Mums Who Lead: Reshma Ramachandran

Reshma Ramachandran is a Chief Transformational Officer at a Swiss based Adecco Group. Her role involves directly overseeing some 400 colleagues and by virtue of her role in transformation she influences some 31 000 employees in the company

She’s also a mum of a nerdy 14 year old boy, so for most of us who still have this bias that mothers can’t handle leadership positions –  we find ourselves wondering how can does she do it? However for Reshma, being a woman of colour, also comes with additional challenges.

”For as long as I can remember, I have been a ‘diversity’ poster girl.

Sometimes, a double diversity hire as someone once put it. I was someone who looked good to be in pictures so you can meet the diversity numbers.”

 

What have been your challenges as a working mum in a leading position?

The challenges are not because I am in a leading position, the challenges are as a mom who works, you try to make it all and do it all. Thankfully, I am not the primary care giver; we have an equal marriage and my husband takes equal and sometimes more responsibility as parent. Early in the days of motherhood, there was a lot of calendar management we had to do – for example, both my husband and I could not travel the same days or week. 

Have you ever had to prove yourself better than your male counterparts?

Well that has nothing to with being a mom. As a woman of color, who is also a mother, yes of course you have to work at least 3 times more than your male counterparts to just get to an equal playing ground. sadly getting to an equal playing ground does not guarantee anything 

 

“I am different, but not incompetent.”

 

Do you struggle with mum guilt?

I do still struggle with mom guilt. The days I work from home and have some breathing time in between, my teenager and I do small talks. And then there are days where I don’t get to do any small talks because I am on calls, meetings or traveling. and then I’m riddled with guilt because I’m not there and I wonder what if he wants to have that little chat with his mum. 

How do you manage work-life balance and home responsibilities?

The best career decision I made had nothing to do with career – it had to do with choosing the right spouse. My husband is an equal partner and we share the home chores as well as parenting responsibilities. It is not easy, however, it’s better than having to do it all alone. This is sadly the case for many  mothers who work. We have family times, especially on the weekends and the are really sacred. 

What did you learn about being a good leader?

Being a good leader is easy. Being a good leader consistently is hard. Leadership is best tested when you are in a crises, when there are deadlines that aren’t met, when experimentation fails, when you don’t hit the numbers. My best leadership lesson is from being a parent. You cannot command and control you can only set the context, create competencies to act on the context, and mentor and coach when the action fail the context.                      

What would be the ideal work culture or organisational structure for working mums?

Flexible working has to be truly flexible. Flexible working does not mean that you don’t go to office and just work from home. It means that you can still take your kids to the dentist, miss or reschedule a meeting and still get your work done. An organization culture that is truly diverse, starts with respect, inclusion and creating belonging for employees, especially parents. 

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