Gender Balanced Workforce
Unless We Move Beyond Tokenism And Truly Strive To Make Our Workforces Inclusive, We Will Be Unable To Have More Balanced Boardroom Conversations. It Is Not About Being “Politically Correct” But About Maximizing An Organization’s Potential.
BY: SAPNA SRIVASTAVA
Any organization that seeks to benefit from the great contribution of women’s energy and capabilities must respond to and facilitate women’s determination to succeed. Across the globe, the presence and position of women in workplaces has improved significantly but, the advancement in top management remains slow. As per the Catalyst Pyramid men are overrepresented within the upper tiers of the Pyramid e.g., leadership positions, high-level management, board of director seats, CEOs. As of January 1, 2020, there have been 82 women in Fortune 500 CEO roles in total, which is just 17% of the total list of Fortune 500 CEOs.
THE “BROKEN RUNG”
Women’s progress to the top is constrained by a “broken rung.” For every 100 men promoted and hired at manager level, only 72 women are promoted and hired at manager level. This broken rung results in more women getting stuck at the entry-level, and fewer women becoming managers.
This early inequality has a long-term impact on the talent pipeline, resulting in significantly fewer women to hire or promote to senior managers. The number of women decreases at every subsequent level. So even as hiring and promotion rates improve for women at senior levels, women as a whole can never catch up. The case for fixing the broken rung is powerful. There are simply too few women to advance. If women are promoted and hired to first-level manager at the same rates as men, we will have more women leaders.
COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE WOMEN LEADERS OFFER
A 2016 study by the Hay Group division of Korn Ferry reveals women scored higher than men on almost all emotional intelligence competencies with the exception being emotional self-control. Competencies included emotional self-awareness, conflict management, empathy, and teamwork—all essential for effective leadership in an organization.
Various industry reports recognize how women have begun to make their claims for leadership, but often encounter a workplace culture that makes the challenges severe. The report also suggests that male leaders may not be fully aware of or able to recognize these obstacles.
Shimul Javeri Kadhari, Principal Architect, SJK Architects, a practicing architect for more than 27 years said. “I can happily say my journey has been wonderful, full of its ups and downs. The female gender is closer in every way to nature and natural instincts. However, having said this there are men who also possess the ability to be closer to their natural selves. I believe women have the capability to bring a huge amount of humaneness and natural sensibilities to a project and architecture as a whole.”
Dr. Ananta Singh Raghuvanshi, SR. Executive Director-Sales & Marketing, Experion Developers has 29 years of experience comprising 100+ product launches across geographies, price segments and verticals – residential, retail, corporate spaces. Expressing her perspective she said, “Though, gender doesn’t really change sensibilities, most working women are good at multitasking, relationship building, delegation and general administration. Moreover, being fewer in numbers, women certainly have to be better, not just equal to their counter parts. There is no short cut to success. Be the best version of yourself and put your best efforts towards exceeding corporate goals.”
NAVIGATING THE DIVERSITY CHALLENGE
As men and women enter their professional career, along the way women do not ascend to the highest levels of leadership and often lose their ambition and opt out. “There is no simple reason for this and no simple solution. The loss of so many capable women from the higher levels of our workforce takes a toll on organizations, especially as we seek leaders who are capable of navigating organizations through high levels of change and uncertainty,” said Dennis T. Jaffe, Advisor- Family Businesses and Family Offices.
A case in point is that of Ratnamala Swain, the first woman architect Industrialist of Odisha in the field of realestate and civil contracting. Her main motivation to enter the construction business as a self-employed person was driven by livelihood considerations. “When I graduated from my architectural college, employment was difficult to come by in my line. Having a technical background, I managed to obtain a Civil ‘C Class’ license to operate. I entered the male dominated world when I was only 21 years of age. Not surprisingly, departmental engineers, sub-contractors or suppliers did not take me seriously. I was also up against established players who would prevent me from reaching the tender submission box kept inside the government office. I managed to get an inside staffer in the tender office to slip my first bid quietly into the box.
I won the bid and delivered well on the job. On a later bid, some miscreants even came to my home and threatened me. I stood up to them and reported them to the Police. Soon, I developed the reputation of being someone to be taken seriously. In fact, some of my erstwhile competitors began to ask me to collaborate with them, which I did and soon started an architectural firm. One of the landlords, who was earlier my opponent has now became my source of business and referee for many other projects! Later on, I joined my brother and established DN Homes. I believe that in order to spend long hours at the workplace, one needs a lot of support from the family. I am blessed to have great encouragement at home that has allowed me to focus on work and be able to contribute as a loving mother to my children. Honestly, there is no glass ceiling in this world! It is others who may box you into a stereotype, but if you refuse to be in that box, there is nothing that women can’t do!”
As a matter of fact, while organizations have begun to take steps to support and treat women equally, women too, need to proactively step up, turn every experience into an opportunity, maximize their access to leadership positions, and never, ever doubt their abilities.
Aishwarya Tipnis, Conservation Planner & Principal Architect, Aishwarya Tipnis Architects is recognized as a global cultural leader, having been conferred the title of Chevalier de arts et letters (Knight of Arts and Letters) by the Government of France for her work in heritage conservation in 2018. As she rightly puts it, “There is no shortcut to success, sincerity, hard work and dedication are all that you need. I believe that the profession is gender neutral. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”
Raghuvanshi concurred, “Women as realtors, interior designers, architects, landscapers etc. are successful the world over. Women need to be selective about the kind of organisation and culture, they wish to associate with. Role, reporting and remuneration of your choice go a long way in determining the motivation levels. Self-motivation is the magic key to the doors of success and happiness.”
A TIME FOR HONEST CONVERSATION
The time has come for organizations to strengthen the female leadership pipeline, women professionals to start taking charge of their careers and men, to embrace female leadership. An honest conversation between men and women needs to begin.
• To raise awareness of the subtle inhibiters to women’s experience in the workplace
• To create principles and values of diversity in business
• To shift models of authority away from orientation that isolates women.
• To create success matrix based solely on performance indicators
For so long, women have determined career success by their ability to adjust to the male-dominated culture and existing rules in the workplace. It rests on women professionals to address those challenges head-on with action and execution.
Confidence to step out of the comfort zone is the first step in the direction of building gender parity – for both men and women.
The big challenge is to keep our perspectives top of mind in conversations at the corporate level, and also among family and friends, so the mind-set shift can happen.