Women in Resilience Spotlight: Harshita Mathur

  • 28 Oct 2020

Harshita Mathur, a member of the BCI Women in Resilience (WiR) Committee, has over 7+ years of experience in emergency & crisis management, business continuity and environmental sustainability across the Middle East and Canada. Through significant expertise in consulting, Harshita gained developed her skills in the resilience space across multiple industries, and has most recently leveraged this within the higher education sector.

What brought you into the industry?

A passion for all things green led me to pursuing an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies. It was during this time I took a few courses on natural disasters and felt that I needed to better understand Disaster / Emergency Management.

After completing my undergraduate degree, I decided to volunteer in Jamaica for a month in the field of Disaster Management where I planned and executed full scale functional exercises and contributed to the Manchester Parish Council’s emergency management program. By then I knew this field was where I belonged.

 In Canada I volunteered with the Canadian Red Cross and pursued a Masters degree in Disaster & Emergency Management. After returning back to the Middle East, my focus shifted to helping organizations become more resilient through business continuity management.

How did you reach your current position? What challenges did you face?

Firstly, by exploration – researching, reaching out to professionals in the field and remaining dedicated to learning as much as I could about the field. You have to learn what things are right or maybe not so right for you by taking some risks and speaking to people who’ve walked down these paths before you. Dedication to finding out what career was right for me played a huge role.

Secondly, I would say a big part of my journey included amazing mentors and role models. The people around you are often an undervalued strength; I had strong women (and men!) around me in my personal and professional life and countless times I have uplifted them and they’ve done the same for me. I’m eternally grateful that they’ve been supportive and helped me reach where I am today.

Challenges are always part of the equation. You can’t really understand your own personal resilience until you face some challenges along the way and see how you overcome these. Some challenging moments I’ve faced range from unconscious bias based on my gender and cultural background, to making difficult choices including knowing when to speak up and stand up for myself and others. These moments have shaped who I am today and have contributed to my working towards becoming the type of role model for others, that I have been privileged enough to have.

Which specific skills do you think are needed to become a leader in your field?

Communication – This is the key to almost everything. Being an effective communicator is so important to being able to facilitate, negotiate, understand, process and drive any kind of change.

Compassion & empathy – These skills help to understand others’ motivations and struggles, and foster relationships that build to create better teamwork and problem solving. Creating a safe space for conversation is part and parcel of this as well, and contributes to a positive working environment.

Flexibility – I strongly believe that the ability to be flexible and adapt to the situation in front of you is crucial; situations are constantly evolving (technology, the scale and type of disruptions we face, industries); being flexible allows you to develop your skillset with the changing seas.

Innovation – Being able to innovate and inspire others with a positive attitude is also the mark of a great leader. This can sometimes mean following a strategic methodology, or at times going completely off the beaten path – but being influential in creating new ideas.

Integrity – Valuing and exhibiting characteristics such as honesty and transparency also helps build trust amongst team members. Being a leader in this field certainly means operating with integrity and being mindful of one’s conscious and unconscious biases.

There are of course many more skills that could make a great leader, but the last thing I’ll note is while many may possess a lot of these skills, it is also an art to know which ones are most required in the moment.

Do you think that the BCI WiR initiative will influence our industry? If yes, how?

Most definitely! The Women in Resilience initiative has already positively influenced our industry by providing a great platform for professionals in the field to share ideas, learn from one another and build relationships.

Furthermore, the initiative is an advocate for diversity, bringing concepts such as equity and inclusion to the forefront, and encouraging organizations across the globe to grow through the lens of DEI.

What changes would you like to see in the profession?

More emphasis on creating an inclusive atmosphere. If decision makers, policy makers, strategic influencers – all aligned business goals and targets with DEI principles, we would see more women in leadership positions.

Inclusion that fosters collaboration. Within an organization, and often between organizations, we see teams working in silo. Through more collaboration, I believe we can achieve more resilience – resilient communities, entities, cities and countries.

In your opinion, why should more people be joining the resilience community?

Resilience is important in all aspects of life. From personal preparedness, to organizational and business resilience within the workplace, we will constantly be impacted by changing circumstances.  

This year alone has provided countless examples of how unplanned events can disrupt business operations and negatively impact individuals, communities and the global economy. As we identify more threats and risks, there will be an increasing need for resilience professionals.

Lastly – its an exciting place to be! An everchanging threat landscape ensures this field is constantly evolving, growing and innovating. What a great field to join!