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‘The glass ceiling is where one places it’: Mansi Tripathy, MD, Shell Lubricants India

Sneh Singh
2nd Apr 2018
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For Mansi Tripathy, gender discrimination and stereotyping are not obstacles but rather opportunities. The managing director of Shell Lubricants India, she believes that even though her industry was a male-dominated industry, she has carved her own niche and leads her team across the entire Indian subcontinent by example.

With an experience of more than 20 years across industries, business models and markets, Mansi Tripathy has been with Shell for the last five years and has worked in sales, strategy, procurement, marketing, consumer insights and data analytics. Currently, she is responsible for leading all business activities across India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, which, when combined, form the third largest lubricants market in the world. She has previously worked at Gillette and Procter & Gamble, taking up various roles across the Asia Pacific in sales, strategy, operations, marketing and insights. She has been on the jury of many national and international business awards, speaker at conferences and B- schools and recipient of cross-marketing and industry awards.

In an interview with YourStory, Mansi talks about her career, leadership and why there are not many women in her sector.

YourStory: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your education and career trajectory?

Mansi Tripathy: I did my B.Tech in Electronics and Communication from National Institute of Technology, Kurukshetra, and an MBA in Marketing from S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research.

I have worked 16 years at Procter & Gamble, in various roles across the globe, like Malaysia, Singapore, and Boston, and in the last three years, I was the director in charge of male grooming, which included the Gillette range.

Because of my global career, I had to live apart from my husband, Siddharth, who is a Delhi-based entrepreneur. In 2012, I decided I wanted to come back to India and started scouting for a job here and found myself in Shell. The headhunters said I needed to be open to a job outside of the FMCG sector and I was up for the challenge. A marketing career, with all the travelling, is not for everyone. My motivation as a young woman came from wanting to prove to the world that my engineering degree and MBA weren’t going to be wasted. Today, my sense of purpose comes from wanting to have a positive impact on society.

I am passionate about fitness, which includes marathons and Indian classical dancing, and mentoring and teaching at SPJIMR, Harvard, Babson College, and Great Lakes.

YS: Have you faced the glass ceiling?

MT: The glass ceiling is where one places it. Before we look at what corporates or companies are doing to enable it, I would like to ask three questions:

  • Have you built all the capability that is needed to succeed at the next level?
  • Do you have the right mindset and the attitude of a leader to succeed?
  • Are you ready for the demands the next level role is going to have?

Only if the answer is yes, yes and yes can we have a conversation if there is the existence of a glass ceiling or not.

YS: Do you think the Indian workplace is skewed in favour of men?

MT: There might be some underlying pattern. But my belief is that it all boils down to individuals, irrespective of gender, and how they approach their career. At work, the level of difficulty is probably identical for both genders.Managing everything outside of work can potentially have some impact on performance at work for both genders. Hence, it all comes down to personal hard work, perseverance and ambition.

YS: Why, according to you, are there still a very few women at the top in the oil and gas sector?

MT: My analysis is that this is a multi-pronged challenge. First, there are a lesser number of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) roles and having the right educational background. Secondly, a lesser number is joining the sector even from this small group.

However, the situation now is changing and in just the last five years there has been a massive change in this sector as well.

YS: How has leadership shaped you as a person?

MT: Work is an indispensable part of who I am and my career is an integral part of my life journey. The areas I have evolved as a person is in truly valuing strengths that different individuals bring to the table, growing and developing individuals, the power of goal setting, discipline, delivery, and making principle-based decisions at all times.

YS: Can you share any interesting anecdotes from your career so far?

MT: When a senior male executive commented that women merely come in for short job hops and are not really in the know-how of the subject, I questioned the stereotype playing in his head and highlighted that in a professional environment there cannot be a discussion about gender.

YS: What are the women-centric policies followed in your organisation

MT: The overall philosophy of Shell is of ‘Unlock and Unblock’. In Unlock, the endeavour is in ensuring there is right recruitment, building an inclusive culture, and emphasis on growth through training and sponsorship. In Unblock, there are various policies that provide flexibility on how one wants to shape one’s career based on an individual’s needs, like part-time work, work from home policy, virtual roles, dual sharing roles, sabbatical, child care and parent care leaves. Further, programmes like employee assistance, mentoring circles, training etc., provide help and support to women.

The Shell India Women’s Network, affiliated to a number women’s networks in the wider Shell world, is a supportive body to enable continuous learning at the workplace for women. Over the last two years, 15 percent of experienced hires and 40 percent of campus hires have been women. Several measures in the recruitment process have been undertaken to maximise the intake of women, including exclusive referral drives for women, targeting 50 percent women for campus and experienced hires while also sensitising the internal organisation to embrace the diversity being recruited. Currently, Shell India has over 12 percent women in leadership positions.

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