The Missile Woman Of India
By Jaideep Shergill, CEO, Hanmer MSL, MSLGROUP Asia
While the world was preoccupied with the escalating violence in Syria and Afghanistan, the US presidential primaries and Europe’s unending economic woes recently, I was riveted by a story that didn’t get much play in the global media.
Soon after India successfully test-fired the Agni 5 long-range, nuclear-capable missile, it emerged that the project head was a woman, Tessy Thomas. Named after Mother Teresa, the 48-year-old is India’s top ballistic missile expert who juggles domestic duties with her day job.
The ‘Missile Woman’, as she’s been christened, supervised a major military advance while showing that tradition can be challenged if the will is strong.
At home, Thomas is a doting mother who is particular about her college-going son’s diet and studies – an approach she brings to her work at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). She regards missiles as instruments of peace because of their deterrence value, and decided to make a career out of them after watching rocket tests from a launch centre near her home.
Such was her interest that she named her son Tejas, after India’s indigenously-built light combat aircraft.
Thomas is an inspiration to millions of women who wish to have successful careers but are held back. A recent study by the World Bank said that 90% of women in India want careers but their participation in the workforce has been stagnant at 35% for almost 30 years. In China and South America, women account for 50% to 70% of the workforce.
For me, then, it’s a matter of pride that Hanmer MSL is a gender-equal organisation. In fact, our HR records show that women outnumber men 55:45. At Hanmer MSL, women lead key functions and services and we are committed to helping all of our colleagues learn, grow and advance in their careers. This is a philosophy cast in stone across MSLGROUP.
I believe this has been one of the key reasons for our success – whether it’s been recent awards like Campaign Asia-Pacific’s ‘Asia-Pacific Network of the Year’ or the robust growth that the group is witnessing or being named one of the leading global and Asian networks in the mergers and acquisitions space by Mergermarket.
I am reminded of what Thomas said when asked whether she faced any hardships in the workplace: “It all depends on the type of organisation it is – and we at DRDO get the support we need.” I’m proud that MSLGROUP is exactly such an organisation.
Originally posted on MSLGROUP Asia Newsletter April 2012
Jaideep is the Chief Executive Officer of Hanmer MSL - part of MSLGROUP, India’s largest multi-discipline communications firm and a leader in the area of specialty communications services including financial communications, social media, crisis and issues management, corporate reputation, strategic public relations, events and activation and creative services. Jaideep brings with him rich experience cumulated over 15 years in the banking and communications industries.