Breaking through barriers: Palak Handa’s journey as a woman of color in finance

In a conversation with Leapfin’s Kate Swanberg, Palak Handa, Controller at Hootsuite, shared her experience as a woman of color in finance, the impact of diverse representation in leadership, and advice for women looking to climb the corporate ladder.

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Diverse representation in leadership

Palak emphasizes the significance of having equal representation of women in executive positions. She notes that diverse teams are more risk-averse, open to change, and focused on transformation. “Diverse teams bring diverse perspectives and experiences, leading to well-rounded, informed decision-making,” Palak says. Hootsuite’s commitment to diversity has led to higher employee morale and the multiplier effect, where each woman added to the C-suite results in three more women being added to senior leadership positions.

Challenges faced by women of color in finance

Palak highlights the unique challenges she faced as a woman of color in finance, including the lack of mentors and role models, and the broken rung holding women back. She points out that women’s representation falls off at every step of the corporate ladder, particularly steep for women of color. “As a woman of color, I faced unique challenges,” she says. Women in finance are more likely to face belittling microaggressions, which men don’t experience. However, Palak believes that things are improving, and Hootsuite is an example of better representation.

Importance of mentorship and role models

Palak emphasizes the need for women to have mentors and role models in their careers, as they can provide guidance, support, and motivation. “Without more women paving the way, those entering the field find it more challenging to navigate the path, or sometimes they don’t even know if there’s a path for them ahead,” Palak shares. She believes that a strong support network is crucial to women’s success in the workplace.

Advice for aspiring women leaders

Palak offers several pieces of advice for women looking to climb the corporate ladder and become mentors and visible role models for others. She encourages women to focus on upskilling themselves and not to spend energy fitting into a narrow box that their employer creates for them. “Be bold and put yourself in uncomfortable situations. Know your value and be confident about it,” she says. Palak also suggests creating a support network and taking charge of one’s career to overcome obstacles and challenges.

Conclusion

Palak’s journey as a woman of color in finance serves as an inspiration for others seeking to break barriers and advance their careers. By embracing diversity in leadership, addressing unique challenges faced by women of color, and offering guidance to the next generation of women leaders, companies like Hootsuite can pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable workplace.

Watch the full discussion with Palak here:

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