Giving a leadership role or having a quota for women in senior leadership won’t solve the problem of gender inequality. The management must understand the roots of the issue – why women don’t make it to the top.
Many would associate their professional careers with Meghna, who started her career with high aspirations yet landed at a stagnant role in the middle management for several years and later put to a non challenging role which was said “it would be easier”. The initial years were promising of a bright career but things started to take a different shape when she got married and had kids. Many women are not even aware of the bias they have faced. What went wrong in her case was initially she got a lot of leadership lessons to handle the new leadership roles but later after her first child her potential was treated secondary stating she won’t be able to handle the pressure. The organization failed to groom her for the new leadership challenges. Post maternity her growth stopped post senior manager. Her manager assumes that the increased responsibility at home would be a road block and she would not be as promising for a new challenging role as she has been. Her existing process was handed over to another manager and the organization failed to develop her for any new assignment.
The problem doesn’t stop at what people think; the problem is also how a woman perceives herself to be. Sakshi, a financial consultant chose to move her role from client interactions to backend operations because she failed to see herself as leading the way forward. She could not hold her point of view with clients and be assertive. She’s still doing justice to the new role but the organization lost a potential leader who could have proven to be future leader.
The existing leadership development programs fail to see that the current gender bias that persist which disrupts women to see them as leaders. They fail to encourage and motivate women to see themselves as leaders as well as be perceived as leaders by everyone else. Researches done by various organizations (like Mckinsey and KPMG) have highlighted those women who aspire to be leaders are not confident enough to lead.
For organizations that insist on diversity for senior positions to boost their productivity, must have leadership development programs that address the personal development of women keeping in mind the following aspects:
1. Coach: Talented and dynamic women leaders who can serve to be role models can mentor other future woman leaders to build their confidence. Their experiences could be critical to empower all other women who aspire to grow to higher levels and leverage rather than question their abilities.
2. Exercise: Organizations should provide challenging assignments that helps future woman leaders build confidence to step out of their comfort zone. Leadership Development programs should be designed to help them to shift from aspiring to be leaders to developing the confidence to lead. It’s like unleashing their potential.
3. Engage: Receiving encouragement through programs that provide constructive feedback for further scope of development along with appreciation for a job well done and not just raises and promotions. Like Sakshi, many women face challenges collaborating and networking. A leadership development program that engages them on how to be bold and assertive.
4. Transitioning: Leadership development programs must support smooth transitioning to big roles. Providing challenging and aspiring opportunities to collaborate and create networks can only show results when women are made aware of their own strengths and not what others perceived them to be.
For women who aspire to be leaders it’s time to own your success. Take onus if you are determined to step up into the leadership role. Be confident to ask for what you deserve, don’t let gender define or limit your view on what you can accomplish in the future. Don’t chicken out from opportunities that push you out of your comfort zone. Invest on yourself through development programs that give you direction to increase your potential and make you ready for the big roles.
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