Priyanka Mehandiratta: Building The Next Generation Of Women Leaders Through The Power Of Unmute

Priyanka Mehandiratta
Founder & CEO

Julius Caesar famously wrote in De Bello Civile, "Experience is the best teacher of all". And rightly so. Life lessons learnt through personal experience hold the power of transformation. Entrepreneur Priyanka Mehandiratta's professional journey is a true testament to the same. Much like several women across the globe she lived under the shadows of a patriarchal culture and felt that her professional aspirations were being hindered. After having struggled for a long period of time, she successfully broke free of the shackles and embarked on a courageous journey of learning and unlearning.

Drawing from her personal experience with life as a woman, Priyanka founded Unmute, a consulting firm specializing in women's leadership development. The Toronto based firm offers a collection of programs designed to mentor and empower women and their allies.

At the helm of affairs at Unmute is Priyanka who comes armed with an MBA degree along with being a Certified Training and Facilitation Professional, and a Certified Executive Coach with strong expertise in developing leaders at all levels to be more human. She is also an Activator with Sheeo, a global funding platform supporting women entrepreneurs that solves world problems.

In an indepth conversation with the Women Entrepreneur team, we delve deeper into Priyanka's early life, her areas of expertise and her vision for redefining gender roles globally.

Take us through the early years of your life. What motivated you to venture out on your own as an entrepreneur?

I was born and raised in India. Being the first child in the family meant I had my life planned even before I was born. I was expected to walk the template set before myself and become a faultless example for my siblings and dozens of cousins to model their lives upon. Of course, it didn't matter if I desired a version of life different from the one society gave me.

Years later, when I moved to Canada, the pre-conditioned values and a culture of silence hindered my career growth. I knew that I had to unlearn the myths that were holding me down and learn & relearn counter principles and values to find my voice. I struggled with this challenge for a long time until I decided to do something about it. This simple plan transformed my life and laid the trajectory for my career success.

Introduce us to Unmute. What is the underlying philosophy behind the organization?

Springing from years of solid experience, I founded Unmute to untangle more women from the shacks of gender-designated roles.

While we have seen various women leaders succeed in business, however, they still face daunting challenges. Although laws and policies have attempted to create a favorable business environment for everyone, the actual changes have not yet been implemented.

I believe there is an urgent need for women to find their voice, especially with recent reports showing that one in four women are considering leaving the workforce as an impact of Covid-19. The only way to fight against the suppressive system is to build a counter system.

My endeavour with Unmute is to provide women with the right resources to get ahead and experience personal success.

Unlike the game of chess, where the queen is the most powerful piece, real-life doesn't offer women enough safe squares to move freely, speak their minds and be who they choose. At Unmute, we invest in mentoring women in business to soar beyond the norm and societal templates to find their true selves. Our social conditioning is working against us. Hence, one of the core business philosophies for Unmute is "You have to unlearn before you start learning."

Take us through the various responsibilities you shoulder as the founder & CEO of Unmute. Also, what are some key leadership philosophies that you employ in order to face the plethora of business challenges that you face?

Entrepreneurs are known to wear many hats. As the Founder and CEO of Unmute, I am no different. Wearing multiple hats as you get your business off the ground requires a fierce commitment to the organization. From wearing the visionary's hat, the finance hat, the day-to-day hat, the sales-hat to the marketing hat. No two day are the same. That's the exciting part of being an entrepreneur.

However, on the flip side, there are no rules or books, or podcasts, or success stories that are written to follow a plan to build a business in a pandemic. Building a new blueprint that has never been created before comes with its challenges.

One way to counter them is by staying true to my values, instincts and keeping a close eye on the pulse of the market, and not being afraid to start all over if the existing plan doesn't work.

Leadership is a mindset and changing your mindset often requires learning, unlearning, and relearning.

“To me, having a leadership mindset means seeing problems as opportunities and recognizing that every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow.”

What steps do you take to keep yourself updated with the period evolutions that the industry and business landscape goes through?

One of the silver linings of a pandemic is the ability to network from the comforts of your home. I strongly believe in the power of networking and volunteer at the grassroots levels as we build the next generation of leaders. I consciously made time to connect with real people who bring problems to the table and allow me to keep a close eye on current challenges so I don't lose sight as we build and evolve at Unmute.

Unmute also holds monthly community events called Unmute Circles and brings the industry together and unmute a new topic that we are taught to stay away from that is impacting each one of us and hinders our growth. In the world of the digital economy, we are still human at work!

I also speak at global conferences that allow me to share my expertise at the same time learn from the audience as we build the future of work.

Drawing from your vast experience as a leader what advice would you give to women who aspire to follow in your footsteps?

The motivation you are looking for outside is inside of you. Nothing works unless you do. When things go south, I don't blame others. I take responsibility for my actions and find ways to get ahead instead. Failure is a part of success. This approach has always worked for me.

It's time that young women should change the narrative around Failure and take risks. Failure is a part of success. Once you become fearless, life become limitless.

Priyanka Mehandiratta, Facilitating Women Leaders Find Their True Voice

Priyanka comes armed with an MBA degree along with being a Certified Training and Facilitation Professional, and a Certified Executive Coach with strong expertise in developing leaders at all levels to be more human.