5Cs for Women to Attain C-suite Status

Manage Your Arcs: 5Cs for Women to Attain C-suite Status

I got a call last Sunday evening from my friend, who hesitantly said, “Do you know Sathya quit her job, eight months after her child was born?”  Isn’t such news familiar — women quitting their careers immediately after marriage or childbirth or even later in their career? With due respect to homemakers, haven’t times changed to where women can balance family and career?  Though the Sustainable Development Goal #5 set by the United Nations is to achieve gender equality and empower all women, in BSE 500 companies, only 3%1 of CEOs are women. Why?

For an accomplished journey, it is essential that a woman manage few arcs.  By arcs, here, I mean the bumps she encounters or the decisions she needs to take.

I assert that our society is liberated but is still evolving. If “gender diversity” is still a human resources metric, if we still see “Beti bachao, beti padhao” slogans, and if companies still need to undertake initiatives on gender diversity, it only proves that the social issue has not yet been adequately addressed, let alone resolved.

We nourish aspirations in girls. What then, is next for them? 

The “5Cs for women to attain C-suite status” framework is a reflection of my experience as a mother with a 20-year career in multinational companies.


A girl may have to deal with societal and parental pressures when deciding on her course of study at the higher education/ college level. It is critical that she is clear about her aspirations and convinces her parents to agree to her choice. When I was 15, I had to choose between studying to be an engineer or a doctor. I wanted to become a doctor but was unable to convince my mother, who wanted me to be an engineer. I didn’t manage my first arc well.


After marriage, in the Indian context, many aspects of a woman’s life are influenced by her spouse and/or her in-laws. She needs to communicate her aspirations both on the family front and the office front. The assumption that her aspirations will be well received, without properly communicating them, may lead to disaster.

I wanted to pursue my Masters degree after my marriage. My mother had communicated this to my fiancé. However, my mother-in-law had concerns about my studying in a co-ed college and in a different city. Sadly, this was still the scenario in the late 20th century. I handled this arc well through full communication with my in-laws and my university.


The third arc — the most challenging one — is when a woman bears her first child. Lots of emotions are involved, significantly guilt, when one is a working new mother. To leave her child at a day care centre or at home and go to work is painful. Collaboration with family and colleagues is the key. If well managed, one can enjoy both one’s career and motherhood.

In 1999, my son Ram was born. At that time, MNCs didn’t have the option to work remotely. However, collaboration with my colleagues, my manager and family worked well. I went on a three-month assignment abroad when Ram was nine months old. He was well taken care of by my parents. I received two awards in his first year. I replaced guilt with focus.  


A woman may experience failure on either the personal or professional front daily. It is important to create a context for your life to deal with this arc. Without a context, one of the back doors women resort to is to quit their job; it is a back door available only for women. We rarely hear men say that they quit their job for their personal/ family life. If that back door is not available for men, why is it for women?

After Vaishnavi was born, I was promoted to the role of Project Manager. I created a context of “self-love and quality of life”. How much ever I failed on the personal or work front, I didn’t stop loving myself or seeking to improve my quality of life. This worked miracles for me. My children grew responsibly, and I received around 15 awards and a promotion in three years.


At some point in our careers, most of us experience a sense of stagnation or pointlessness. I experienced this after more than 15 years in my career. To overcome this, a woman needs courage — the courage to disrupt, the courage to confront the status quo, and the courage to create a vision and communicate it.

When I was 36, I hit a plateau in my professional life. My organisation was acquired and the news was announced with a presentation. I couldn’t understand it. I was not okay with the fact that I didn’t understand it and that I was not among the decision makers. I questioned the status quo, which led me to take the GMAT at the age of 37. By doing so, I enabled myself to work in strategic roles.

Celebrate life using the 5Cs framework. Good luck!


About the Author: 

The author of this article is Susila Cherla, alumnus from PGP Clss of 2013. She is responsible for business management at Nokia. 


  1. India Inc’s gender diversity plagued by execution ills. (2017, December 11). The Economic Times. Retrieved from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/company/corporate-trends/india-incs-gender-diversity-plagued-by-execution-ills-survey/articleshow/62021097.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst.
  2. Nagpal, M.  Woman in tech: There are three times more male engineers to females. Belong.co. Retrieved from http://blog.belong.co/gender-diversity-indian-tech-companies.



The name of the framework derives from the well-known 5Cs of marketing framework, from which the author has adapted some “Cs” in her framework. The views expressed by the author in this article are her own.






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