“Self-awareness and confidence is essential in making ‘different’ into a constructive positive” Janhavi Dadarkar CDir, Founder, Academy for Board Excellence

Janhavi Dadarkar believes her Indian culture has been pivotal in enabling her career success as both a corporate lawyer and board director. She now combines her legal expertise with a strategic outlook to help organisations ‘achieve their objectives’ and is CEO of the organisation that delivers IoD training.

When asked to do this blog as a ‘role model’ my instinct was ‘why am I a role model?’ But I was at an event where people were asked what they want to achieve and an attendee (much older and senior in a global organisation) said “I want to be like Janhavi”.  Reflecting on this, it occurs to me, I am in a place of privilege and it is important to share how I got here.

For me it starts with mindset. As a woman of Indian origin, I learned early on that self-awareness and confidence is essential in making ‘different’ into a constructive positive. I could cite lots of challenges I faced from balancing cultural asymmetries to blatant prejudices. Rather than let this hinder me, I became adaptive, resilient and aware of what I have to offer.

Second, I surrounded myself with the right people. As a lawyer in a top-tier firm, transactional work was unpredictable, so having kids and doing international work was gruelling. I enlisted my family’s support. In western society the kind of family support I had isn’t inherent so we have to look at providing better support. My bosses were supportive too and trusted me to work differently, though I had to work harder to get the same billable hours as my peers.

After a decade, I became a partner in a boutique UK-Indian firm focussing on western companies moving to India and vice-versa. This gave me greater control over my timetable and opportunities to put my concepts into practice.  I began working with boards and training at the highest levels of organisations.

This highlighted the importance of defining success and your own pathway as in UK, success is defined in narrow terms – often in capitalist terms with an American outlook on role models and business norms. We therefore, miss out on more universal viewpoints from places like India, amongst others. For example, the concept of ‘duties’ over ‘rights’ is integral Indian philosophy. It helps me retain perspective no matter how well I am doing in one aspect of my life. I am part of a bigger picture – a mother, wife, daughter but also a leader, non-executive and follower in work and at home.

No-one can ‘have it all’ but a better balance is possible if we redefine what success means with a holistic view that puts value on more than wealth accumulation and traditional stereotypes.

I enjoy my role in the boardroom, it enables me to be more strategic and assist organisations achieve sustainable success. When I joined the IoD, I was approached to be an IoD examiner. Now, I am CEO of the organisation which delivers all IoD’s accredited training.

Our courses equip directors with the deep understanding of governance and the knowledge they need to lead organisations. It still surprises me that directors are not required to undergo formal training considering the level of responsibility. Undoubtedly, this training gives confidence, and we notice this particularly in women who feel more comfortable about taking on high levels of responsibility if they are well qualified.

If I had to advise women embarking on a career now I would say, define what success means for you, make sure you have a good support network and find an organisation which shares your values – or start your own!

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