Why Are Women Made To Feel They Are Not Part Of The CEO Club?

American Women In Leadership
In a country where a few decades ago we’d only heard of a woman or two helming the reigns of their respective firms, a lot has changed, and for good. Even though we are far from equilibrium, we have many qualified women at leadership positions today. They outnumber men in education merits any day and are becoming effectively equal across professional fields. The issue here, however, lies in acceptance. Are we accepting the new wave of women holding decision-making positions? Are we comfortable with the idea of women founders and CEOs? Are we ready for the change? These questions tell a larger story.

Women in leadership positions are not a vision anymore, but the challenges in realising this vision are endless. While factual figures have shown a rise in the leadership of women in business, the collective notion of most people nonetheless constantly makes women feel they don’t belong to the CEO club. Even today, when most people picture a business owner, the first image that comes to their mind is a man in a black suit. About time we give women the seat at the table and the recognition they deserve.

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Country Needs More Women As Face Of Businesses: Devita Saraf

Women In leadership

Recently when Devita Saraf, founder-chairperson and CEO of Vu Televisions, attended a conference in Singapore, she encountered an NRI who was unaware of the new India. An India where women, after an upheaval of challenges, are rising to the top, breaking glass ceilings and owning their choices. Sure, male-dominated societies don’t go easy on women availing opportunities, but the change has been reflected in more ways than one. The question here is why Indians living abroad still consider the country the same as it was when they left. Saraf raised the same question via one of her social media posts.

Devita Saraf, who is a SheThePeople’s Digital Women Award winner, has been a leader in business for almost two decades. Speaking about her experience as CEO facing the naysayers, she told SheThePeople, “I think when people think of a big boss or a business owner, immediately a picture that comes in front of them is that of an older gentleman. The concept of young women, especially young Indian women, being the top bosses is something people aren’t used to stereotypically, which is why they just jump to assumptions that she is either a manager or someone’s daughter or wife attending a conference.”

Indian women being reduced to someone’s daughter or spouse is baggage they have been carrying for a long time. Saraf finds this to be true, especially while travelling abroad. “A lot of NRIs, I feel, tend to remember India when they left the country which was decades ago when India was a very conservative country. As soon as they see an Indian woman, they immediately assume she is there accompanying her husband or a senior. However, in India, especially in the media have been portrayed as the new generation of entrepreneurs the big bosses or business owners, and so that stereotype is reducing. Having said that, I won’t deny that young women are not the immediate picture of power in people’s minds.”

With many glass ceilings still left to be broken, people’s understanding that women don’t belong to the CEO club is neither necessary nor required.

It’s not just Saraf, we’ve come across several women in leadership positions – women who are founders of companies and have marked their significant presence in the business world. These women leaders had a similar take when we asked them about their experiences as business leaders.

Women As CEOs

Radhika Gupta, who left a career on Wall Street at 25 and moved to India to start her firm, shared how even today, she is looked at with doubt and mansplained despite being introduced as a self-made business owner. “Whether you’re in India or elsewhere, whether you’re a junior or CEO of a firm, mansplaining happens everywhere. People still cannot fathom the degree to which society has changed, and women have risen to important positions. I feel we just got to do what we do, and we will be respected as a professional if we just keep working at it, it’ll keep getting better hopefully,” she said in an interview with SheThePeople.

Reeta Bisht, who is the co-founder of an educational institute, started her business three decades ago along with her husband. She shared with SheThePeople that she feels several people around her still cannot accept that she made it on her own from scratch and is also an equal working partner in business with her husband. Shalini Bohra, a young entrepreneur who started her soapmaking firm Wild Himalayan Soap Company, in the pandemic fairly grew it in the past two years. Bohra told SheThePeople she still isn’t taken seriously by many because the idea of her moving to places and experimenting in her business as a sole owner doesn’t go down well with people.

While women have long before ascertained that they belong in all decision-making places, we have a substantial percentage who either don’t like it or don’t digest it. Either way, women will rise. Because the degree of struggle women CEOs go through determines their stories and opens doors for young women with similar dreams. It’s vital seeing women in positions of leadership. But what’s even more important is to hear their stories about how they got to where they are today. That will make a difference for those who seek inspiration and also those who ignore the fact that women can be business leaders and changemakers in society.

The views expressed are the author’s own.