Hearing from SPJ Superwomen: Alumni Talk with Kinnari Panda

While celebrating the SPJ Superwomen in our lives, we caught up with Kinnari Panda (GMBA 2012), Customer Fulfilment Head at Dunia Finance LLC, and asked about her story to success. Here’s what she had to say.

Kinnari Panda 1
What was your dream job as a kid?

I guess I was one of the few kids who did not grow up dreaming of becoming a doctor, an engineer or a scientist; I grew up reading travel journals wishing to travel the world, explore new places, and discover new cultures. Also, being an avid reader from an early age, I wanted to be a writer.

When part of a large company, organisational bureaucracy is something one often faces. How do you deal with it?

I have been lucky to be working in an organisation that is built on the foundation of zero bureaucracy where we believe each person is the CEO of their own function and is empowered to make decisions. However, if such a situation arises, I cut through bureaucracy by identifying the right person empowered to take decisions and directly approach them to arrive at a solution.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

The most significant barrier to female leadership starts intrinsically as women are used to living in a man’s world and often do not speak up. Inherently, female leadership is hindered by preconceived notions about their limitations and the various roles they are expected to play without giving up or compromising on their duties in each of these roles. Even though the corporate world has transitioned to accepting women in senior roles, there are still certain unspoken inhibitions and biases that create barriers to female leadership despite them being equally or perhaps better qualified. We still come across certain behaviours that are derided upon when displayed by women in the corporate world, for example, expressing strong opinion is considered as a leadership trait in men but may be taken offensively when coming from a woman.

Who are your favourite heroines? What about them appeals to you?

As we grow up, we come across various leaders that help shape our thoughts. My mother has been a role model for me through the years motivating me to bring out the best in me. During my undergraduate years at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, I was greatly inspired by women like Anna Wintour who took on leadership roles and changed the face of fashion journalism. I am also inspired by a fellow classmate at NIFT who was unfortunately an acid attack victim. She did not lose hope and went on to pursue her dreams and a successful career in fashion. She is now a United Nations Women Global Youth Champion and speaks out against gender-based violence using fashion to empower and encourage survivors to pursue their dreams.  I also look up to Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Michelle Obama, and Sheryl Sandberg who have contributed tremendously to break gender barriers.

What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?

The biggest challenge for the generation of women to come is to create awareness and sensitise men to become champions of feminism which will help accelerate the pace of change. There is a need to further break stereotypes, take unconventional paths to make the world realise that empowering women and enabling their success will enrich the entire society and not just one gender.

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