Inside Edelman is an ongoing series that spotlights our colleagues who are doing extraordinary work across our network. This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreaktheBias and throughout the month of March, we’ll be highlighting strong voices from across the network who are championing women in the workforce, re-defining what “success” means and committing to a more gender equal world.
What does the word “success” mean to you?
It’s very personal—success is achieving goals and progress that I have set for myself; not the ‘societal milestones’ set by others for me as a woman or as a professional.
What advice do you have for women with regard to finding “success”?
Don’t let someone else define it for you, and don’t be shy to ask for what you think you deserve.
Have you ever experienced bias in your career? If so, how did you overcome it?
I have, when I was just starting my career more than two decades ago. I was the only woman on my team, and I often wondered if I was overthinking it because such issues were rarely discussed openly back then. Ignoring it was usually the only way to deal with it. But as awareness grew and these issues started coming to the forefront, it became evident that talking to someone I trusted, or an ally, was a good starting point. That helped me in building my confidence. And then, ultimately, addressing it head on when I saw someone else experiencing bias, or when it happened to me.
What steps do you think businesses need to take to #BreaktheBias?
I think it needs to start at the top. The most important is to accept that bias exists—cultural bias, gender bias, unconscious bias, all sorts. It is our responsibility as leaders, to set the tone, be consistent and repetitive. Create an environment where people are not afraid to talk openly if they are experiencing bias. It needs to be in our people agenda with clear measurement and KPIs. And ultimately, an integral part of the culture code.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t underestimate yourself and always trust your instincts—if something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. Most importantly, set your priorities straight, and don’t forget to check in on them often. And reorganize them if you have to; they will keep changing.
Bhavna Jagtiani is Chief Operating Officer of Edelman India.