RadioandMusic
| 22 Feb 2020
Women execs find their foothold in FM firmament

MUMBAI: Breaking the age old male dominance in the corporate sector has never been easy. Be it the decades old television industry or the relatively new FM stations, finding a place in the male citadel has always posed a challenge for the fairer sex.

But as FM  plays louder than ever, women today are making their voices heard not only in front of the mike but also behind it. It is not just the glossy jockeying career that interests them. From the technical departments to sales positions, station heads and programming heads, radio stations today have a number of women who are leading the way and notching up key positions.

Prepossessed?

My FM National Brand Head, Ritu Chhabra who has been in the industry for over 14 years and has worked with brands like Indian Express, Anand Bazar Patrika Group and The Times of India Group says, I am yet to encounter any gender bias problem. The media industry is particularly very women employee friendly. There is a healthy man woman employee ratio in the FM industry which is not the case with other industries like Consumer Durables or IT. Also, the media and entertainment sector allows for a lot of creativity to flourish and thrive, which is also the reason that it's a perfect fit for female employees....

Agrees SFM Bangalore station head Daya Deviayah, This is a passion oriented industry. If you have the zeal and ?©lan, you can survive irrespective of the sex.... Hailing from an IT/HR background and then having undertaking a paradigm shift to radio, Daya says, My interest was the drive to drift towards this sector. Media is one sector which has seen enough women notching the top positions. If you have the passion and the drive, you can nick the peak....

Big FM regional programming director (North) Anvita Nath, who started her career as a writer, shifted into advertising before foraying into the FM industry five years ago. She says, Media has predominantly been a women's field. Because of the intellectual approach that people carry in this industry, it is more open minded than the rest. As long as you do your work well, there are no gender biases....

Big's Gwalior station content and communication head Barsha Chabaria has a different view though. There aren't any prejudices, but sometimes you do get snide remarks, especially when you are taking some big decision.... After her stint with All India Radio Kolkata for four years, Chabaria shifted to Big in 2007. At the end of the day, one is more concerned about the competition from other stations than in-house battle of the sexes....

Also heading a small town station, Big's Bhopal station content and communication head Sudipta Saxena says, I think Media is the best field for females to work. Even though this is a small town, I have never faced any prejudice for being a woman.... Saxena, who has worked with Radio Mirchi before shifting to Big, also hosts a show which is syndicated in Jhansi, Gwalior and Indore, apart from Bhopal.

Anjali Pual, currently Fever FM Bangalore station head, also dabbled with various careers in the US before settling down with the FM industry in India. I have been with Fever since its inception, when licenses were just acquired by the company. I helped them to set up the stations in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata looking after every detail from hiring people, choosing tower sites, planning marketing, before settling down as station head of Bangalore. I have never faced any gender bias in my three years of work,... explains Paul.

Agrees Radio Mirchi's Vice president, Creative services, Riya Mukherjee who manages Mirchi's in-house creative agency. There isn't any bias per se. The sector is nonpartisan, wherein you will see ample women maneouvering every department....

Worldspace group programming director Seetal Iyer adds optimistically, There is an equal opportunity for everyone. If you have the required skill sets, the gender issue diminishes.... Iyer, who has an impressive alliance with the FM industry, has worked with Radio City as an RJ in 2001 before switching to Worldspace in 2004. Apart from being the programming director, Iyer is also the Programme director for Radio Farishta on Worldspace where she hosts two shows as well. Females get all the support. In fact, there are an equal number of women in my office as men if not more....

Can of worms

Managing people seems to be these women executives' only bugbear. The only occupational problem that I face is dealing with people. Managing creative people becomes a little baffling at times since they are emotionally attached to their work. One has to understand their psyche and motivate them in order to squeeze out the best from them,... says Devaiyah.

This is a very people intrinsic industry, the job is highly challenging in terms of delivering consistently on the brand values and guidelines. The radio business is also very high on logistics. And hence is a very high involvement job,... believes Chhabra.

Paul agrees. People management is one of the problems that I face. Its work force is the strength of any organisation. People have to be motivated enough to give their best. Also, dealing with the corporate side is another problem that crops up. They are concerned more about corporatisation, rather than creativity which stumps me at times....

The only area where females are skeptical to work is Sales. It is a very demanding job. There is a lot of running around and one also faces rejections, which are not easy to take. Oddly enough, women in sales do better than their male counterparts. A woman is considered to have a more holistic approach. Her talks are taken with more conviction. So contrary to popular belief women can do better in this field,... she says.

I have been in this industry forever. As a single working woman, I do not undergo any major hazards as such. Of course, my married colleagues have to juggle between their families and work. It is a very demanding job and one has to be present 24X7. Barring this, there is no problem,... asserts Nath.

Agrees Mukherjee, In media, the working hours are very unregulated. Holidays are the most hectic time since we need special programming, marketing. So when the world is busy making merry, it is serious work for us. Working times are also very flexible and adventurous and one has to cope with it....

Iyer says, The biggest challenge is to work with people who are so diverse in their skill sets. You cannot apply the same formula to everyone. Every person in every department needs to be dealt with differently, which is a very daunting task. If you can manage them well, half your battle is won....

Chabaria adds, The job is demanding and one has to be omnipresent, oscillating between all the departments. Taking breaks at times becomes a distant dream....

Craftsmanship

Talking about the skills required for managing such a profile, Chhabra says, Multi tasking and an eye for detailing are key areas. One has to be creative and bring out constant innovation to reach out to their target audience. Also people's skills and team management are a must for managing such a profile....

Nath explains, You need to understand and motivate people at a professional level to get the best out of them. The industry is still in its nascent stages and one has to keep a track of recent trends. Audience taste has to be kept in mind while formulating the programs....

Keeping the local flavour intact in the programming and having a keen business sense is also something that they have to keep in mind while seeing to the overall smooth functioning of the market. As a station head, I have to be well aware of market trends. One also has to keep a track of the current news worldwide and nationally so as to create a bait for the shows and engage the listeners,... insists Devaiyah.

Good management skills are essential to see the smooth working of the station. You should be able to identify talent in multiple departments and also be able to retain them and keep them productive. One also needs business acumen to run a station. The local liking has to be comprehended since radio is a localised medium of entertainment. Your experience, research and instincts will help you in better judgment,... quips Paul.

Illustrating the point further, Iyer says, One needs a good understanding of the radio sector. Creative people also need to have business sense. Since we are subscription based, our target audience is very refined. Hence understanding the TG's preference is very essential....

Radio is a very passive medium. To constantly keep the audience enthralled, one needs to understand the vibe of the city and have a local connect. One also needs to have good communication skills and understand the psyche of the team members to run the station effectively,... says Saxena.

Gone are the days when it was sufficient if were good with the mike or excelled in writing scripts and you were sure of securing your place in the organisation. Be it radio or television everything today is so technologically driven. One has to be technologically savvy and be open to learning,... quips Riya.