Embrace your femininity, understand the power of leadership and find a healthy work-life balance. Atisha Gopichund is a wife, mother and business woman working in the construction sector, and this is her philosophy.
After graduating from Tshwane University of Technology, Atisha started her career as a civil engineer where she learnt to take ideas from inception to completion. This skill proved to be valuable when she later made the career move to head up Saint-Gobain Gyproc’s marketing department – a position fuelled by her desire to diversify and grow and one that led to her being the first woman and one of the youngest member on the company’s executive committee at that time.
As a wife and mother of her seven year old son, Atisha balances career and home life. She is also a woman working in the interior construction industry which is predominantly male.
“Having a successful career has always been important to me,” says Atisha. “My husband also takes his work seriously – he’s also in engineering within the banking sector and there’s a very healthy level of competition between the two of us.”
Atisha isn’t too perturbed by gender in the workplace. She’s inspired and motivated by the achievements of the men and women surrounding her and she believes in hard work and good ethics being the backbones of success – something her parents drilled into her from a young age.
However, looking back on her career she can see how understanding and honing her feminine traits has benefited her career-journey.
“Women have specific strengths and I’ve learnt that embracing these makes life a whole lot simpler,” she says.
“We don’t have to behave like men to have fulfilling careers. In fact on a primal level I believe we’re wired to be cooperative. We’re also naturally inclined towards caretaking and finding positive solutions that allow everyone to benefit. This instinct to collaborate gets the most out of people which leads to good results, and as women we should tap into it,” Atisha emphasises.
As a mother and wife, her family is very important to her and she aims to balance her roles as homemaker and business woman. “The trick for me,” she says “is having good support network, planning well and dedicating time for special activities with my husband and son.”
However she can appreciate that balance is not always achievable. While studying her masters in Civil Engineering two years ago, Atisha recalls being nominated as class mom at her son’s school. At the time it was an impossible task to take on and one she had to decline.
“For me the key is to prioritise what benefits my family and adds the most value to our little unit. I don’t try to do it all but rather concentrate on those quality moments in life that enhance what’s really important,” she says.
“There have been some midnight bake-a-thons for my son’s school ‘bakerman’, which I’m not so sure is great balance!” she says. But she understands that life can’t be perfect.
In achieving balance at home and leading like a woman in the workplace, Atisha says it’s crucial to make time for herself and to find new ways to learn and grow.
Her advice to other women balancing work and family is to, “reflect and nurture your own being and growth by reading. Also make a point of learning from the women you look up to in life and business. And try to learn something new every day,” Atisha concludes.