Women's Day 2019: Today, we’re at a point where there is almost no industry which has not seen women participation or representation. Women are increasingly embracing their ambitions, unapologetically - just the way it should be.
(By Divya Gokulnath)
International Women’s Day 2019: Michelle Obama once said, “So many of us have gotten ourselves at the table, but we’re still too grateful to be at the table to really shake it up.” Her statement is highly powerful and relevant in today’s ecosystem and a strong message to all the women out there. Today, we’re at a point where there is almost no industry which has not seen women participation or representation. Women are increasingly embracing their ambitions, unapologetically – just the way it should be. In Deloitte’s analysis of nearly 7,000 companies in 60 countries, women held 15% of all board seats globally in 2017, up from 12% of board seats in 2015. While it is certainly a strong sign of the progress we have made, there is still a long way to go before equality in every form becomes the norm.
The systemic patriarchy and unconscious bias in our culture continue to seep into the workforce. Whether it is women in tech or women in leadership roles, the representation is still skewed. Today, only 24 women are in CEO roles at Fortune 500 companies, making up 4.8%, according to a report by Fortune 2018. Many of us are quick to blame the men and the “masculinity” as the only problem. The reality is that men are as much victim to systemic patriarchy as women. All genders alike have been conditioned to certain stereotypes – with men being the breadwinners and women being the nurturers and primary caregivers. This mindset needs to change.
In my experience, nothing brings about a stronger, mutual and more long-lasting impact than women supporting women. They understand their ecosystem struggles and can inspire and motivate each other in a way no one else can. While at an organisational level, there is a lot that can and is being done across the world to improve gender diversity, here a few quick tips about how women themselves can actively help other women and strengthen their support system:
Engage with empathy: The most powerful symbol of solidarity is taking a stand publicly for someone and letting your empathetic stance do its bit. We need to ‘lean in’ and back each other. I believe that it’s the simple gestures that go a long way. Understanding and standing your ground in support of another brings the factor of unity at play. It is empowering for the one who is being supported and also for you as a supporter.
Mentorship is the key: Women employees should have mentors and sponsors in the top-level management who advocate for them and back them on their journey to the top. Mentors are needed to provide guidance, support, and encouragement to their mentees. They help in analysing the pros and cons involved in different situations and direct them to the best way forward. Do not hesitate in asking for or offering mentorship to other women in your ecosystem. Keep it real by sharing your setbacks, resources, and connections. It will truly go a long way.
Collaboration comes first: Regardless of your role, you have the power of choice. Bury your insecurities about sharing the spotlight because the reality is that we are all stronger in numbers. Believe it or not, part of our survival instinct is to help each other. No project or business can be successful solely by an individual’s effort. The sense of gender-triggered competition must be crushed to usher in the desire to collaborate and grow together. Ask their viewpoints and let the skills they bring to the table do the talking.
Role models: While this point is more apt for organisations, it is an essential part of our discussion. Seeing women in top management roles inspires other women to not give in to the challenges they face and continue to pursue their dreams. While I strongly advise women to actively look for women role models, inside or outside their organisation, companies must look at boosting the diversity ratios at their top management to offer their women employees the right source of motivation.
(The author is Co-founder and teacher, BYJU’S – The Learning App. Views are personal)