel. And I simply had to get this book: “Lady, You’re Not A Man. The Adventures of a Woman at Work“, by Apurva Purohit. The back cover describes it as “a smart and incisive book abut the challenges that face the contemporary Indian woman as she tries to juggle work and home”. In addition to smart and incisive, the book is also hilarious and refreshingly honest. This bit (which, of course, you may or may not agree with) hit fairly close to home for me:

“Unfortunately, feeling or not feeling guilty is not a choice you can make, since guilt comes along as part of the territory of being a woman. The only choice you can make is to decide which guilt you want to live with. The guilt of compromising on always being around for your kids and family, or the guilt of wasting that potential and that education?”

Mrs Purohit, a media industry CEO, has strong opinions and does not mince her words, but her views are balanced, well argued and humorously presented, which is a great way to start a conversation about women in the workplace. There are parts of the book that I had trouble accepting, such as the advice that, while female subordinates can simply be told what to do, male subordinates need to “be managed more artfully, by allowing them to believe that they are in full control of their destinies”, or the (hopefully joking) prediction that “men will have to morph into women if they want to survive in the new world; we simply need to be patient”. Most of the book, however, I found very relevant and thoroughly enjoyable – and while I haven’t actually met the author, it turned out that my book was autographed, so I’ll use that as the excuse to include her in my list of “amazing women I met in India”.


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