Imagine building a product without hearing from the very people you’re building for. That's like baking a cake without ever tasting the batter, never a good idea. Nike didn't get built without athletes. Coca-Cola tests every new flavour with its consumers before introducing it to the market. Yet even today, especially in India, most products and services are still being developed without women playing an active role in decision-making.
As a woman leader in her 30s, I’ve experienced first-hand the biases and presumptions that come with being a “woman in power”. Like many others, I’ve walked into the offices of leading brands, venture capitalists, and tech pioneers, only to find myself to be the only woman in the room. Despite years of talk about workplace disparity and equal representation, there is still much work to be done to give women a true seat at the decision-making table.
The aim is to change the narrative and empower women to drive and be a part of the change they wish to see.
Women In Boardrooms
Representation Vs participation
I recall a conversation with the head of a leading women-focused fund a few years ago when I asked why we need capital focused on women instead of just great products. Her response stayed with me: "You need to have women at the table to understand their needs and create products that truly serve them."
Women's representation in leadership positions is still trailing behind. In our national and state governments, women hold less than 15% of the seats. Even in industries that cater to women's needs, there's a disappointing scarcity of women in top positions.
However, representation is just the starting point. To uplift women to their full potential, we need to do more than just give them a seat at the table. What we really need is to involve women stakeholders in the decision-making process.
Only 38 percent of women hold ">managerial positions, and the number is even lower for women of colour. The misconception often fuels women’s exclusion that they lack the knowledge and rigour to succeed in tough sectors, for instance, STEM fields. This “preset prejudice” hinders progress and diversity in the workforce.
Did you know that medical equipment, such as mammography machines, are often designed for the average-sized male body? The machines may not be able to properly detect breast cancer in women with smaller or differently shaped breasts.
I, for one, would like to comfortably drive my car designed for someone who is 6’2” and weighs about 100 kg. In case you weren't sure, I am neither and I can safely assume most of you reading aren't either.
The excuse that women can’t succeed in these industries because of their “personal responsibilities” is outdated and needs to change. It is time to provide stronger incentives for women to access and maintain equality in the workforce. Effective communication is key to promoting inclusion and fostering trust among diverse groups.
Building a better future together
Equality means more than just equal pay and opportunities. It is also about equal power to affect change and respect. The notion that women need to seek approval, be granted permission or be “allowed” is a thing of the past. Women have repeatedly demonstrated through their work and ability to lead that they can be trusted without the need for handholding. And let’s not forget having a healthy personal-professional balance is essential for everybody’s overall well-being and success.
"By redefining our understanding of equality we can build a better future where everyone can reach their full potential, regardless of gender, race or background. This requires breaking down barriers and addressing the root causes of inequality, including implicit biases and stereotypes."
Inspiring change: a journey to a stronger community
By fostering a community that empowers women to lead, we create a space that nurtures and supports all young talent. Women are often underestimated but we are also assertive, decisive and astute. A community of women, for women and by women, is uniquely equipped to revolutionise decision-making and bring about a profound positive impact. It's time to unleash the power of women and inspire change for a stronger, more diverse community.
Suggested reading: Why Are Women Made To Feel They Are Not Part Of The CEO Club?