"I promise you she will excel, just do this,” Chanda Kochhar tells YourStory the secret of ensuring girls succeed
On the occasion of International Women's Day, the ICICI boss has a message for all of our women readers, who come here to YourStory to get their regular fill of inspiration about how to be the best darn women they can be. In an exclusive interaction with YourStory, Chanda Kochhar, the MD and CEO of ICICI Bank and someone who has been the guiding light and role model for women across the globe, shares the cornerstones of her life, her earliest influences, that have catapulted her into becoming one the most powerful women in the country.
Even in the social conditions of the 1960s in the small town of Jodhpur, she recounts, her parents were careful about never letting their daughters get swayed by conventional gender roles. "My parents raised me and my sister alongside my brothers, without any discrimination. We two sisters were raised equally, with my brother," she tells YourStory.
She had a sister and a brother, and they were each taught the value and importance of education – and unsurprisingly, Chanda went on to make a move to maximum city, procured degrees in commerce, cost accountancy, and eventually emerged from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management, a gold medallist. “We were taught that we should focus on hard work, create an identity for ourselves, and learn to be independent. These thoughts stayed with us our entire lives,” she narrates.
Alongside her career during which she is widely credited to have shaped retail banking in India, she started a family and went on to raise to strong-minded children. She says that she has consciously passed on the wealth of learnings she inherited from her parents to her children. “I, along with my husband, have instilled the same learnings into our own children. On this international women's day, I would request all parents to treat their daughters, as treasures full of potential – treasures that need to be nurtured with love and care,” she says.
And indeed, her love for her daughters and the importance she places on to their empowerment also came through when she wrote her daughter an open letter, a watershed moment for most mother-daughter duos, last year, to her daughter. On the threshold of her career, Aarti Kochhar, Chanda's daughter, was advised to be fiercely independent, find herself, work hard, appreciate the role family and love play in one's life, always put a brave face on in the most trying times, and choose a man who will respect her and treat her like the leading lady she is.
“Support your daughters, empower them, and give them the same opportunities as you do to your sons. Just be the wind behind their wings, and help them soar. Just do this without any discrimination, and I promise you, they will excel in whatever they choose to do,” she concludes.
We have overwhelming evidence to support her claims – for when you focus all your energies on training your daughters to “wrestle” biases, you are creating future Olympians; when you allow your daughters to favour work over anything else unabashedly, when you grant them that choice – they will go on to build market leading companies and pioneering organisations; and finally, when you become a worthy role model yourself by exhibiting infallible power at terribly trying times, your daughter will follow in your footsteps, be inclined to become a more consequential woman, and could someday become a global figure to reckon with. Like Chanda says, as just do this, and they will roar.