Nidhi Agarwal is Alumnus of SRCC college, DU and Rank holder CA from ICAI. She has two decades of professional experience in finance field. Since only few women break the glass ceiling to become the CFOs, she thought of sharing real life inspiring stories of global women leaders through her book Women CFO Stories so that many young professionals can aspire to dream big. The net proceeds of the book will be donated to charities working on women education and empowerment.
LiFT: Tell us about your book, the journey of writing it and its content.
Nidhi: Being a professional woman, I am always looking for books that help me understand how to navigate the career path successfully. I feel there is a huge dearth of successful career women as role models for young women who are often seeking guidance.
My work on this book started with self- questions – why I wanted to write, what want to write, how should I plan and execute on that plan. The first step was to identify the women leaders from diverse backgrounds and geographies. Second step was to approach the leaders and convince them to be part of this book. I was a bit skeptical if I could connect with them at a deeply personal level, given their diverse cultures and backgrounds. To my surprise and delight, each of the ladies covered in the book welcomed me into their life journeys with great warmth.
This book fills that gap by narrating life stories of real women CFOs from across the world. The stories in book the cover challenges and tough situations faced by these leaders which are relatable for any common working women. The leaders took every challenge that came their way and turned it into an opportunity, learning from failures on the way. As I was writing each chapter, I tried to introduce each CFO in intriguing way to captivate the reader. At the end of each chapter, I have captured the leadership mantras of each successful CFO and which readers can embrace in their own lives.
In my book, I would say that the stories are not glamorous stories of women with superpowers saving the earth from alien attacks. But these are real stories of ordinary women who reached some of the topmost positions in the finance world with their resilience and belief that an individual is an amalgamation of humans around them. You will realize that careers are not built in a vacuum but rather by a network of people supporting you and challenging you to be the best version of yourself. Family, friends, colleagues, leaders, mentors, and teams are part of that network. This network helped and challenged them to grow and develop beyond what they could have imagined for themself.
You will find that many women leaders in this book didn’t have the best resources in childhood. Yet, they navigated their way to climb up the corporate ladder in big global companies. Each of them strongly hopes that if they can inspire even a few women with their life stories, it would be an outstanding achievement.
You will be happy to know that this book’s net proceeds will be donated to non-profit organizations in India working towards women’s education and empowerment.
LiFT: Why you chose this title?
Nidhi: As per the Year 2018 McKinsey report, males and females in finance start their careers on equal footing. As they go up the ladder, women account for only 19% of the positions of power. Also, a recent study by Catalyst shows that less than 13% of the women in Finance make it to leadership roles like CFO. Further, a study by Harvard Business Review mentions that most women leave the workforce partly because they don’t have female role models at the top in the finance world. Hence, I decided to choose title – Women CFO Stories. I hope that by reading this book, women can visualize their role models and get inspired. I have been lucky that early in my career, I got to work with Kristina Isherwood, who was my role model, and her story on “A true fighter who never gives up” is covered in this book.
LiFT: When did you realize that you want to be a writer/poet and what’s your inspiration behind it?
Nidhi: I was inspired by the book The Alchemist and how Paulo Coelho inspired millions how to follow their dreams by telling a Shepherd’s brave and mystical story in a magical way. In same way I wanted to write a book which could inspire many. I choose to share real life stories instead of fictional characters. My flair of writing has been since my school days. I used to write articles for school magazine on diverse topics & expressed my views on topics like female infanticide, pollution & Indian economy etc. Once I joined college and CA course, I didn’t had much time to write. Post my CA qualification I started writing articles and blogs on technical accounting topics and some of them were covered in Institute of Chartered Accountants of India journals. While I always wanted to write a book to inspire many, time was always a challenge and pandemic provided me ample time on weekends. That’s when I decided to write the book – Women CFO stories.
LiFT: How much do you think marketing or quality of a book is necessary to promote a particular book and increase its readers?
Nidhi: Since my book had worldwide audience target, I personally paid lot of attention to content quality, story narration to engage the reader especially I felt a sense of obligation to the women who have entrusted me with their stories to be shared with the world. There were multiple round of editings that were done to ensure that we create best in class final product at end.
LiFT: What is the message you want to spread among folks with your writings?
Nidhi: I want every young girl to dream and aspire by reading these stories. I hope this book will inspire many women finance professionals to break the glass ceiling and aim to become CFOs one day. Each person’s circumstances are different, and your story can’t be the same as anyone else’s. By reading this book, I hope every woman can understand that Ambition, Humility, Profession, and prosperous family life can all co-exist!!
As I interacted with the women leaders covered in this book and dug deeper into their stories for insights, below were some of my learnings :
1) There is no substitute for hard work.
2) You should be passionate about your work.
3) Share your dreams with your family and leaders at work to find sponsors.
4) Stay humble. Humility is a hallmark of success.
5) Building relationships and networking at the workplace is critical.
6) Influence people to achieve change instead of directing change.
7) Constant self-evaluation and having insatiable curiosity are essential.
LiFT: What do you do apart from writing?
Nidhi: I am a finance professional and my job commitments keeps me busy during weekdays. I am an avid reader, love travelling and I practice yoga.
LiFT: What are your suggestions to the budding writers/poets so that they could improve their writing skills?
Nidhi: Start with why and what you want to write, create plan, commit to your goal. Be your authentic self in your work. Take feedback on written content to improvise it.