Leadership Talk: Let ‘her’ lead

May 13, 2021 3:15 AM

Women of today have the power to transform the talent pipeline of the future

Kalavathi GV PortraitKalavathi GV Portrait

By Kalavathi GV

I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy.” Madame Marie Curie, the first woman Nobel Prize winner

During my engineering course, I was one of the seven women in the batch of computer science and the number of women enrolling for such courses were far and few. Undoubtedly, the number of women in STEM have increased over the decades, but we have a long way to go to achieve satisfactory numbers. To encourage more talent to enter the STEM pipeline, increasing enrolment in formal education is a crucial step. It is equally important to equip girls and women with relevant skill sets and provide an environment for their growth.

Though the number of women who attend educational institutions has doubled over the last five years, there has been a decline in their continued participation in the workforce, especially in senior leadership roles. According to Zinnov-Intel India Gender Diversity Benchmark, there are only 11% senior women leaders in the ecosystem. Out of 30% of women who start the job at the entry-level, only 7% make it to the senior leadership level in tech positions.

Overwhelmingly, research shows that the lack of women in leadership roles has long-term consequences across every industry and negatively impacts the business outcomes, work cultures, and levels of innovation required for greater financial performance. Therefore, it is important to understand what keeps women away from pursuing leadership roles and how to change that perception.

In my many conversations with colleagues, I have seen women underestimate their abilities and skills. They hesitate to take up roles, even at 80% readiness level. While pursuing a senior leadership position or taking up a technical role, many fear they may not be able to achieve work-life balance. As someone who herself strives to excel both at the workplace and at home, I have had my fair share of retrospection. I have realised we indeed have lot of self-limiting beliefs, that stop us from ‘leading’ the way.

But research shows that women leaders can have a huge impact on the organisation and the people. According to research conducted by Korn Ferry, women leaders are rated higher in 17 out of 21 critical leadership skills, including operating and interpersonal ones, courage and drive—competencies that enable women to connect with customers, engage employees and build talent. Women in leadership positions can develop the next generation of leaders and thus role-models. With a high emotional quotient, women can play a key role to help others attain their goals, promote teamwork, and invest time in training, mentoring and personal development.

The good news is that most organisations today understand the value of diverse teams and are taking steps to address some of the issues. Today, organisations, large and small, are striving to provide support systems, good childcare facilities, flexible work hours, mentorship, and training to bridge knowledge gaps, etc. Programmes encouraging women to join the workforce after break is slowly making an impact.

While many may have missed out on the right guidance and support in the industry, we must ensure that future generation have access to development opportunities, flexible policies and resource groups to help nurture the talent pipeline. The pandemic has brought the concept of a hybrid working model to the forefront which has been a game-changer. I hope this will help us move faster towards achieving gender parity.

Women have come a long way and the progress is proof of what we are capable of achieving. Women of today have the power to transform the talent pipeline of the future, it is crucial that we ‘lead’. Inspirational leadership can influence, help others to dream more and become more.

The writer is head – Philips Innovation Campus, Bengaluru

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