Many leading forums like the World Economic Forum have discussed the need to get more women at the workplace not only from the view point of diversity but also to get good quality talent. Enlightened organisations like IBM, PwC and HUL have brought in measures and schemes to support women at the workplace.
Today, there is a pressing need for more women to join the workforce, climb the corporate ladder and to reach top management levels. In the Indian context a good percentage of highly educated women are involved at the entry level. The numbers however dwindle across the hierarchy. While it is imperative that more organisations introduce women friendly policies, they themselves have a lot of work to do.
Over the years, the female participants in management training programmes come with a lot of baggage which does not serve them well. Their biggest barrier is their sense of self-esteem. Many suffer from it despite being highly educated and employed probably owing to the type of treatment they get either at work or at home or both. This is combined with a sense of guilt among those who have young children. In some it also extends to not being able to play the socially defined role as a home maker.
Women tend to confuse their primary role with the positional which they have to play in the organisation. According to an ongoing research being conducted by a team of researchers at the IMI, Delhi, there is no difference either in the personality profiles or achievement orientation between men and women.
It lies in the value system- women assign higher importance to need for a comfortable life and avoidance of conflicts as compared to men. This therefore affects the type of assignments they choose and the locations they are willing to work in and the opportunity to prove their capabilities.
As the famous saying from the Upanishads goes, “Raise yourself, by yourself, you are your own best friend and you are your own worst enemy.” Women have to continuously take up new challenges. As they keep proving themselves, they will become stronger and their self-esteem will grow. There is no point in trying to please everyone across their multiple roles and be the only person dissatisfied. Such an approach will protect them from
getting flooded with guilt and handle their tasks efficiently.
Another important aspect is to negotiate their position and time with the family members. Negotiation requires a lot of skill and delicate handling and hence training on this skill will be of immense value. Conflict management skills will also help them immensely to handle difficult situations with co-workers and teams. Above all, women must develop high degree of resilience and capacity to bounce back. This should be combined with greater degree of self-awareness and understanding, in terms of clarity on their goals and aspirations.
Finding mentors and champions within the organisation will be a great help in getting due feedback and continuous development.
They must also look for opportunities to speak up and share their ideas on public platforms so that they are known to the corporate community.
Organisations interested in developing future women leaders must not only support them through important initiatives, they must also provide them opportunity to attend training programmes which can help them develop self-insight,
clarify their goals, negotiate and manage conflict.
The writer is professor of Organisational Behaviour, IMI-Delhi