This interview is part of our Empowered Women series in partnership with FREE THE WORK, The 3% Movement, The Female Quotient, and TIME’S UP Foundation — a coalition effort to champion more equal and accurate representation of women leading at work, at home, in their communities and beyond. Read more about this initiative here and download images from the Empowered Women collection here.
Kamal Bhandal is VP, Global Brand and Consumer at Invisalign brand, where she leads a team of global marketers designing the brand strategy and consumer brand experience worldwide. She is a marketing maven and sought after speaker with over 20 years of global marketing experience across major consumer, healthcare and technology brands.
We spoke with Kamal about her career path, how current female leaders can nurture the next generation, and her advice for women currently navigating the path to leadership at work.
Hi Kamal! Tell us a little about yourself — how did you get to where you are today?
I credit my family and my upbringing as the foundation for who I am today. Similar to many others, I’m first generation American. I was raised with a belief system that anything and everything was possible, as long as I was willing to put in the hard work. My parents worked to keep the family ties strong across our extended family so my siblings and I essentially grew up in a very large though tight knit extended family, full of aunts, uncles and plenty of cousins.
Within this large tight knit family, many of our parents had side hustles and were natural entrepreneurs, in addition to their day time careers. And we saw first-hand that some of these side hustles worked out while many more didn’t work out. This cycle was a fabric woven into my daily life which taught me very early on that taking risks and failing quickly was a natural part of business.
As VP, Global Brand and Consumer Marketing at Invisalign, what initiatives do you oversee and what’s a day on the job like for you and what initiatives do you oversee?
I have the incredible privilege of working alongside an incredibly talented group of people across functions who are focused on a single purpose of Transforming Smiles and Changing Lives. I oversee developing the Invisalign® brand and consumer strategy globally to drive business growth.
One of the best parts of my role is that it sits at the intersection of digital, healthcare, and tech while also having both a B2B and B2C component. One of the core audiences that we try to connect with is GenZ — a generation that is digitally native and tech forward. As a result, our teams work alongside the strongest marketing and media partners to uncover insights about this critical consumer segment. It’s been incredibly insightful to immerse ourselves into the world of GenZ so that we can ensure that we are continuing to make Invisalign® a brand that is relevant to them.
Have you had a mentor throughout your career?
I’ve adopted the concept of having a personal advisory board throughout my career. This concept is shaped upon the belief that getting the perspective of several people with diverse skills and strengths can help shape your growth and development. I’ve turned to my advisory board, comprised of peers, former managers and industry leaders, throughout my career to help me think through key decisions or when I’ve struggled with solving a problem. This approach has given me the opportunity to reflect on the strengths and learnings from multiple people and perspectives.
What are a few key ways current leaders can help nurture the next generation of women in leadership?
Be open to differences. The next generation is going to approach problem solving differently than the current generation of leaders. This is a natural evolution shaped by technology, the pervasiveness of digital media in their lives and their openness to seeing multiple perspectives. As this generation of women rises through organizations, it’s imperative that current leaders be aware that they are likely to encounter a different point of view than their own and be open to considering that point of view.
Extend a hand and pull others up: The responsibility is upon all of us to reach into our organizations, communities and networks to help other women rise into their next role. Every leader today can identify someone within their organization or network that has the potential to rise up to senior levels of leadership. As a leader, the most important thing we can do is help shape the next generation of leaders.
What do you see as some of the biggest opportunities to positively drive meaningful change for women in the workplace and to support the rise of more women in leadership right now?
Invest the time to develop the pipeline. Positive, meaningful change will come from investing in developing the pipeline of women for leadership roles through a multi-generational approach. Leaders today have to constantly think about developing the pipeline for future roles before they become open. Too often, this is a thought that occurs in the moment when a role opens up within the organization and there may not be someone who is ready in the moment — therefore the role is filled with another candidate.
Export talent. One of the biggest opportunities we have to positively drive meaningful change is to export talent outside of our own teams. In doing so, we have the opportunity to use the entire canvas of our networks to support the rise of more women in leadership roles vs. waiting for an opportunity to come up within our immediate teams.
What are your thoughts on the importance of visual representation when it comes to supporting more women in leadership roles across industries?
Visual representation of women in leadership roles is perhaps one of the most critical factors in shaping the future of women in leadership positions. The saying, ‘if you can see her, you can be her’ rings true for me. Too often, it is impossible to imagine our own success if we do not see others like us in similar roles. Visually depicting women in professional and aspirational roles in media has the power to shape beliefs for all of us that women can truly be cast in any role.
For young girls everywhere, taking this approach helps show them that their dreams can be limitless and drives a belief system that says they can achieve those dreams. This, in itself, will begin to increase the number of young women who consider careers that otherwise may have seemed off-limits to them because they can see the possibility.
When you look to the future, what inspires you and what are you most excited about?
I’m inspired by the next generations — GenZ and Gen Alpha — teens and kids who are growing up in a technology and digital-first era. As digital and technology natives, with information literally at their fingertips, these two generations believe that they change the world and that they have a responsibility to create a better future. We’re already seeing leadership characteristics shining through brightly in these generations in various ways. For example, teens today are starting their own businesses, creating volunteer opportunities for their peers, organizing food drives to help their communities and much more.
It’s inspiring to see them, at such an early age, begin to positively shape the world around them and also believe that their world is limitless.
What advice would you give to women in the workplace as they navigate the path to leadership?
Check imposter syndrome at the door. Many of us have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in our careers. It’s easy to give into this self-doubt and worry about what you should or shouldn’t be doing. Remember to believe in yourself because if you don’t, who will?
Surround yourself with people who inspire you and that you can learn from. We all spend a tremendous amount of time at work. Identify those people within your organization that give you energy. Each person you encounter has something that you can learn from — identify what this is and write it down. It may be a positive trait, or one that you decide that you do not wish to embody. Regardless, it will make you a stronger leader.
Play to your strengths. When you play to your strengths, you naturally shine. Too many of us spend time fixated on our weaknesses. Once you identify your strengths, you are more likely to deliver strong performance results, be intrinsically motivated and enjoy the roles that you have throughout your career.
About The Female Quotient
The Female Quotient taps into the power of the collective to advance equality. It brings visibility to the invisible, creates actions and accountability for change, and helps companies close the gaps across parity, pipeline, and policy. Together with its partners, the Female Quotient is adding more women to every equation, from college campuses to the corner office, across sectors and industries.
Senior Director of Marketing at Noun Project