Nearly 73% of emerging women leaders in the social sector believe that continued mentorship and networking support would boost their leadership ambitions, shows a recent survey by India Leaders for Social Sector (ILSS). The survey endeavors to understand the complexity surrounding women’s leadership in the sector by examining the gaps and challenges, capturing best practices, exploring the scope of positive interventions, and identifying possible support structures to build leadership capacities. In surveying women with 7-15 years of work experience, from fields across the sector, the survey captures an overarching image of these critical dynamics.
The survey highlights the prevalence of socialized beliefs, such as imposter syndrome, which limit one’s leadership vision, with 50% of women leaders experiencing this. Phenomena such as this are a critical contributor to the ‘leaky pipeline’ we see, which is a disproportionate lack of women leaders at levels of senior management in the sector, relative to the number of women in entry-to-mid level roles. Similarly, there is a predominance of women in ‘Program specific’ roles, as opposed to strategic, organization building roles. These roles are often relegated to women, as they are perceived as more suitable to be doing ‘care work’ of this sort. In this, women are less likely to be selected for overarching management roles, including in the spheres of fundraising, strategic management, and operations. This experience is critical in advancing into senior leadership [generalist] roles, as in CXO positions.
The report also outlines some key support structures that can be implemented to support women’s leadership journeys. Critically, 84.1% of respondents stating they believe a tailored capacity building program would enhance their leadership journey. A [key want] is the knowledge of leadership frameworks which specifically speak to their journey’s, as mid-to-senior career women professionals in the Indian social impact space, and guidance on adapting it to their career path. Similarly, there is a desire for building crucial cross-functional/management skills, including negotiation, conflict management, and effective communication. There is also a desire to build a personal leadership style; 75.6% of respondents cite the desire to build their own leadership style based on the attributes of empathy, collaboration, and inclusion.
“The ‘Emerging Women’s Leadership in the Indian Development Sector’ study highlights the unique challenges that women constantly grapple with and proposes solutions to reduce the current gap in the leadership positions in the social sector,” said Anu Prasad, Founder & CEO, India Leaders for Social Sector.
“We, at ILSS, believe that this study is an important step to build conducive pathways for more women professionals to reach leadership positions, and for social sector organizations to emerge as spaces where we see inclusive leadership thrive,” she added.