By Fatima Gorezi
Harpreet Chana is now an international Speaker who is completing her training to be an ICF accredited Executive Coach, as well as running her own consultancy business. She is an advocate of openly discussing and promoting women’s mental health, something which is sadly still heavily stigmatised and regarded as a taboo subject. She genuinely believes that the future for women has never looked brighter. She now shares some tips on how women can be successful in life, make their dreams come true and achieve a better life.
What was your childhood and upbringing like? And how has that influenced who and what you are today?
I grew up in a working-class part of middle England as a first generation British Asian with very traditional Indian immigrant parents. My father was a bus driver and my mother a housewife, looking after her 5 children as well as her in-laws (my grandparents) who lived with us until they sadly passed away when I was 15. We had very little – and growing up and being the youngest girl, I lived off hand-me-downs with very few clothes and possessions that were truly my own. This upbringing, plus my parents’ persistence that we all be educated, gave me the perseverance to study hard, succeed in life and to not accept mediocrity.
I didn’t have an easy childhood. I always struggled to balance the British and Indian cultures effectively and I battled daily against the confines of my religion and culture and its arcane, outdated and prejudiced views of women. I suffered in silence with bullying and abuse as a young child because of fear that I would be judged and blamed by family/the wider community for what had happened to me (which was something I had little or no control over). I struggled for many years to overcome these early difficulties, but it has helped me to recognise how fragile our human nature is and that we must protect it at all costs. It is why I am such a huge advocate for better mental health promotion for women and giving each other safe space to be open and honest about the struggles we all face on a daily basis to be successful businesswomen, partners, mothers, daughters etc. as well as meet all the demands Society (and ourselves to some extent) place on us.
What has helped you to become more effective in growing your business?
Coaching, without a doubt. I had spent thousands on therapy and counselling over the years, but it was after I walked into my first Coaching event (held by the world’s Number one Wealth Coach, JT Foxx) in February 2017 that I decided to take the leap into launching my own consultancy business. And then my own personal coach (and the Director of ‘Global Woman Johannesburg’), Rooksana Modan, helped me to realise my life’s true calling in becoming a Coach myself and to help empower other people to become better leaders, better businessmen and women and to achieve their life’s true potential. I have since set up my own Coaching practice to complement the consulting and would now like to focus on helping other female senior executives to overcome barriers and smash through their perceived glass ceilings to become THE leaders of the 21st century.
What were your biggest challenges in life?
Overcoming bullying, childhood abuse, a serious sexual assault at university plus anxiety and depression to become the powerful, confident and strong woman that I am today. Understanding that none of what happened to me was my fault and that all we can control in our lives are our responses to both people and situations. People overcome worse struggles than what I faced, on a daily basis. I count myself lucky that I at least grew up as part of a family unit, with a roof over my head and food in my stomach and that I was given the opportunity to educate myself; something that many women still do not have the right to do, even in 2018.
What is happening on a global scale with women in business and what does the future hold for women?
I genuinely believe that the future for women has never looked brighter. In the advent of the #metoo campaign and the gender pay-gap investigation, the inequalities that still exist between the treatment of men and women in business has never been more of a focal point on the international stage. For the first time in history, organisations are now actively trying to address gender differences and are looking to help support more women into taking on more senior and management roles. There is a belief that women are capable of doing what men can do, if not more, given the demands placed on them by society; demands which they continue to meet on a daily basis. So, the time is ripe to equip women with the confidence they need in order to succeed in these more senior roles and to encourage a network of support from fellow female colleagues rather than a sea of judgment and/or criticism. Only when we encourage an open, honest and supportive female-female network will we really see our gender rise to the challenge and smash through the perceived obstacles.
What are your top tips to stay motivated?
-Set some clearly defined and realistic goals.
-Try to visualise what achieving these goals would look/feel/sound/taste like.
-Break down those goals into small manageable weekly steps.
-Schedule your day the night before and plan in 5 key things to do before 9am that will help you to achieve your weekly goals.
-Hire a coach to keep you on track and accountable.
-Mix with like-minded people who can then support you and lift you up if you’re having a bad day/week
What about your private life? How is your free time?
Family focused! I live for love; as Sun Myung Moon famously said, “More precious than life is love, for there can be no life without love” and I live by that sentiment. Business is vital of course but my family and friends are at the centre of all that I do. They are whom I do it for, and they are my favourite people to spend time with. I try not to waste precious time with my four-year-old, understanding that a day will come that I am not the coolest person in his life (but for now I will happily take that mantle!) I also like to give back and be part of a community, so I am currently the PTA Chair at my son’s school.
Do you have a final piece of advice or insight for our readers?
I want it to be ‘okay’ for women to be open and honest about the real struggles we face in this modern world. We fought hard just to get the ‘equality’ we currently experience, but we are still a way off being truly equivalent to men. Yet in reality, we do SO much more! We are expected to be ‘super-women’ and criticise both ourselves and each other if we don’t meet the completely unrealistic demands society expects of us i.e. to be successful, be supportive wives/partners, be loving and doting mothers, be in charge of childcare, be in charge of the whole household, look after aging parents, have age-defying toned bodies, have beautifully coiffured hair and to look a ‘million dollars’ at all times. It is too HARD and too much and is the reason why so many women burn out and then persecute themselves for not being able to live up to this insane ‘perfect’ image. We need to be more supportive of each other and encourage each other to speak out when things are not okay – and instead of passing judgement, actually empathise and help each other to progress.