Bhavna Toor personifies the famous adage- beauty with brains. As the founder and CEO of Shenomics- where she helps women unearth their true potential by practising mindfulness and becoming successful not only in their work sphere but leads to overall personality development and assisting them in making a mark for themselves. Her clientele includes the Fortune 100 companies.
She strives to eradicate the gender gap in leadership roles and create a sisterhood wherein women from diverse walks of life can help each other to rise to the zenith.
Bhavna has been curating and mentoring budding entrepreneurs and leaders for the last decade as an entrepreneur-in-residence with GSF Accelerator and formerly as the CEO of the National Social Entrepreneurship Forum. Before taking a plunge as a life coach and motivational coach, she was the Vice President for a leading Asset Management firm on Wall Street.
The former Ms India New York has volunteered with the Tanzanian Red Cross at the Kigoma refugee camp and also interned at the UN Population Fund. She is a global citizen having resided in over six countries and brings a varied perspective to her work.
The Voice of Woman recently had the utmost pleasure of having a conversation with Shero herself on her myriad experience and the position and importance of female leadership in today’s world.
Can you please tell us what is meant by “mindful leadership”?
Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention to the present moment and to do so with full acceptance and non-judgment. Mindful Leadership goes a step further and uses that spotlight that we shine on our thoughts to become more aware of who we are, what is most important to us, and what is the highest vision we have of ourselves and the world that we wish to work towards.
Becoming aware of and expressing our values to the fullest extent so that we show up each moment as our best selves are at the heart of Mindful Leadership.
You have worked for a leading Asset Management firm in New York, and now you run your own company- the difference between being an employee and an employer?
I have enjoyed both. The first phase of my corporate career was full of learnings. It helped me build a lot of the critical skills that we now talk about in our programs – from taking full ownership of your work and nurturing relationships to going that extra mile to make your voice and your presence visible in the organisation.
As an entrepreneur, the most empowering thing for me is that I don’t just get to be part of a vision, but I get to play a much more significant role in actually creating an image for the work that we are doing. The sense of autonomy and freedom that one gets in shaping a vision for a better world is the most intoxicating thing about being an entrepreneur, in my opinion.
You have worked on Wall Street and now in India, how different is the work culture concerning women employees?
There are a few cultural differences between the work culture in the U.S. and India to be sure. Women, historically, entered the workforce earlier in the U.S. and continue to participate in the workforce in much larger numbers in the U.S. than here in India. Therefore, there is greater acceptance of women working.
However, interestingly, when it comes to women, the set of challenges that we face are primarily the same across most parts of the world. Just as in the U.S., and here in India, work cultures were historically designed mainly around the needs of men, and women, especially those with children, have to work a lot harder in adapting their lives to both fits in work as well as succeed at work.
On the bright side, though, we are moving in the right direction with more and more organisations, globally, committed to creating more inclusive cultures.
You have travelled the world, how has your experience shaped your perspective towards life? You have been a professional dancer, model and Miss India New York, and a former TV host, how was it to be part of the entertainment world?
Travelling and living around the world has been one of the biggest things that have shaped me as an individual. I don’t think you can fully appreciate a country until you have lived there for a while, and I have had the rare privilege of living in 6 different countries growing up.
It has made me more sensitive and appreciative of both the cultural differences I have seen around the world, as well as the things we all share in common.
Being a part of the entertainment world earlier on in my life was a lot of fun. Like any young woman, I enjoyed the glamour and attention that came with it. However, for me, I always knew this is just something I wanted to dabble in temporarily because I always believed there was a larger purpose to my life, although what that would only become clear to me much later on. I knew I wanted to be able to use my talents to enrich people’s lives in a more meaningful and impactful way.
Start-ups have changed the world of business, can you please share a few tips for building a successful business?
A few things that have helped me build a successful business are a great team that shares my passion and vision for supporting other women. The drive and tenacity to keep asking how we can add more value to the people we are serving in new and creative ways, and ironically, to not be business-minded about everything that we do.
For example, one of our core values is generosity, and three years ago, we created a fellowship program for young women leaders. From a pure business perspective, it may not necessarily make sense, because it takes a disproportionate amount of our time and effort to run, and it is not a profit-making initiative.
Nonetheless, it is one of the most rewarding things we do every year. It renews our commitment to keep growing the impact we are making through this and other programs and has helped us build a growing community of passionate men and women that are equally excited about this cause. That, to me, is priceless.
Why is there a need for more women leaders? Are women in leadership roles preferred?
We need more leaders, period. And when women make up half the sky – we are one half of the population – and we have a diverse set of ideas, skills, and values to contribute to solving the world’s most pressing problems. We are at a severe loss if we don’t do everything we possibly can to harness the leadership potential of this half of the population.
It is not that women are preferred or better as leaders just by virtue of their gender, but given certain inherent as well as conditioned traits, many women do possess a powerful combination of attributes that are well-suited to leading in the kind of world we are moving towards, such as empathy, collaboration and humility, as shown by so many of the women leaders who have successfully navigated the current crisis.
How can companies retain and promote more women in the workplace?
It begins first and foremost with a clear intention to do so by senior leadership, which communicates that message to all levels within the organisation. Addressing any biases that get in the way of advancement of women is essential, as is tracking progress.
Most important of all is to create an inclusive culture where women feel a real sense of belonging. Women can only thrive if they feel the psychological safety of being entirely accepted for who they are, and the unique sets of ideas, values and talents that they bring to the table.
How important is the role of failure in paving the way for success?
I view failure as a source of information. It tells me what is not working, and therefore I should either do differently or stop doing. If we approach failure with a growth mindset – asking what we can learn from it – it becomes a great stepping stone to success.
Can you please share a message for aspiring women entrepreneurs through The Voice of Woman.
If you feel a longing to do something entrepreneurial, embrace it with open arms. The personal growth that comes from the entrepreneurial journey is incredible.
You will learn so much about yourself, and get the opportunity to become a better version of yourself, not to mention, you will have the chance to make a real difference in the world. That is both a great blessing and one of the most significant responsibilities of our lives.
To learn more about Shenomics and their latest program, The Conscious Woman, please go here: www.Shenomics.com/ConsciousWoman