Diversity or Equality Series: How to increase women in leadership?

Dec 7, 2017

Assertiveness is one of the important qualities that women need to build an equal world. “Identify your sponsors”, those people in leadership who are willing to give in their time and are committed to the cause.

We move to the next step in building an equal world. Note I call it an “equal” world, the reason behind this is, the moment we say “Gender Diversity” and run interventions to support it, it somewhere gives us the feeling of reservation or discrimination towards one gender, which is not the case here and now at present. Why? Read on.

Well, let me ask you all – How many years till organizations can look at having 30-40% women representation in their boards? I already shared that it’s going to take 117 years to achieve gender parity.

Surprise – a research says that around 32 % of the firms surveyed feel it will take women 10-25 years to reach 30-40% board representation! So, how do we increase women in leadership?

The first step is to know where we are and where we want to be, remember what’s never measured never gets done. I will urge organizations to embark on a “Gender Audit”, this will give D&I/HR teams data of where you stand vis-à-vis your peers and where you need to focus on, and what form of goals we need to establish to reach where we want to be. That brings us to the most important agenda – How do we increase women representation in leadership? The answer is not so simple since research says that more than 76% of organizations are effective in attracting and retaining women talent, while only 56% believe they are good at identifying and promoting women leaders!! Less than one fifth of the organizations surveyed have formal programs to identify and develop women to leadership levels.

So, what could you do in your firm?
  • Ask the female employees what the company could do to improve their senior leader pipeline?
  • Implement formal programs to identify and develop women leaders?

Do women think there are enough deserving candidates, yet they don’t get an opportunity at leadership roles? OR is there really a shortage of women candidates? While the exact answer is independent to each firm and is still being explored, let me shift your attention to something/s that you could look at doing to increase women representation in leadership roles. Implementing the below interventions will act as enablers to advancing women to leadership.

  • Mentoring from senior leaders.
  • Creating a inclusive corporate culture that supports gender diversity.
  • Building strong female role models in the organization.
  • Mandatory representation of women in project teams, quality circles, innovation hubs etc within the firm.
  • Providing functional/technical learning support and leadership development program support to build capability.

While the list could go on, what is important is not just drawing out a long plan but being able to start off the plan, being able to take that small step, take that committed stand to build a gender equal world. If you answer to the question I pose below is YES, man or women I assure you will reach your goal. If the answer is No/Maybe then you have a impossible mountain to climb, so why bother! ARE YOU COMMITTED TO BUILDING A GENDER EQUAL WORLD?

*This post was first published in LinkedIn.

Ajay Venkatesh

Ajay Venkatesh

Ajay Venkatesh has studied in prestigious institutions like ICFAI, XLRI Jamshedpur and IIM Kozhikode. Currently he is working as Manager-People Advisory Services in EY. He provides end-to-end human resource advisory solutions to organizations. He has an expertise in change management, high potential identification, succession planning, talent management, leadership development and other OD interventions.


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