‘One should never ask for any concession at work place for being a woman’

Arundhati Bhattacharya, Executive Director, NTPC, speaks about her professional experience in the industry.

Earlier very few girls opted for engineering
  • Client

    NTPC Ltd

  • Services

    Thermal power generation

  • Technologies

    Power generation

  • Dates



Ms Arundhati Bhattacharya, B Tech (Instrumentation), joined NTPC Ltd in 1981 as an Executive Trainee, the first batch of ETs where women were also inducted. She had been associated with design, engineering and procurement of combined cycle, coal and hydro based power plants with important contribution for engineering project management in overseeing various ongoing projects. An MBA from IGNOU in 1997, Bhattacharya was the first woman Executive Director of NTPC. She was also on the board of two JV companies of NTPC – NTECL and NSPCL – as women nominee director from NTPC. Post retirement, she is engaged in various activities and associations of the Automation Industry.

How adventurous has the journey to success been so far?

The journey in NTPC from Executive Trainee (ET) to Executive Director (ED) level was both challenging and stimulating. In the predominantly male dominated Organisation, it was always required to keep myself updated and on the learning curve to remain competitive and sustain my growth. With hard work, professional integrity and leading the team from the front was always helpful to perform as a team leader. If I became successful, that is because generally I had also taken all the decisions with both brain and compassion like any other women leader. Having said that, I would also acknowledge the support and encouragement I received from my knowledgeable colleagues.

For a country where women have joined the workforce decades ago, there are few in leadership positions. What are the possible reasons?

Even if women have joined the workforce decades ago, the number of women was much lesser compared to their men counterparts even at the entry level of the organisation.

As we all know, women generally excel in their studies and perform very well during the initial years of their career in the organisation. However, during the prime time of learning in the organisations with hands-on working experience, once they get married, they become too involved in their family life. After attaining motherhood, sometimes they are compelled to quit the job and choose to leave their jobs. Even if they continue, they become irregular and spend more time out of the workforce. In fact, work life balance becomes the most challenging task for them. Either way it affects their career progress. Without proper support system, it is almost impossible for a woman to excel and rise in the professional career. As a result you find less and less women in the hierarchy of the organisation and very few in leadership role.

There is always a glass ceiling and it is not always gender-based. But how difficult is it for a woman to enter the corner office?

I do agree with that, the glass ceiling is not always gender based. It also depends on so many other factors like opportunities, exposures and professional environment you provide to an individual in the organisation. As far as a woman is concerned, she should never acknowledge the existence of gender discrimination, if any. From the very beginning, she should behave like a professional doing away with the women tag and focus only on her work in the office for achieving the organisation’s goal. As we all know, any undue advantage may be taken from the woman employee along with other disadvantages, one should never ask for any concession at work place for being a woman. For reaching the corner office, while following all the above principles, she should always carry out her job fully without any short cut.

In recent years, we have had some successful cases of women CEOs in banking/Finance, but not many in engineering. Will this change in the coming years?

That is because earlier very few girls used to choose Engineering as their career option. It was the belief then that being an engineer you need to work necessarily in the field and that was the main deterrent for a girl to opt for that course which was not the case for other disciplines like Finance, Law, etc. As a result, very few girls were there in the engineering classes compared to the huge number of boys. This is the main reason for poor representation in number of girls at the entry level of the organisations. Afterwards also, the number further gets reduced due to the various reasons already mentioned.

But things are changing very fast. In fact in some of the branches of engineering courses like Electronics, Computer Science you find more number of girls in the classroom today than boys. I am quite hopeful that in the coming years there will be many women in the technical side of the organisation. With professional zeal and fierce competitive attitude, women would do fairly well and be represented at all levels including that on the boards of organisations in coming years.

Final question, do successful women deliberately avoid the limelight?

It cannot be generalised and depends on individual attitude of a person to come on the limelight or not. Take the example of our respected former president, the late Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, who never liked to be in the limelight. On the other hand, some of the women celebrities who are quite successful in their respective fields always prefer and enjoy being in the limelight. May be it is due to the very nature of in-built shyness, women generally avoid the limelight.