Pooja Manek
Guest Article

Lessons I learnt from the mentors I could not have

Pooja Manek, creative director, Dentsu Webchutney, shares the wisdom she has gathered from some incredible women on how to own her full worth.

It is the 25th of February, Friday. I am typing this while being in my sleep dress on my couch. Hair messy. Skin messier. If not for COVID, I would have worn my favourite lip colour to work. Not to say that you can’t wear lipstick while WFHing. While you are at it, I would recommend wearing a bold lip colour in the shade Cindy Gallop. Yes, you read that right. My icon and relentless dose of inspiration, Cindy Gallop just launched her own shade of lipstick in collaboration with Bossy Cosmetics (fitting collab I’d say).

For the uninitiated, Cindy is the founder and CEO of MakeLoveNotPorn and IfWeRanTheWorld, a keynote speaker and also a business consultant.

What do I love more about this collab apart from the apt name and lip shade? That it simply stemmed from a tweet.

Exhibit A:

Lessons I learnt from the mentors I could not have
Lessons I learnt from the mentors I could not have

Once Cindy tweeted about looking for a collab, she not only found a female-founded cosmetic brand, but also, the founder is a woman of colour and, the brand’s philosophy & principles are in line with Cindy’s!

Now I have never really had a female boss or mentor in my 8-year career in advertising. And I am certain that it is not even a shocking revelation considering that only 29% of Creative Directors across the world are women and less than 5% of CEOs are women. So naturally, I have relied on role models from across the world (such as Cindy), detailed reports, countless articles, talks and interviews to be able to learn how to own my full worth. Here are some of the lessons I have learnt, and the wisdom gathered from some incredible women, presented to you on the day when we are going to be inundated with special discount coupons and free drinks.

Why I love Cindy’s Bossy cosmetics example is because it screams—You are only as successful as the shots you shoot. As women, we have only always been a little too shy, a little too unsure, a little too apologetic or a little too self-doubting. We are all casualties of our limited thinking. We need to shed our collective imposter syndrome to not just work better in the industry but also make the industry work better for us.

We all work towards championing the discourse of diversity but here is a business case for that. A study reported in Harvard Business Review found that a business group’s collective IQ went up significantly when women were part of the team. Yet despite the incredible value that women have, we too often second-guess that value and hold back from saying the very things that most need to be heard. So, the next time you hire, don’t just hire to tick a quota. Know that hiring women not just bridges the gender gap and pushes women forward but also makes absolute business sense.

I was once watching a Ted Talk by Robin Hauser, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, where she was talking about an extremely interesting trap women face—The Likeability Dilemma. The video highlights how a successful woman is often penalized by society when she reaches the top of her career and violates the so-called "gender norms"; standards for which a woman must be: kind, loving, helpful, supportive, and respectful. In fact, the problem is that very often the qualities we appreciate in leaders, such as self-affirmation and determination, go against these gender norms and therefore, it is more difficult for a woman to feel appreciated and supported.

This implicit bias restricts us from reaching our full potential. I would say don’t give a f*** about likability. Instead, focus on your work, your ambitions and on building yourself into a smart, compassionate, competent and assertive leader. Not everyone’s going to like you as you rise to the top. But that is just implicit bias. Not you.

And lastly, here is something that an author and activist Marianne Williamson once said that stuck with me: "There is nothing holy in diminishing yourself.” When we talk ourselves down, we only dim our light and dilute our ability to make things better.

So, instead of accepting flowers, chocolates, hampers or a social media post tagging and celebrating you, accept only what you deserve—pay parity, an inclusive, safe and sustainable work environment, the promotion you have been too scared to ask and the raise you are due for.

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