by KV Dipu
Aug 1 2016
“We aim to tap the vast talent pool of women professionals who had to leave their professional jobs for their family commitments. We plan to give such women an opportunity to re-start their professional career without disturbing their family priorities,” said the CEO of Bajaj Allianz, the Indian insurance firm, which launched all-women branches two years ago. Cut to the present, and you see offices buzzing with action – selling, processing, transacting – with the sole difference being that these are offices for women, of women, by women.
While such a dramatic intervention to bring women into more senior roles may not be necessary all across, the very fact that this topic continues to be of interest is the clearest indicator of the requirement for more action on this front. Many a debate later, one is none the wiser – while the secular trend is positive, gender parity is still some distance away. Here is a list of actions, based on my experience, which can help bridge this gap.
Maverick mentoring – Most organizations tend to pair up female mentors with female mentees. If women aspire to more senior roles, why shouldn’t emerging female talent be mentored by the people in the positions they aspire to, irrespective of the gender of the incumbents? Sounds ridiculously simple but practice beats logic in most organizations.
Digital offices – Most women do not face issues with the core role that they have to do. What tends to eat into their precious time for home and children is the long commute. Given that companies today have entire offices on tabs (from registering attendance to executing complex transactions), this is a focused approach to attracting more female talent into senior roles.
Change in mindset – Question the sacred cows. “Women do not like sales.” The CEO of one company found a higher performance in his female team vis-à-vis his male team in sales. On probing with customers, he learnt that customers saw a higher degree of conviction in the female team.
Use of data – An organization decided to move from perceptions to data when it began preparing for the annual performance appraisal cycle. The insights were eye-openers – from higher revenue per employee to lower attrition per manager, the use of data led to an overnight change in that company’s perceptions that were handed down over the years regarding typical gender-role fits.
Reverse engineering – Typically, firms let culture drive strategy, leading to a status quo approach to gender consciousness. In today’s world, firms need to do the reverse – let strategy drive culture – so that the vision driving the goals of the company allows them to take a deliberate approach towards this end.
Metrics, not just culture – Firms are over-reliant on culture. Pray, why do we have so many frauds and indiscretions? There is a strong case for backing up culture with metrics. With the right metrics, such as opportunities for female talent across levels, culture gets a massive boost when firms come up with deliberate – and deliberated – action plans to fix improvement areas.
Larger than life – Sheryl Sandberg is a case in point. She’s not the just the COO of Facebook, but the face of successful women in Silicon Valley. Organizations need to create a larger than life halo for their most successful female leaders so that more women get attracted to the corporate sector.
Numerous studies have time and again shown the strong link between diversity and higher success. The faster organizations imbibe this reality, the better their corporate success, the higher their contribution to their commitment to making the world a more equal place.
Expert Q&A TweetChat: Women in the C-Suite
While there have been many strides made for women over the past years, they can still face adversity in the workforce, especially when trying to moving into the C-Suite. According to Harvard Business Review, only 24% of all senior management roles are held by women and about 5% of all CEO roles at Fortune 500 companies.
In our BlueSteps #ExecCareer TweetChat, we will looked at several issues pertinent to executive women, including:
- How leadership roles have evolved for women and what challenges remain
- The keys for success for women in the workforce
- Top tips and advice for women looking to advance into an executive position
- The common attributes of women who become high-performing female CEOs
- How to acquire a board position as a woman