Aditi Karandikar, Head of Global Demand Generation, Blackhawk Network. Aditi candidly shares her perspective and experiences surrounding bias over her career.
By: Jade Tan. Marketing Executive | 6 minute read
March 2022 marks this year’s International Women’s Month under the theme #BreakTheBias. On this occasion, our guest is Aditi Karandikar, Head of Global Demand Generation, Blackhawk Network.
About Aditi Karandikar
Aditi immigrated to the United States from India. Despite having a background in international business, she had a limited support structure, no family, and no credit history – she created herself from the ground up. Her perspectives stem from her experiences as a talented and passionate career-driven young woman, then as a mother navigating work-life balance with small children, and now working to reshape the future for others. Today, she manages a team and connects with many other women that are on the same path and facing similar obstacles.
This article encapsulates the highlights of a conversation between Aditi and Kandi Gongora- Chief Transformation & People Officer at Goodway Group, CvE’s parent company.
Support Your Team, No Matter What Their Lifestage
Aditi has gone through several lifestages in her career to date. Recounting her days as a young mother balancing her job and young children, she exposed a widespread prejudice in which corporations choose people based on the stage of their personal life. Aditi was confronted with bias from a manager at one of her first jobs. “My new boss came with a more conservative approach and questioned why I should stay on his team. He said he had two sisters who gave up their careers for family and children: he came from a place of experience which informed his bias. This caught me off guard and I wasn’t sure how to address that.” Today, despite some positive developments in attitudes, she believes bias is still strongly prevalent and that there is still more work to be done. Aditi feels that a firm which is supportive of employees at all phases of life or who are facing personal issues, will attract loyal, hardworking employees who will always go above and beyond.
Stay Authentic to Who You Are
Coming from an Indian background, Aditi is proud of who she is and where she is from. Despite being conscious of biases, she takes pride in her authenticity and proving her value in a team. It has never been about concealing herself or altering who she is to fit in. As a mother, she has always been honest and transparent in interviews about her children, mentioning her conditions such as requesting flexibility, saying that “If more women included this in the interview process, this may help to build a shift in expectations and way of working”. Aditi asserts that a good firm values your abilities over the terms of your personal life. For this reason, she concentrated on developing her skills, knowledge, and mindset to build herself and provide excellent value to her employees.
Since COVID-19, workplace conditions have improved in this respect. Companies are better at spotting the value in people and providing multiple working structures. Aditi advises women to establish boundaries and have open and honest dialogues right away. However, she admits that there is a risk, “women often sacrifice their ambitions to stay in a job that is supportive of their family duties, rather than progressing in their careers”. She’s keen to point out that as an industry, we must collaborate to foster inclusive workplace cultures and break down glass ceilings.
Leaders Must Learn to Balance
Aditi is keen to point out that leaders should strive to be aware of their employees’ personal needs, balance what is best for the company and recognise individuals’ worth. She calls out managers and emphasises the importance of balancing task allocation within a team to promote inclusion. This is not to say that employees who don’t have children or face work-life challenges should shoulder the load of work. Rather, it is about empathy and flexibility. Managers should have the perspective that “as long as you accomplish your deliverables, I don’t care how you work”. This balanced approach breaks down the traditional work structure and provides a fair environment in which everyone, regardless of the position in their personal life, can deliver their best work. Most importantly, Aditi believes it is critical that everyone in the team understands and is aware of each other’s challenges, and that this will contribute towards improved inclusion.
Allyship From Men is Crucial
According to The Women in the Workplace Report, 73% of women face bias in the workplace, yet only 22% report seeing it – and even fewer report it. Speaking out for one another is the first step toward creating a positive ripple effect. These issues are not merely women’s problems to fix, we need men’s support to create true change. Aditi states, “In the twenty-first century, there is a collective awareness of what is politically correct and what is not. However, biases still exist, and it is important that men work on being aware to be supportive of their team members as well as of the women in their lives”. These are issues that affect both personal and professional lives.
Sharing Our Own Personal Journeys
Aditi urges women to be courageous and tell their stories. It is critical to pave the road and show the world that these are not isolated instances, but it is equally important to celebrate the positive improvements. “Share stories about how you have been supported, by your company, by men, by your bosses. This helps others who are looking for similar answers.” She refers to Indra Nooyi’s inspirational story about balancing her work as CEO of PepsiCo with family obligations. These examples can help women understand that there are tried-and-true solutions to handle issues deeply rooted in bias. Aditi believes there is still a need for women’s stories to be shared and appreciated – many individuals in similar situations would benefit from learning about different ways of overcoming biases. These are the stories that will inspire and motivate other women and young people.
Mentoring Other Women
It is important for women to support women. Aditi acknowledges that “there are times when women feel like they need to compete with one another as if there is one seat at the table”.
She often considers how to convey the right messages to her own children and the younger generation. She refers to the example of her daughter who works in data science, something that Aditi lacks expertise in, but hopes that the right mentor will be able to guide her. Similarly, in marketing, Aditi seeks to give back and become a role model figure for her team members to learn from.
To finalise, Aditi advises all women to find a good partner in life, somebody who can be there for that journey and who understands. She also recommends that when choosing a job, it’s important to look at the team and the leaders and try to understand if the structure will be supportive, is inclusive and empathetic. In terms of advising men, she mentions that many have the basics and know what is politically correct. However, there are some biases they still need to work on to be supportive of the team members and the women in their life.
Biases are part of being human, but it is those collective biases that harm institutions and lead to inequalities, particularly in the workplace. Individually, we can all endeavour to create changes in our communities to #breakthebias. This year, CvE commemorates IWD with the goal of making a positive difference by amplifying the stories of women like Aditi Karandikari, Head of Global Demand Generation, Blackhawk Network, who are redefining the future of work and paving the way for a more diverse and inclusive world. With her story, we can truly celebrate women and the fact that we have made progress, while also being aware that there is still work to be done to #BreakTheBias.
Our very special thanks to Kandi Gongora – Chief Transformation & People Officer at Goodway Group, CvE’s parent company.