The empowered women: Making her mark on her own terms
The president of Whistling Woods International (WWI), Meghna Ghai Puri, believes it is her responsibility to develop the careers of her students, structure the Media and Entertainment industry, while mentoring the WWI workforce as well. As Meghna has endured a challenging journey, she was initially intimidated by obstacles; however, as time passed on, it became clear to her that she was learning more from them than she could ever have imagined. According to Meghna, “We’re always blazing the trail to innovation, so challenges always lead to new and exciting opportunities”. I had the pleasure of sitting down for an insightful conversation with Meghna regarding her journey to success, the challenges she faced, maintaining a work-life balance, and the challenges she sees for women in the field she works in. In addition to pointing out the problems, she also offered solutions.
Q. Can you describe some of the challenges you faced along your career path? How did you deal with them?
“We don’t grow when things are easy; we grow when we face challenges.” And an institute like Whistling Woods International had the good fortune to have many such opportunities to grow. Initially, challenges would intimidate me, I would get anxious at the outset of any adversity – however, over time I realized how much these same challenges have taught me and helped me grow. Being the President of an Institution that is unique in each and every way meant, we are always trailblazing our way to innovation, so challenges always lead to opportunities. Our biggest challenge at the start was creating an institute of such a magnitude that was unique not just for India but for the world. We wanted to create an institute entirely dedicated to the media and creative arts industry, tutored by industry experts to ensure our students are not just Job-ready by industry-ready too. But the even bigger challenge is to keep abreast with growing and latest trends in an industry as dynamic as ours. For instance, not just staying in sync but staying ahead of times, with technological advancements. Being an educational institution, we have embraced this challenge and are always striving to stay ahead of time. Students associate with us to attain an education that will enable them to carve their niche in the industry; hence, it becomes very crucial for us to stay ahead of times with new technologies, ways of working and new academic advancements as well.
Apart from this we have overcome several other challenges like creating awareness regarding the need for formal education to create a successful career in the media and entertainment landscape. Also finding and retaining good faculty is a challenge in an industry like ours. Over the past 16 years, we have grown as a premier institution with our students imbibing knowledge through industry experts and international faculty. I, too, have grown immensely as a person, and as an educator by gaining immense learning in various facets of operating a business and an institution from architecture, landscaping, business development, marketing etc. I am extremely proud and glad that we at Whistling Woods International could take our founder’s vision and are taking it to newer heights with every year that goes by.
Q. Can you identify any pressing issues you face as a woman in the workplace or society that should be put on a top priority list?
I did face issues like everyone else does but I was fortunate to have a great support system who also was there to lift me up and believe in me. The industry 20 years ago was more male-dominated than now and my endeavor as a woman leader was to ensure that our Institute is inclusive and is balanced when it comes to gender. Women will always face the glass ceiling as we choose to do something different with our lives like starting a family. Men too start a family but they don’t necessarily need to take a break from their careers to do so. I encourage all men and women who work with me to equally distribute the responsibility, so neither of them has to sacrifice when it comes to their careers. I believe if we as women can find a way to feel less guilty and own our careers and family life equally, we would be able to break through the existing glass ceiling. I truly believe women have an amazing quality to be able to do it all. They decide to. And with the conducive work environment – I am certain they can achieve that and much more. The key to this is to see education become more democratized and workplaces to empower women with equal opportunities and equal pay.
Q. How do you maintain a work-life balance as an entrepreneur?
When we laid the foundation stone for Whistling Woods International, we had to execute several responsibilities to manifest our dream into reality. Just within a year of us starting WWI I got pregnant with my first baby. I was determined to be an example of a working mom to many who looked up to me then and hence I worked till my 9th month and was back in work after a short 2-month maternity break. I was fortunate that I could bring my baby to work with me and have a great support system. Yes, there were days when I broke down too or felt overwhelmed by challenges on both fronts but it is then when I learned that it is not important to find the perfect work-life balance. It’s important to find a balance within you – that way you are able to take better decisions and even if you drop the ball, you forgive yourself and move on quicker. Over time as a leader, I learned that I must empower my teams at the institute and let them experience a sense of ownership. Not only did that lead to a seamless relationship but interoperability among departments allowed me to create a better balance in my life too. I encourage each member of my team to take holidays or days off to spend time with family and
Q. In 2022, women are still facing the following issues. How do you see them?
The age gap between girls and their husbands:
Reservation for women in politics is still a far cry:
While a lot has changed over the decades, women all around the world at every socio-political level still find themselves to be under-presented in politics and distant from several decision-making levels. Women who want to enter politics often discover that the social, political, and cultural environments are consistently hostile towards them. Attempts to pass reservation bills for women have faced many obstacles. However, there are many women role models in politics now, so I am hoping more and more young women decide to take this path if they are passionate about it. Women’s active participation in politics alone would facilitate women-oriented laws and more significantly, see to their implementation, which would truly be wonderful for our country.