Over several decades, women in the workplace have faced barriers in the form of societal perceptions on how women should act and live. Although there have been significant improvements for women in the workplace, there is still a lot left to be done.
According to a McKinsey study in 2021, there were 86 women for every 100 men promoted to be a manager, which is encouraging. However, striving for a 50-50 gender balance is progressive thinking and the need of the hour. Since men outnumber women at the managerial levels, automatically women representation at leadership levels will be further limited. Presence of women in leadership roles, will enhance the gender diversity of an organisation by opening new prospects and further career progression for younger women who enter the workforce.
Organisation’s responsibility in closing the gender gap
Accepting gender diversity is a priority and establishing goals for improving diversity ratio is a must. It is now imperative that every organisation takes some intentional actions – which begins by addressing succession with the lens of diversity, developing more women leaders, and doing away with unconscious biases at the workplace. Earmarking positions focussed on diversity hiring, investing in internal women talent through focussed programs, are some of the successful initiatives that can improve and contribute to, gender-balanced leadership teams.
The recent bulletin from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) and Centre for Financial Information and Evaluation reports that India had 22.1% fewer women employed in 2021 than in 2019. Most importantly, the number of women actively on the lookout for work every month also diminished by three million between 2019 and 2021. Considering the declining numbers in women's employment, it is crucial for women to have a conducive work environment that allows them to circumvent social barriers that serve as an impediment in their professional growth. Organisations should inculcate skill-building activities to help improve and close skill gaps amongst employees by focused training. Such training helps women think beyond their present roles.
Organisations should also act as a catalyst and nurture women, to grow as leaders. While organisations do all they can, women should take some strong actions as well.
Take inspiration from success stories
Successful women leaders around the world embraced their fears to achieve their goals. To evolve as a well-rounded leader, women need to believe in themselves, set achievable goals, while also rewarding themselves and following their passions.
Success is found outside of one's comfort zone but is often hindered by the fear of the unknown. Highlighting a commonly sighted example – men apply for a job when they meet 60 percent of the criteria, whereas women are observed to apply only if they meet 100 percent of the criteria. There is an unconscious internal belief that unless a woman meets all the criteria exactly, she won't be considered. This must change! It is important for women to raise their hand for all opportunities that come their way with utmost confidence.
Need to enhance skills
Investment in building skills of the future, beyond one’s subject matter expertise is vital to move forward in leadership roles. Avoid sticking to the presumed conventional job roles and learn new skills at every step and opportunity. Learning new skills can help one expand one’s sphere of influence, it helps in finding new ways to solve problems, without being afraid of the challenges. It also helps in boosting confidence to new heights.
Women as cheerleaders for other women
Women should nurture other women to succeed, by being good mentors, patient listeners, and cheerleaders. Celebrating another woman's triumphs will never diminish one’s own success. If you see potential in your colleagues, peers or team members, take that extra effort to guide them to enhance their work and help them write their success stories.
Don’t let failure stop you
Implementing any new idea is never easy and requires perseverance and clear communication. Making mistakes is a part of one’s learning process. It is important to pick oneself up and bounce back from failure. This shows conviction, determination, and purpose.
The way forward
Women leaders in the industry must embrace their role-model status and continue to inspire younger women who look up to them. In the words of Sheryl Sandberg “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.
The best leaders are those that inspire, and I strongly believe we all have the power to inspire. Be confident and believe in yourself!