“This is not a leaky pipeline, it’s a broken pipeline. In the US, women make up 5% of CEOs and only 22% of board directors. We’re basically not utilising half of the brilliance of society” – I quote famous leader Indra Nooyi here who has stood all storms at the workplace and transformed one of the biggest brands like no one.
A self-made leader who is a mother, mentor and executive who addressed the issue of conscious and unconscious bias in workplace which remains to be a grey area for many firms. For many companies, a diverse workplace is an important part of encouraging business objectives such as employee engagement and retention. A workplace by design is nothing but an amalgamation of female leadership and mentorship that equals success.
Workplace Diversity: How can we achieve it?
Increased digitisation, is in its own way, revolutionising the landscape for women. With more companies offering Work from anywhere (WFA) opportunities, more women are seeking such opportunities and are more willing to switch jobs to do so. WFA also brings with it a different kind of freedom: the freedom to not just work from anywhere, but also to work anywhere. Per a recent McKinsey report, “women leaders are switching jobs at the highest rates we’ve ever seen, and ambitious young women are prepared to do the same.” To put it more simply, thanks to digitisation, women now have greater freedom to choose where they’d like to work, and they are choosing to work at places that better value them and their skills.
This brain drain of sorts is something businesses need to address, and quickly. Growing evidence indicates that greater female involvement and leadership are important to creating not just an inclusive culture, but that more women lead to an increased likelihood of success as well as achieving holistic growth from an organisational and national lens.
Need of the hour – women leaders and mentors in workplace
Effective future women leaders can be created by providing them with dedicated mentorship and long-term support, not just technical training. Mentorship by women is key to ensuring women are empowered, can advance their careers, and become independent leaders in their domains. Overcoming workplace challenges on top of societal stressors and pressure from family can be a challenge for any woman. At the same time, the women who have knuckled down and pushed through have learnt a lot along the way, and most likely sacrificed much when doing so.
If we are to encourage more women in the workplace, these learnings can be passed on, and an effort will be made to retain the few women who have made it to the top.
I believe that a women-only workgroup or community of sorts is a great place to start, a place where women are encouraged to speak freely and share ideas and feedback amongst themselves, a place where they can access and choose mentors. A safe space for candid conversation and mentorship among women will build trust in the system, help more women gain confidence in their own abilities and set career goals. And this isn’t just speculation, a report on mentoring programs found that 87% of both mentors and mentees felt empowered and reported greater career satisfaction.
The end goal is to build a self-sustaining community of mentors and leaders that help more women develop the skillset needed to navigate a corporate structure and workplace construct that is most probably still male-dominated. Ideally, we need to be able to reshape the workplace into something that is diverse and inclusive by design.
We’re not there just yet, but at least we’re taking steps in that direction.
Achieving gender equality isn’t going to be easy, but we must start somewhere
Women are ambitious and hardworking and tend to be more inclusive and empathetic leaders. They want to work for companies that prioritise the cultural changes that will value their skills and allow for a gender-diverse and equitable workforce. And hence, organisations that rise to the moment will attract and retain women leaders —who will eventually lead us to a better workplace for everyone.
Building a work environment that is conducive to gender equality isn’t going to be as simple as enacting WFA policies and setting aside quotas for women. This is a systemic problem that requires a system solution, one that needs to be approached from a variety of perspectives. Proactive conversations with mentors and leaders are crucial here, as their insights and learnings are what will help shape and encourage a new generation of women in the workforce.
What firms can do to bridge the gap and empower more women in the workplace? Offer a bouquet of programs ranging from focused returnship programs to balanced hiring and so on. These will not only help create a good gender balance but also help organisations perform better as the business landscape is constantly changing.
Jayanthi Gopal is the Human Resources Head at Mashreq Global Network India. The views expressed by the author are their own.
Suggested Reading: Women’s Day 2023: Tips On Building Effective Leadership At Workplace