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BW Most Influential Women: Suman Mishra - Balancing CEO Duties & Motherhood

Suman Mishra has worked extensively in developing & implementing strategic initiatives across multiple sectors and functions in the Mahindra Group, making her one of BW’s Most Influential Women

Suman Mishra, Managing Director & CEO of Mahindra Last Mile Mobility

Excerpts:-

Q. What are some of the high points of your journey and lessons learned that you believe have shaped the leader you are today?

My leadership journey has offered countless valuable lessons, but these three stand out as particularly impactful.

 I've found that clarity of purpose empowers effective decisions. Staying true to the organisation's vision acts as my North Star, guiding me through complex situations.

 After establishing a clear and compelling vision, it is critical to prioritise ruthlessly. Particularly for a small and growing organisation it is essential that everyone is aligned on the priorities.

 Finally, we are only as good as our team. It's so important to create a nurturing environment for our teams, so they feel empowered and courageous to drive towards the collective outcomes.

Some of the high points of my journey are:

 From a business perspective, securing investment from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) was momentous. This partnership with IFC reflects the shared values and ambitions both entities have demonstrated in their commitment to sustainable, inclusive, and clean mobility solutions. This enabled our company to accelerate the green transition of the automotive industry in support of India’s climate targets.

 The second significant highlight was being the first company to secure the Automotive PLI certificate, solidifying our commitment to domestic manufacturing.

Q. How do you drive diversity and inclusion, gender parity in your own organisation?

We've championed gender equality with merit-based selection, robust maternity and childcare policies where M&M leads the industry, and a pursuit to create an inclusive culture where everyone is heard and included.

 Supporting mothers: Robust maternity leave, remote work options, adoption leave, childcare facilities, and cab reimbursements empower expecting and returning mothers.

 Development: Training, coaching, and leadership programs are open to all, regardless of gender.

 Inclusive culture: Fostering a safe space where everyone feels heard and valued, regardless of background or gender. Diversity policies and bias elimination are key.

 Wellness: Regular health check-ups, expert sessions, 24/7 doctor access, and gym facilities promote work-life balance.

Our objective is to build an inclusive and empowering environment where everyone can thrive and contribute.

Q. Share one anecdote of a challenge you faced, particularly for being a woman working professional, and how you overcame this.

In my career, I haven't faced overt bias. There have been instances of micro-aggressions, however my focus on delivering results and impact, and developing a rather thick skin has made this a non-issue.

My personal struggle has been managing the competing demands of family and work. The real challenge has been mastering the art of balanced prioritisation between being a CEO and personal life. This hasn't been about superhuman multitasking, but about strategic choices and ruthless prioritisation. Some days demanded leaning in hard at work, leveraging family and support networks. Other days required taking a back step to fulfil family needs, trusting my team to carry the baton. It's a continuous jostle, where you have to let your passion and instinct lead you forward.

My family has always been my unwavering support system. Their understanding and shared responsibilities empower me to not just survive but deliver my best at work. My greatest satisfaction has been building a sustainable career as a CEO and mother, maintaining the energy and passion to contribute meaningfully. It's a path paved with balanced choices, driven by ambition, passion, self-care, and the love of my family.

This journey isn't a competition, but a shared experience. I am deeply grateful for everyone who has supported me, including mentors, allies, and cheerleaders, both men and women. Their support has been invaluable, and I continue to draw on them as I progress on this journey.

Q. What is your advice to regulators, decision-makers and industry captains on how to grow women in the workforce and senior leadership positions?

The increase in electric vehicles offers a unique chance to attract women from tech and software sectors to the automotive industry. Here are some possible strategies:

a) Work-Life Harmony: Implement family-friendly policies like extended maternity leave, childcare, and flexible work arrangements. Mahindra's 5-year maternity policy is a powerful example.

b) Diverse Talent Pool: Set clear goals for female representation in interviews and actively seek qualified women. Go beyond traditional recruitment methods to reach a wider pool.

c) Mentorship & Support: Build strong women's networks and mentorship programs connecting them with experienced professionals for guidance and career development.

My learning has been that more than policy, culture is the key. Creating an environment that values diversity, respects everyone, and empowers them to share their voices and ideas makes a company an attractive place to attract the best talent to your company.

For aspiring women, it's time to leap! Instead of "I'll try" women should embrace "I will make a difference." Don't let fear hold you back. Today's millennial women are fearless, and I have no doubt they'll be the future's strongest leaders.

Suman Mishra is the Managing Director & CEO of Mahindra Last Mile Mobility

BW Auto World's 'Most Influential Women' is an annual initiative to celebrate the leadership spirit of women captains in the automobile sector in India.



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