As I scrolled down the list of Senior Leadership Team members on the Moelis & Company website, I was disappointed (but not surprised) to see the scarcity of women in positions of senior leadership. They were few and far in between. But I was looking for a specific woman’s profile – that of Manisha Girotra, CEO of Moelis & Company’s India operations. Equipped with degrees from St Stephen’s College, Delhi, and Delhi School of Economics, Ms Girotra has had a long and fulfilling career in the field of finance and mergers & acquisitions, beginning her career in investment banking with a stint at ANZ Grindlays in London. Over the years, she worked her way up from being dismissed as the secretary or pizza delivery girl simply because she was a woman in a team consisting mostly of men, to becoming the CEO of UBS Bank at the age of 33.
Ms Girotra had been working as the CEO of UBS for two decades when she decided to leave the bank and help set up Moelis, feeling like she needed to reinvent herself after 20 years at the helm of UBS. Today, along with heading Moelis’ India operations, Ms Girotra also serves as a member on the boards of Ashok Leyland, Mindtree, and Jio Payments Bank.
Completely in awe of Ms Girotra’s stellar career and accomplishments, I wanted to ask her about her work in the investment banking sector and how her life experiences have been as a woman in a largely male-dominated field. Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Reading about your professional journey over the last few decades has been truly inspirational. What is the one thing that has motivated you over the years to keep climbing higher?
I have been lucky to find a profession which I love. I enjoy banking – my father was a career banker, so somewhere I guess it flowed into my genes. When you enjoy and love something you do, it doesn’t feel monotonous or boring and hence you can keep at it tenaciously.
My profession allows me to meet a lot of successful entrepreneurs who are change agents in their own right – it is so energising to meet them and the possibility that I can be of help in their transformational journey excites me to keep being a better version of myself.
Finance and M&A are largely male-dominated fields, with very few female predecessors to look to for guidance. Who are some of the female leaders and/or mentors you look up to? Have other women in the field come up to you for advice?
There aren’t a lot of female leader or mentors I look up to, as there weren’t many when I started out [in this career].
Yes, a lot of women regularly come to me for advice on how to manage work life, children, career guidance, etc.
How often have you heard the phrase “work-family balance” from friends, family, and colleagues, and do you think you have been able to achieve it?
While work life family balance is always a big challenge, I think it is very important, if you want to give your 100% at your job, to take out some ‘me time’. We women are programmed to be primary caregivers and are also very sincere employees. We juggle the home, family, children, work very well and in that process forget completely to look after our own self. It is very important to take out 30 minutes in a day and do something which is completely for your own self – whether it is yoga, visiting the gym, chatting with a friend, etc. The endorphins released in that time will give you enough positive energy to survive your multitasking life.
How important do you think the role of the mother is during a child’s formative years? Do you think stay-at-home mothers have a greater advantage in that respect than working mothers like yourself?
The role of both parents is critical in the formative years. I think caregiving has been completely assigned to women in the past as they were homemakers. In today’s dual income households, it is very important that fathers too engage with children right from childhood – whether it entails changing diapers or teaching a child how to ride a bike. Today the new rules for maternity leave and paternity leave are very encouraging as they help both parents dedicate adequate time to the babies in the critical formative months.
I don’t think stay at home mums have a greater advantage over working mums. What a child needs around her is a happy, positive mother. Whether a mother is voluntarily a homemaker and fully dedicated to parenting or has chosen to work and parent a child, the time spent with the baby should be dedicated to the child – stress free and preferably technology free.
If you could turn back time, would you do it all over again from the beginning?
No, I have enjoyed my journey. I am grateful for it. I am grateful for the highs and the lows. The obstacles have strengthened me as I continue with my journey. Not everyone may understand my journey. That’s fine. It is mine to understand – not theirs.
By Rutvi Zamre
Rutvi Zamre is an English major who knows that she doesn’t know much.