Women in Leadership – How to Promote?

The need for promoting women leadership is as important as creating an enabling environment for women to hone their leadership qualities. Despite umpteen measures to empower women and see them in leadership positions, the representation of women in such positions across the globe is quite upsetting. Women make up just 4 percent of CEOs in the world’s 500 top companies, even a lesser percent of heads of government at national level belongs to women and the least percent of international leadership positions is occupied by women in the world today.

Absence of gender equality in leadership positions not only hampers the due progress in every sphere but also costs the global economy substantially. Hence, there is a need to promote women leadership. Corporate houses or companies need the best of leaders and it will not be fulfilled if the recruitment pool excludes women. Statistics show that women have not yet reached their full potential in leadership positions.

Leadership Position

There are several factors that help in promoting women leadership. Following are some of the important measures that can be taken to promote women leadership.

Recruit Women Employees Actively

Recruiting women in various leadership positions by corporate houses and companies on the premises of equal opportunity provisions is the first step to help women rise to important positions. Organizations and sectors hiring people to work for them should issue meaningful equality plans to absorb women members in proportion to men.

Organizations should carry out a thorough analysis of their manpower composition and take immediate measures to maintain gender equality. Employee survey should be used to detect inequalities. Equal opportunity planning should be based on concrete goals and measures as well as the follow-up on their success.

Organizations should look for requisite talents in women to occupy any positions. Gender should not be the sole criteria in selecting or rejecting a person while making appointment to decision-making positions. Emphasis should be laid on the skills and abilities the person possesses and if such skills and abilities are in tune with the requirements of the position.

Organizations should take active interest in treating women applicants at par with the men applicants while selecting persons for higher positions. Women should not be ignored only because they are women.

Provide Training Opportunities

Providing training for women members is a powerful promoter of women leadership. Training for gender equality is a transformative process and it aims to provide knowledge, techniques and tools to develop skills and changes in attitude and behavior.

A recent study on Women Leadership, on more than 3,000 professional women in United States, identified confidence building and leadership training, along with the ability to network with women leaders, as key elements to expanding women’s leadership in the years ahead.

Comprehensive training modules for women empowerment and women leadership help build an inclusive business environment and promote gender equality. Training helps women and men to understand the role gender plays and to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for advancing gender equality in their daily lives.

Formal training such as structured training course and workshops should be regularly organized and informal training through existing employees sharing knowledge and experience should be undertaken periodically to enable women to become fit for higher positions.

Targeted women development programs conducted in women-only environment enables women to increase their ability to navigate their own careers successfully. It also helps them identify and overcome personal and professional challenges and take responsibility for their growth and development.

Training should be included in the annual performance review of the employees and when opportunities arise. It is also important to offer flexibility in the time and location of training (e.g. during work hours) to make it accessible to employees who have family responsibilities. Mentoring program for new employees is also essential to develop the required skills and knowledge for personal and professional growth.

Encourage Women-friendly Culture

There is a need to develop a women-friendly culture in the society and business environment. An inclusive and collaborative culture calls for pro-women changes in the old system of recruitment, training, performance appraisal, promotion, wages, etc. Unless women are treated equally and assessed not on the basis of gender but on the basis of their talents and skills, they cannot make it to leadership positions.

The following measures can help create a women-friendly culture −

Flexible Work Schedules

Organizations should have flexible work programs to suit women employees. Flexibility in work schedule such as providing some days of remote work to employees is quite encouraging. In this case, when an employee needs to stay home to spend time with her children or family or sick parents, the company trusts that they will still get their work done.

Equal Opportunity

Difference in wages between men and women is a challenge specific to women. It is found that women still earn less than men. Discrimination exist in the workplace in various ways. Sexual harassment at workplace is not a thing of the past. Women employees are still falling prey to it. There is a very low representation of women in boardrooms or top paying executive positions.

Organizations should make provisions for ensuring an equal status to women employees at par with their male counterparts. There should be no discrimination on the basis of gender in the organization.

An Effective Career Mapping for Women Employees

Organizations should have an effective career mapping for its employees after they complete their probation period. Development plans, stretch assignments, promotions, and networking opportunities should be equal for men and women who have been rated with similar capabilities. This enables women employees to become aware of opportunities for their development at higher levels and sharpens the visibility to rise to top leadership.

Provisions for Self-care

Organizations employing women should have provisions for self-care. For instance, multinational oil company, Chevron, offers full-fitness and self-care facilities onsite at their global locations. Employees have the opportunity to take care of themselves by working out during the day and getting massages or facials without having to leave their worksite. This enables women to find balance and stay healthy. It encourages women to take up higher responsibilities.

Provisions for Family Support

The most difficult thing for a working woman is to maintain a good balance between her life at home and workplace. Some women being unable to adjust to the stress of both leave to look after their families. In this case, the organization makes suitable provisions to create a stress-free environment for women.

For instance, provisions for offering after school programs beyond day care for children of the women employees such as science camps, math sessions, and other activities in the evening enable women employees with families to retain demanding positions without the worry of leaving their children at home. It reduces the choice women often make between family and work.

Policy Changes to Promote Women Leadership

  • High quality and affordable childcare and elder care
  • Paid maternity and paternity leave
  • A right to request part-time work
  • Comprehensive job protection for pregnant workers
  • Higher wages and training for paid caregivers
  • Reforms at elementary and secondary school schedules to meet the needs of digital workplaces

Ways to Promote Women Business Leaders

  • Corporate houses and companies should make high-level decisions to promote women’s advancement in the career pipeline and the progress of the situation
  • There should be meaningful equality plans
  • Recruitment processes should promote both genders to seek all kinds of jobs
  • Talent potential among the employees should be recognized and it should be ensured that women are fully considered in the talent management process
  • Men and women should be offered equal training
  • Women should be allowed to experience business operations leadership and line management
  • Provision of proper mentoring for women in their career path.

Gender Equality through Legislations

Gender equality refers to the state of equal access to resources and opportunities irrespective of the gender. It suggests that both men and women are free to develop their personal abilities and make choices without limitations set by stereotypes, rigid gender roles and prejudices. Different behaviors, aspirations, and needs of women and men need to be considered, valued, and favored equally.

Organizations are stronger when its leadership has diverse perspectives and experience to draw from. Leadership positions should not be filled solely on the basis of gender. Every organization should look at the challenges women often face in the workplace and take necessary measures to set the track right for talented and dynamic leaders to rise and inspire new generations.

Need for Legislations for Gender Equality

Gender equality is an inseparable part of human rights and fundamental towards building a just, secure, and democratic society. In order to eliminate barriers to establish gender equality, legislations are being made to provide equal rights and opportunities for women and men in laws and policies and equal access to resources and services within families, communities, governments, and society at large.

Legislations for Gender Equality should aim at −

  • Providing equal political and economic rights to women such as the right to vote, right to equal pay for equal work, etc.
  • Ensuring equal status to women in business or corporate policies. For instance, women should be given equal consideration in recruitment, training, promotion, and performance appraisal. Organizations must grant a certain period of leave for expecting employees and for those who want to take leave or remain home to care for a sick family member.
  • Allowing women to have access to both general and technical education, public and private services.
  • Making a secure social environment where women are free from fear or threats to their physical and mental well-being.
  • Enabling them to fight against domestic violence in any form and lead a safe family life.
  • Making way for whistleblower protection. A whistleblower is defined as an individual who reveals alleged dishonest or illegal activities concerning an employer to the public.

However, legislations cannot serve the purpose of promoting women leadership unless they are properly implemented. In some countries the percentage of women in leadership positions is quite low despite several legislations framed.