By Debjani Roy, Chief People Officer, SRL Ltd.
International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 worldwide, commemorating the political, social and economic achievements of women. Over the decades, the objective of Women’s Day celebration has evolved and embraced culture and ethnicity to emerge as a celebration of appreciation, respect and love towards women.
At SRL, we sincerely believe that a woman in herself is a full circle. She is complete in every sense, and has inside her the potency to fight for whatever is right! There’s something very special and admirable about a woman who challenges the status quo in a man’s world. It takes a certain grace, strength, intelligence, fearlessness, and the nerve on the part of the woman to never take no for an answer, and create a space for her own. Above all – as an organisation, SRL cherishes the qualities that a working woman professional brings to the workplace – namely empathy, compassion, balance, perseverance, intuition, honesty and sheer hard work.
On this International Women’s Day therefore, SRL chooses to celebrate the spirit of Women Power by showcasing some of the Organisation’s woman achievers under the column SRL Wonder-Woman. For the next 12 months – we will bring to you stories about woman colleagues, who have overcome obstacles with the help of grit and resilience and made their name and place in the professional world by demonstrating sheer competence and expertise in their chosen fields.
Dr. Swarna Mandava, currently Head- Cytogenetics at SRL’s flagship reference Lab at Mumbai is our first Wonder-Woman to be featured in this column. Born and brought up in Hyderabad, Dr.Swarna obtained Ph.D in Genetics from Osmania University, Hyderabad. Thereafter, she did her post-doctoral fellowship at the Purdue University, U.S.A. in Molecular Biology. After returning from the US, she joined the Institute of Genetics and Hospital for Genetic Diseases, Hyderabad as a Senior Scientist. Later, she joined the SRL Ltd., Mumbai as Head-Cytogenetics in the year 2003. Besides being a hard-core professional in her chosen field as well as an accomplished author having more than 50 published (25 from SRL) works to her credit, Dr. Mandava also is a wife and daughter in her personal life, maintaining a successful home at Hyderabad. Working long distance at Mumbai, and being a weekend home-maker at Hyderabad has done nothing to dim her joy for life, her love for creating success stories for herself and family and her overall positive attitude.
Here’s Dr. Swarna Mandava’s take on what it means to be a Wonder-Woman, with so many hats to juggle with and so many miles to travel.
As a Woman Corporate professional, how would you describe SRL‘s culture towards women employees?
SM: Very Professional and Cordial.
In my view, SRL’s senior management well understands the sensitivity around women situations, and supports women employees by having policies in place that enable requests towards compassionate leaves, time-off for emergency family situations, collaborative working, peer group support etc. SRL is known to be a ‘safe haven’ for women employees, and I have felt no different.
How long has your journey been with the Company, and how would you describe it in 3 simple words?
SM: 14 years and 6 months.
Three words? …….Great, Wonderful and Excellent.
What does work-life balance mean to you?
SM: To me, work-life balance means the need to justify both responsibilities equally – at work as well as at home.
As the Head of the Department, I need to take care of the critical work that I do, and also ensure optimal output from the Team. It also necessitates day to day supervision of activities as well as taking prudent decisions in the overall interest of the organisation that I represent.
Also – as a wife, a mother and a daughter, my responsibilities towards all at home are no less demanding. Coupled with that is the fact that I stay away from family for 5 days in a week, 365 days of the year. Which automatically brings about its own share of pressures, tensions and stress from time to time. However, having an adaptive and understanding family, and an equally understanding workplace have been the cornerstones of my success.
Do you think in our society, woman have more responsibilities when compared to men?
SM: Yes, no doubt about it. Her responsibility cycle has no breaks. With a career to further and a home to nurture – both at the same time, a woman does have her hands full.
The pressure on Woman – what do you ascribe it to – societal norms & expectations or to the women’s individual quest for perfection.
SM: Definitely, to the Woman’s individual quest for perfection.
Our society has set norms for the woman –with expectations and dictats, which are thrown at her at every stage, demanding compliance to age-old roles of being the perfect home-maker. At the same time it is a tremendous pressure to finish the task at work place in this present day competitive world. And the woman is left trying to make a success of both.
Can you share an anecdote that describes how challenging it gets for a woman sometimes to balance between work and home?
SM: Oh…..it was really challenging when I had to leave my daughter behind at the age of four, to go abroad for my post-doctoral fellow-ship. Today – it seems all a dream.
How is SRL supporting you in achieving your goals?
SM: By providing best possible working environment and the freedom to be yourself at the workplace.
SRL has supported me throughout, by allowing me to work for four days in a week at Mumbai, which helped me spend more time with my family at home in Hyderabad. I will always be thankful for the same, and wish SRL well.
Lastly, what does Women’s Day mean to you? What relevance does it have in your life?
SM: It is really wonderful to have a special day for women where they are being acknowledged and honoured for their achievements in different areas. It is an honour for me to be selected as the first amongst all the Wonder-Women on this day.