Catalysing Next-Gen Women Leaders

Let us come together and commit to creating a culture of trust and confidence for women to envision and move forward on the path to becoming leaders!

Globally, women hold just 24 per cent of senior leadership positions1. This is despite studies showing that having women leaders in the head positions of top management is linked to significantly increased profitability. But why do women face challenges on the job in today’s complex business settings?

The current global labour force participation rate for women is just under 47 per cent, a difference of 25 percentage points from men whose rate is at 72 per cent. 2. In India, this gender gap increases to 50.9 per cent with women in the labour force at just 19.2 per cent as against 70.1 per cent for men. 3 It is this gender challenge across levels that also impacts the gender diversity at the top.

Of course, the outlook is not all dark. It’s encouraging to see how repeatedly over the years, women from the media and entertainment industry have played a key role in breaking gender stereotypes. From iconic roles, creative storytelling to driving business growth, women are leaving their mark in many ways in the M&E space. This is despite them having to face additional stress and exhaustion from having to balance home and work responsibilities while supporting their teams.

The last decade has seen steady growth in women’s employment in civil engineering and software programming4. There is a growing recognition that women bring in diverse perspectives and experiences to the C-suite that can offer businesses a strategic advantage. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2015 indicates that four industries, Software and IT Services, Financial Services, Health and Healthcare, and Manufacturing are making some progress towards closing gender gaps in senior roles by continuing to increase the share of women hired into those roles.

But this is not enough and much more needs to be done!

Ensuring Gender Parity

Organizations should be aware of the factors that hold back women from accessing leadership positions and address each of these to ensure the barriers are removed. Some of these arise from occupational segregation that in turn leads to biases and power dynamics. Some arise from societal expectations and beliefs about women’s leadership abilities. Add sociocultural expectations around motherhood, family responsibilities and work-life balance, and this leads to women being more likely to occupy roles that limit their career growth and hamper access to the seat of power.

It is here that we must take inspration from Jacinda Ardren, the Prime Minister of New Zealand who believes that it is the woman’s decision about when they choose to have children and that it should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have job opportunities. Organizations must address these cultural barriers through policies that support women with flexible and practical solutions such as childcare at work.

There is a need for active gender-positive policies and practices to be implemented that help overcome occupational gender segregation and ensure equitable access to opportunities. The workplace must be inclusive and transparent, with policies that build trust and create favorable working conditions for women to contribute, grow and rise to the top.

Empowering Women

Empowerment is created when the strengths that women bring to the organization are recognized and rewarded. In women, the limbic portion of the brain, which is deeply connected to emotions, is more developed. This leads to heightened empathy, tenderness, truth, goodness, and affection, which are some of the most important traits needed to succeed in business. These are ingredients for success as without these, wisdom cannot exist.

Women must be assertive and not uncomfortable to own their achievements. Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo’s first foreign-born and first female CEO, speaks of how her confidence was nurtured by her mother who would ask her sister and her to write a speech about what they would do if they were president, chief minister, or prime minister and deliver it after dinner every night. It was this unusual practice that empowered her and gave her the conviction and self-belief to dream big and become whoever she wanted.

When it comes to women’s empowerment, the involvement of men is also equally crucial. Studies revealed that companies where men actively champion gender diversity are much more likely to progress than those where men are just bystanders. Communication to create awareness can help work wonders in sensitizing and moulding minds.

Mid-career Skilling

One of the key factors that will help fight gender bias is mid-career reskilling policies. There are two areas to target, first, the acquisition of specific skills for management and leadership and second, skills in emerging technologies.

To prepare women for leadership roles, there is a need to skill them in managing teams and handling accelerated growth and scaling of business through formal training in effective leadership. Leadership development programs will help women to develop into strong leaders and develop both personally and professionally. It will build confidence so that they leverage their strengths, rather than question their abilities. It will help them build skills in decision making, strategic and critical thinking, and networking, all essential for a leader to succeed. It will also help organizations to identify future leaders and build a pipeline.

Coming to emerging technologies, women must take conscious action in order to progress, and turn emerging technology from a threat into an opportunity. Jobs in future-proof fields like data and AI or cloud computing already show gender gaps globally with only 32% and 14% women respectively in these fields6. Organizations must skill and reskill women to prepare for the digital future through training in emerging technologies. This will give women the confidence to embrace emerging technology as an enabler and adjust their skillsets to move forward and not be left behind as they aspire to be part of the C-suite.

In line with this year's International Women’s Day, let us come together and commit to creating a culture of trust and confidence for women to envision and move forward on the path to becoming leaders!

(The given article is attributed to Kranti Gada, COO-Shemaroo Entertainment and has been created exclusively for BW Disrupt website)

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