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Women in Leadership series, in partnership with IWD 2018

Ashwini Karandikar – Global President at Amnet

Ash Photo

As Global President of Amnet, Ashwini is proud of the talented and diverse team of people that work for Amnet which she has helped to establish and grow. Seeking diversity and inclusion is something that she values and it shows. Having been born and brought up in India, lived and worked in the U.S and travelled widely around the globe ever since. She has seen a “mosaic of possibilities of what it could be and what it should be”.

She has also experienced what it shouldn’t be early in her career. Where she worked in environments that were less open to diversity and focused on “men showboating about their success” then women feeling they should emulate men in order to be successful.

“Valuing inclusion is the responsibility of the people at the top” but requires “everyone to sign up to it.” For Ashwini, it’s a given that the people who work for her will have different needs. It’s her goal to allow people to be as good as they can be by fostering a culture within which their needs are met so they can then meet the challenges of making a business successful. As she rightly says, “woman need support not sympathy”.

Her approach to leadership should be the goal of many companies who are still grappling with creating a diverse environment. Don’t make a fuss about the things you need to do to create and support a diverse culture and accept they are necessary to be successful as a business. At Amnet, they celebrate and embrace different backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and more. This creates a safe place for employees to flourish in their careers which in turn leads to high productivity and a successful business. “We value the individuals, their passions and talents, we want to invest in their success and understand that each employee brings unique strengths and ideas to the table.”

Be good at what you do

Ashwini’s advice to women building a career, in fact to everyone, is simple. “You have to be good at what you do and make sure your work is as good as your word”. Proving you can do what you say you can do and delivering outstanding work is a powerful message.

Speaking about her own career, it’s clear that she wants to be judged solely on her talents and achievements (which are substantial) – she’s certainly not interested in any praise that takes into account her ethnicity or gender.

She mentions her experience of speaking at an industry conference where she “walked into a room of predominantly white men.” The audience seemed puzzled about the “short, brown woman” who was there to present to them. She could feel that they had pre-judged her before she had said a word. Once she had spoken, there was a rush of congratulations from the men present. But Ashwini isn’t interested in the sort of praise that comes from the surprise that she’s a woman AND good at what she does – she just wants people to recognize that all different types of people have a lot to contribute. We need to stop judging based on looks or gender but instead look to talent and merit. Giving consideration and opportunity to all hard working and accomplished employees.

Acknowledge you are not an island

There is no doubt that Ashwini has built a successful career. She forged that career through a combination of talent and strong work ethic but just as importantly a network of family and friends supporting her.

For Ashwini, there is often too much focus on individual success without understanding and acknowledging the role of those that encourage and make it possible. It isn’t just a matter of it “taking a village to raise a child – it takes village to support everyone”. One of the first things Ashwini mentioned when we started talking about her career was that she had parents who were “empowering and supportive” that wanted both her and her sister “to be happy and succeed at what they wanted to do”. She also gives a huge amount of credit to her husband and  son “they allow me to succeed through their support”.

Whether it’s friends or family, recognise that you need other people on the journey and “nurture that network”.

Looking to the future ….and understanding the past  

Ashwini would like us to celebrate what we have achieved in terms of diversity and prepare the way for the next generation to move that forward. Yes, there aren’t many other south-Asian women, or women in general running tech companies – but 15 years ago there weren’t any – so let’s highlight where we have got to and make sure leaders create an environment that continues the journey.

Each generation will move things forward and we need to celebrate where we are now while remembering how we got there.

Ashwini is very optimistic about the future. She believes “technology is a big equaliser” because it offers everyone an equal opportunity to succeed. Success through empowerment and inclusion will help make businesses more diverse for current and future generations.

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