While motherhood may be an enriching experience, it is also a vulnerable phase for women as their careers take a back seat. But Anjali Bansal, managing director of Spencer Stuart, found a way around it. Then a consultant with McKinsey, she put her data analytical skills to work. Bansal conducted a dipstick study of 15 mothers - some of whom had continued with their careers and some had bid goodbye. "For those who continued, the first few years were hard but the payoffs were worth it. They felt happier and more satisfied than those who opted out," says the mother of two boys.
Years later, when she moved to Spencer Stuart to set up the global corporate governance and leadership consulting firm's India business, she ensured that like her, the women employees under her didn't put their careers on hold because of motherhood. Though a secretary is expected to be at the boss's beck and call, in Bansal's case, she has given her assistant the liberty to work from home. The arrangement has been on for five years.
This flexi-option has been extended to another four "high-performing" women. "I don't want to lose good people to maternity. Motherhood is not a debilitating illness and those who have self conviction can continue working. The mindset that you have to be in office needs to be changed. All you need is the right connectivity and broadband," says the 42-year-old.
An advocate of "job sharing", a concept that is in nascent stages in the country, Bansal says, "For the system to work, you need a robust back office team, besides mutual respect between those in the office and those who work from home."
Besides motherhood, a woman faces two other crucial challenges in her personal life - when children reach the board exam stages and when she has to take care of aging parents. "For both, the responsibilities tend to fall on women. Companies should acknowledge this and provide support for these bumps on the road," Bansal says.
A computer engineer from Gujarat University, Bansal never imagined herself as a techie. After a brief stint at Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), she went to Columbia University for a master's programme in international affairs. Through campus, she got placed at McKinsey's New York office, where she also met her husband Sandeep Singhal, now co-founder of venture capital fund Nexus.
In 2000, the duo moved to India with Bansal continuing with McKinsey's Mumbai office. After her second child in 2003, she joined Egon Zehnder as a search consultant. Eighteen months later, she was offered a chance to build Spencer Stuart's India business. At that time, her kids were aged three and one and half years, putting her in a tight spot.
But a little prodding from her husband, who takes the high risk of backing entrepreneurs, gave her the much-needed push. She has taken the firm from four employees to 35 people, advising the who's who of corporate India on top level hiring and is still going strong. "I have never stopped and I don't know how to stop," she says.