When Reshma Ramachandran landed on an offshore oil platform for one of her transformation roles, the first thing people noticed was her ethnicity and her gender. Because of her Indian heritage, her former colleagues thought, Ramachandran wouldn’t have the confidence or courage to speak up.
“I did live up to that for a few days, because I am really not an aggressive person and I believe in engaging with people on a change journey rather than a top-down approach,” Ramachandran, now a Senior Vice President & Group Head of Transformation at The Adecco Group, said.
Her initial days on that project were tough: no one believed she had the expertise to do her job, and because so many people put a label on her right away, she never had the chance to show her abilities. But with persistence and resilience, she gradually helped set the team up for success – and moved on to her next role.
Ramachandran, who was named to the 2021 EMpower Ethnic Minority Role Model List this month, said there have been several instances where she has been underestimated or overlooked because of her background and her quiet demeanour.
The Adecco Group executive, who will mark 20 years in the corporate world this summer, says that has been the case since she left her home country of India.
“Moving out of my home country 20 years back has also meant that I am never in a room or group where there is anyone who looks like me or understands my background,” Ramachandran said. “Being an ethnic minority has always meant that typically my stereotypical image precedes my work or potential and that I start sub-zero most times, having to work at least 3 times harder to earn a seat at the table.”
Being named to the 2021 EMpower Ethnic Minority Role Model List marks an important moment: a reminder of her roots, and the wings that she can give other ethnic minority women, to help them thrive in a world that does not look like them. That’s one of the reasons she celebrates her success: women and ethnic minorities need to see role models that look like them to help them succeed.
“If you can’t see her, you can’t be her. Role models are very important in shaping your dreams and ambitions,” Ramachandran said. “Hence the importance of having role models that look like you, think like you and have a background like yours.”