Encouraging Women in Leadership Roles

Women Leaders

Overview:

The advantages women bring to an organization are many but so are the challenges they have to overcome. The blog explains what organizations can do to encourage women in leadership roles.

 Women are now catching up with men in terms of educational qualifications. Throwback to the times when tertiary education for women was considered unnecessary and we will all have to agree that we have come a long way. Women’s participation in the work force is also on the increase. Welcome changes no doubt, but not quite enough.

According to the United Nations, only 28.2% of women hold management positions at the workplace. In other words, when it comes to positions of power and leadership, women still lag woefully behind. This gender gap has to be addressed.

Challenges Women Leaders Face

Lowered Expectations

  • In spite of statistics proving that organizational growth is better with more women at the helm, the expectations of women are still sadly low.
  • This shows that people still do not trust women leaders unless they have proved themselves.
  • A sense of skepticism seems to be the initial response and women have to earn their team’s respect and acceptance.

Women Are Labelled as Too Emotional

  • People are often of the opinion that women are influenced by their emotional side while taking decisions – how true is this?
  • Studies have shown that women and men in high stress situations do respond differently.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, women are also facts-focused while taking decisions but it has been seen that men are more willing to take huge risks when rewards are high while women are more focused on the smaller rewards they are sure to get.
  • A balance between the two is what is required and having both men and women leaders is what will give optimum results.

Gender Pay Gap

  • Gender pay gap exists at the C-suite level too with women leaders being paid lesser than their male counterparts. There could be various reasons for this.
  • Coveted leadership positions often by default go to men.
  • The opportunities given to women leaders are less and as a result women are not able to break into prime C-suite positions.
  • To combat this, companies should evaluate how promotions are offered to employees. Leaders need to push to address the pay gap.

Imposter Syndrome

  • Many women doubt themselves and feel that they do not belong in leadership positions.
  • While anyone can experience imposter syndrome, women experience it more due to deep-rooted societal beliefs that women are meant to play supporting roles.
  • Workshops on handling imposter syndrome and teaching effective strategies to overcome it can help women immensely.
Also Read: Women in STEM

Studies have shown time and again that gender diversity is key to success.

  • Women bring a new perspective to problems. As a result, there are new solutions too.
  • Women leaders understand problems faced by women employees better. They come up with effective and innovative solutions to overcome them. Employee morale is boosted and the workspace becomes a happier place.
  • Diversity in leadership has been shown to result in improved decision-making.
  • When women are given leadership roles in courts, executive boards and the like, decisions are found to be inclusive because diverse viewpoints are taken into consideration.
  • Studies have shown that having female healthcare industry leaderspromotes a more holistic healthcare approach.
  • In homes, when women are given the freedom to make decisions, it is seen that the entire family’s health improves and education too is stressed upon.
  • Countries led by women have reduced gender gap when it comes to pay. Not just that, peace agreements are up-held for a longer time with women at the helm.
  • Studies have shown that when there are more women team members in a group, the collaboration between the members is greatly enhanced. The members work together more effectively to solve problems.
  • The trust employees have in an organization too is directly proportional to the number of women in leadership roles. Employees believe that women leadership promotes fairness within the organization.
  • Companies in which women hold 30% or more of the leadership positions perform better than companies which have only 10-30% women in leadership roles. Furthermore, as the representation of women in leadership roles increases, so does the overall company performance.
  • When people see diversity in a company’s leadership, they view the company as progressive. This draws clients and partners and improves the image of the company.

These findings are enough to prove that it is essential to have women in leadership roles. So, what should we do to encourage them?

6 Things to Focus On

1. Early Identification

  • Identify women who show promise and start leadership training early.
  • Provide them with mentors to guide them, give them feedback and provide them with opportunities to hone their skills and prove themselves.
  • Early experiences can play a key role in shaping women leaders.
  • Developing women leaders must be made a priority.

2. Give Women a Platform to Voice Their Opinions

  • Have women talk about the obstacles they encounter.
  • Unless the problems they face are spoken about and understood, coming up with a solution is not possible.
  • When they talk, listen with an open mind.

3. Ensure Women Get Opportunities

  • You cannot judge women without giving them fair opportunities.
  • It is true that women face a lot of unconscious bias and stereotyping at workplaces.
  • They do not get the same opportunities as men to work on projects or apply for promotions.
  • Leaders who truly want to provide an inclusive workplace will see to it that this does not happen. It is imperative to give women chances to prove their ability.

4. Train Men to Be Women’s Allies

  • While women mentoring other women is a great idea, training men to support women’s progress is equally important.
  • Men who are trained this way have been found to be more supportive and vocal about women leadership.

5. Recognize Women’s Unquantifiable Contribution

  • Sometimes, the contribution that women make cannot be measured using the usual parameters.
  • Women show genuine concern for their colleagues; they are enthusiastic participants in diversity and inclusion initiatives and they also contribute greatly to community initiatives.
  • As there is no way to measure this, leaders should make it a point to not only acknowledge and appreciate these actions but they should also consider these actions while deciding on promotions.

6. Accept Non-Linear Career Paths

  • Women invariably have interruptions during their career growth.
  • It could be in the form of pregnancy, caregiving responsibilities or even philanthropic endeavours.
  • A career gap in their resumes has to be accepted and normalized.
  • They should not be penalized for it and it should not be an obstacle to their advancement.
  • In fact, these experiences only serve to enhance their leadership skills.
  • Age-old beliefs that a career gap means a disinterest in career should be dispensed with.

Conclusion:

It is as clear as day – we need women leaders. We need to stop hindering their progress, provide them with opportunities and promote their journeys.

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