From the sole responsibility of taking care of the household to leading some of the biggest companies in the world, women have come a long way. However, there is no denying that women still have a long way to go. Women occupy only 3 percent of leadership roles in the Fortune 500 companies.
As per a report by Grant Thornton, a professional services network, India has been witnessing the third lowest proportion of women holding business leadership rolessince three consecutive years (2015, 2016 and 2017). Clearly, it is not a satisfactory number, especially when some of the biggest women leaders in the world find their roots in India.
Aggressive, ambitious, and hungry to learn are a few traits used to definean ideal leader. However, these words suddenly appear negative when they are associated with a woman, as rightly pointed out by Shalini Pillay, Head – People, Performance and Culture, KPMG Indiain a webinar organized by GlobalNxt University recently.
Talking about the readiness of organizations to follow women leaders, Shalini spoke about the various challenges women face in their professional lives, which hinder their career growth and often snatch away the much-deserved recognition from them.
So what exactly prevents most women from holding influential positions? Here are a few barriers:
As shocking as it may seem, a lot of women jeopardise their own prospects for success by doubting their abilities and settling for less than their worth. Citing examples from her own professional journey, Shalini said, “It is important for women to have confidence in themselves and their skills. A lot of women tend to believe that they are not good enough for their roles and accept the minimal recognition they get.” The first step to becoming a leader is to know your worth and to seize opportunities if they don’t come your way.
If your personal commitments demand you to take a break from your work, don’t feel pressured to continue with multiple responsibilities. Take a break. However, when you return to the workforce stay focussed and chart out the pathway to reach your goal.
Shalini also rightly mentioned how a lot of policies related to women in the workforce initially attract a lot of criticism. For example, when Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) was introduced, it deterred a lot of managers from including women in their teams due to the fear of the policy. It is a myopic way of looking at the reality, but unfortunately, that’s what most companies preferred to do for a long time till there was enough clarity about the need for such a policy.
Identifying the leader in you
Apart from self-growth, it is also vital for women to mentor other women around them, especially their subordinates. Shalini quoted, “It is essential for women to handhold other women in the workspace and help them grow as well as develop their skills.” After all, that is truly a mark of a good leader, isn’t it?
Coming back to the big question – whether organizations are ready for women leaders or not? Organizations are ever-ready for capable leaders. So if women deliver on their targets and showcase their leadership skills, there is no stopping them from climbing the top of the ladder.
Shalini stressed the importance of investing in oneself. A simple habit of picking up a business paper and staying abreast of all that is happening in your industry can help you stay one step ahead of your peers.
Women should make it a practice to update their skills and resume every year (even if they are not looking for a change). Their resume should be a display of facts and not fiction. A capable leader does not shy away from making the most of the opportunities, sometimes even if they have to be snatched.
Most importantly, be yourself – do not lose the spark that makes you what you are!