Women in the corporate world’ is a much spoken about subject; and there are several examples of those who have transcended the traditional barriers, which are both physical, as well as psychological, to reach positions of power and recognition. Several media houses do go a step ahead by giving awards or ranking them in terms of success or power. The RBI is one institution that has had several women rise to the top positions from within, and Deepali Pant Joshi is one such example. Given her experience in the journey up the ladder, she is in a very good position to provide women with some guidelines on how to maneuver their way in corporate life and break the glass ceiling that has been institutionalised in our setting.
In this book, she addresses three specific issues that make for interesting reading. The first is the role of women in corporate governance and business ethics, where she lays out the blueprint for women who can contribute to the same. She takes the reader through the finer points of the constitution of board of directors and their responsibilities that can be taken on by women. Here, she makes an interesting comparison between the barriers faced by women in Asia and Europe based on five parameters, such as prevalence of double burden, existence of female role models, performance model, family support services and basic reluctance to promote oneself. By overcoming these impediments, women have an opportunity to make a difference. The important thing is to take this challenge head-on.
She then takes us through the issue of sustainability and the glass ceiling. Her insights here are meaningful. Women have a major challenge in convincing boards that companies should not compromise on sustainability to further profits, as preservation of environment is critical for future growth and development. Having a policy in place and making sure the management is accountable for the same through implementation will be something that has to be pursued by women in power. Technology may have to be reworked, but would be worth the cost and effort. This is one area where she argues women should focus on, as this will be a win-win situation for all constituents of the ecosystem.
On the subject of glass ceiling, she explains in detail the challenges that women face at home, as well as prejudices in office, which have to be overcome. They do have to contend with inherent biases such as job segregation, absence of not having an old boys network to support them, gender discrimination, and physiological needs.
The last section on leadership styles of men and women is probably the best and hence reserved for the end. She takes us through different approaches of women in management, from being transformational to situation-based to more participative. The choice may not be consciously made and will be based on the existing circumstances. The constant feeling of being a woman in a man’s world is a challenge and moving over to mainstream activity requires a different approach. Women otherwise get confined to conventional, softer roles like HR, training and communications.
This book by Joshi is very different from her earlier take on financial inclusion and governance, which was more her domain expertise while working with the RBI. Governance is probably the only common factor in both these books, which is significant today, as it is the distinguishing factor between companies. Joshi does provide guidance, as well as options to women who are ambitious. There is hard work involved and compromises to be made, but the final result will be satisfying. The message really is that women on boards should take more responsibility and leverage their superior skills to carve a niche and should seize opportunities along the way, besides honing their skills.
The author also cautions that women need to know how to handle power, as it can be their downfall if not used in a judicious manner. The system provides the opportunities and women need to only grasp them. And she believes that as a gender, women are more than up to this challenge.
Madan Sabnavis is chief economist, CARE Ratings