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Executive Women in Business: Successes and Challenges as a Female Executive

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In honor of the official American Business Women's Day on September 22nd, and the invaluable contributions female executives have made to global business, BlueSteps have launched an 'Executive Women in Business' Initiative for the month of September. We will be featuring content focused on the personal experiences of top female executives and the lessons learned along the way.

Take a look below at the second of five BlueSteps members who won a competition to submit their stories of progression as women in business:

Successes and Challenges as a Female Executive
by Anjana Harve

A few years ago my boss posed a strange question to me “Will you be comfortable managing a large team of all men?” He was referring to my peers (heads of IT at various divisions within the company). I was the only woman on a team of 11. To be honest I had never consciously noticed that till he asked me that question. I was shocked but it got me thinking. Was there an extra hurdle I had to pass in order to advance? Or were there unique attributes that a female leader could offer as an advantage?

I have been fortunate to have had an excellent career, steadily growing in my scope of responsibilities. I am also a mother of two wonderful kids (aged 9 and 6). I am currently Site IT Head and Head of Global Applications at a pharmaceutical company, responsible for a large global matrixed team of 200. I believe that organizations can leverage IT as a strategic differentiator to gain competitive advantage and have successfully led large teams to focus on improving business outcomes through IT strategies. I attribute my successes to a few factors, some of which might be innate characteristics we have as women, such as a nurturing nature and an ability to strive for consensus. I am strong believer in the power of an inspired team. My department’s ability to deliver depends not only on our technology expertise, but the ability of each individual on my team to produce their best. So I spend a lot of time coaching/mentoring my team and providing them stretch opportunities to take risks and reach their potential. I am very collaborative and strive to bring stakeholders together to get the best result. I love being a change agent. This has really helped me successfully drive large business transformation efforts.

Being a successful female executive hasn’t been without challenges. My husband and I have both done well in our careers and are keen on keeping it that way. However it isn’t easy with two little kids. We have a wonderful aupair who helps with the kids. I constantly communicate with the kids, help them understand how much I care. I continue to be amazed at how much the kids understand even though they are little. Just the act of explaining and helping them understand what might be going on at work, including them in decision making makes them accept things. They don’t get angry and understand that I may not be able to do things the same way that a friend’s stay at home mom might. I truly cherish whatever little time I have with the kids after work and make the most of it. The quality of time I feel is what is important.

Recently my husband and I both pursued our Executive MBA at Wharton. It added to the challenges of a dual working couple whose weekends were also consumed with school activities.But with planning and coordination and a will to make it work, we certainly were able to overcome this challenge. We involved the kids with what was going on at school and rather than being upset we found them cheering us and being pleased that mom and dad had to study hard and get homework like them!

While it isn’t an easy journey, I firmly believe that it is possible to have a career as well as a happy family. It requires a strong sense of believing in yourself and constantly looking for different ways to make it work.


Anjana Harve
Head of Global Applications at CSL Behring

Anjana is a strategic leader with broad business knowledge and deep technical expertise, focused on improving business outcomes through IT strategies. She is recognized for helping organizations see the value of information management and capitalize on their information assets. She is a dynamic leader with a penchant for inspiring, motivating and coaching teams to achieve uncommon results. She strongly believes in boosting performance through human capital development and improvement.

About BlueSteps

BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 6,000 executive search professionals in over 70 countries. Be visible, and be considered for up to 50,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. Find out more at www.BlueSteps.com.

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