"If you look at where I have been lucky, it is in my underlying drive to keep going when things become difficult, because I wanted to be a part of making something happen, of being involved in the healthcare world."

That's Terri Bresenham, president & CEO of GE Healthcare India. Bresenham came to India two years ago to take on this role. Prior to this, she was vice-president of molecular imaging for GE Healthcare globally, where she led the company's exploration into detecting disease earlier.

Bresenham joined GE, soon after her university, as an Edison Engineer. GE's Edison Engineering Development Programme is an intensive programme for college graduates who have a passion for technology, and a drive for technical excellence. She then progressed through engineering and product management roles, and went on to lead sales & marketing of GE's women health business for the introduction of digital mammography, and GE's Lunar Inc for solutions in osteoporosis and metabolic health.

Bresenham has three daughters. She says in her career, some of the most challenging times came when she and her husband decided to start a family. She had her first child four years into her career.

"That time, the insurance coverage was for 24 hours in hospital, not from the time you were admitted and up to the birth of the baby. Unfortunately, my first child had a long labour, so I didn't stay in hospital very long after I gave birth. I had a healthy baby. You never know how you feel about having a child, but I remember distinctly that after the third day I was feeling bored and wanted to go back to work. I did go back to work fairly soon after that," she says.

She also remembers an instance when a male colleague, whose wife was pregnant at the same time that she was, asked Bresenham, "So you're looking forward to staying home?" She replied she was coming back. He said his wife was looking forward to staying home. "I said it's good for her. I asked him whether he was going to stay home. He said of course not. I said that's how I feel." Social biases like these, she says, raises challenges for women.

She says the fastest career progression in the US happens typically between ages 30 and 40. But that's also the time when couples start families.

"I think this is why women have to stay in the workforce during that period even though it's challenging. So much of learning happens in that time frame, you get so many mid-tier roles and responsibilities. If you can survive that, you get enhanced opportunities, can go to whichever level you desire."

She said she was able to overcome the challenges partly because of the tremendous support from her husband. "We also had wonderful support structures. We didn't have the support of the extended family, but we had great caregivers who were like adopted family."

Bresenham says women in India perhaps face more challenges than women elsewhere. "The social structures are harder for women in India. There are expectations outside work. In Europe and US, there are support structures like day care centres in companies. There are a lot of areas where kids get support from more than just their parents. There is general acceptance of women not being primary caregiver at all times."

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