New opportunities: Women as leaders

March 11, 2021 1:45 AM

Achieving an equal future in a post Covid-19 world

Sangeeta Giri PortraitSangeeta Giri Portrait

By Sangeeta Giri

In the much acclaimed 2016 movie, The Hidden Figures, that celebrates women in NASA, head engineer Paul Stafford comments, “There is no protocol for women attending…” And mathematician Katherine Johnson’s firm, no nonsense response is unforgettable “There is no protocol for a man circling the Earth either, sir.” It speaks volumes about the tough road to representation, equity, and respect in the workplace that women have had to traverse since the 1960s. And the journey is still a work in progress. Of the 30% women that start out in the technology sector, only 7% make it to managerial positions.

The question now is—where does the post-pandemic period take the gender diversity narrative? Are the winds of change favourable to women in leadership as we embrace the next normal? According to an International Trade Centre study on impact of the pandemic on businesses, 64% of women-led firms declared their business operations as strongly affected, compared with 52% of men-led companies. But then, this is exactly the catalyst women need to nurture themselves, buckle up and take on the next normal and transform it into something extraordinary.

How can organisations invest in continuing and accelerating the focus on inclusion during this phase of recovery? Here are six areas they can focus on for better representation in the coming days.

Tackle inequities: It is essential to begin by acknowledging the gender inequity that still exists across industries and take corrective action. From tailored training programs to mentoring and support systems – delve in deep to identify the root cause of these prejudices and put in concrete steps to diminish these barriers.

Work with empathy: One of the best ways to build a strong relationship with teams is to listen to them and understand their needs. It builds invaluable trust, strengthens the bonds shared and even without intending it, the organizations can nurture a team that is ready to take on the biggest challenge.

Embracing flexibility: As we build our immunity for a future of uncertainty, it is important to be flexible and open to change. Corporations have shown that working remotely is possible, although it may have challenges such as engagement, connectivity, and productivity too. The wide acceptance of remote working models opens up new opportunities for women. Organisations must build a toolkit to help their teams with flexible working options – there are many paths to the same destination.

Prepare for disruptions: Building a strong team that is prepared with not just the tools but also the information and mindset to deal with disruption is critical. Understand that women may have additional pressures in their lives and equip and empower them to balance Organisations must aim to foster a spirit of transparency, clear communication, and resilience and help women employees be prepared for unexpected disruption.

Trust and partnership: The best way to build fantastic high performing teams is to include members as decision-makers and active contributors. This will help in creating an inclusive work culture based on the values of trust and respect and empower teams to focus better on key issues on hand.
Empower women leaders: As industry experts are looking at ideal leadership styles post the pandemic, the traits that women effortlessly bring onto the table is being acknowledged and getting the respect it deserves. Some of these traits include resilience, taking initiative, nurturing, emotional intelligence, listening skills and collaboration. Organisations must look at strategies to retain women in the workforce and help them grow in their careers. A gender diverse leadership pipeline.

The writer is senior director – Cloud Automation, VMware, Asia Pacific Japan

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