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Key steps women can take to emerge as significant leaders in the workplace

Let us help create a gender-equal world. Each one of us, and our actions, matter in creating a world with as many women leaders in the workplace as men.

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As of 2019, out of 1,814 chief executives and managing directors of NSE-listed companies, only 67 are women, a measly 3.69%. The present situation is undoubtedly grim, but even amidst it, there are signs of hope, of change in the air.

At first glance, the news that the number of women in the labour force declined in 2017-18, from the already low numbers in 2011-12, is obviously a bad sign. But these statistics, released by the Government’s Periodic Labour Force Survey – if read along with the AISHE 2018-19 report’s higher education enrollment numbers – reveal a positive insight: one reason for their absence from the labour force is that more women choose to study further, rather than settle for low-paying, entry-level jobs. Yes, there are green shoots of hope, but nurturing the next generation of women leaders is no simple task. As an employee, as an employer, and as a woman, the lack of female representation in companies has always troubled me. True, a lot can be done by companies to encourage and incentivise women employees. Conversely, women employees can also do their bit to help dismantle the glass ceiling altogether.

Understand your worth

The Global Gender Gap Report 2020 found that India ranks at 112 out of 153 countries, coming behind Bangladesh with respect to the economic participation of women. The good news? In a vibrant economy like India, job opportunities can only increase, and so will opportunities for women employees. Considering this, it is the duty of every woman employee to demand the same pay package as given to their male counterparts. A woman employee is paid for her skills, not for her gender.

Know your career path for promotion, and work according to it

You have an eye on the senior position in your department, but for some reason, you have been passed over in favour of another colleague. Before you pin the blame on anyone, sit down and have a frank conversation with your superiors: what are the skills that they are looking for? What are your weaknesses, as perceived by your superiors? Understand this and look within: can you address these weaknesses and move forward? Only when you have gone through these steps, draw your conclusions.

Join associations comprised of other women professionals

Even now, there are many sectors and organizations where workers are predominantly men. In these cases, informal associations composed of other women peers, even from other companies, can be a great source of support. From finding avenues of career advancement to understanding the how-to of negotiating career minefields, to even having a patient ear to hear you out and give genuinely helpful advice, the usefulness of such groups cannot be underestimated.

Look for a mentor you can rely on

As important as peers are, it is just as crucial to have a senior mentor figure. This mentor – be it he or she – can not only guide you in your present work but will help you to better understand the decisions of the senior management. After all, if you wish to reach the top, you can learn a lot from the ones who have already reached there.

Be firm in negotiations

This can apply to a promotion, a pay raise, or a potential client. Projecting confidence is necessary, for, without it, your stand can seem very shaky. If you can back your proposal up with reasons, which could be as to why you deserve that promotion, or why your organization is the perfect fit for the client, then there is very little which can prevent you from getting what you want.

Know your rights

The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act 2017 has increased duration of paid leave from 12 to 26 weeks, irrespective of their marital status. The Sexual Harassment Of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 Act mandates the formation of an Internal Complaints Committee to look into any complaint. These, and other such legal provisions are your inalienable rights; however, you can demand these rights only when you know about them.

Take inspiration from women role models

In the times we live in, there is no shortage of women role models to look upto. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw was denied a job because of her gender; now, she is managing director of an Rs. 4,000 crore company she started from the ground up. Arundhati Bhattacharya, a literature graduate who rose to become the first woman to head Fortune 500-listed SBI. If these women could overcome the frightening odds they faced then, all of us can certainly take heart from their journeys and push ourselves harder to achieve the goals we dream of.

Let us help create a gender-equal world. Each one of us, and our actions, matter in creating a world with as many women leaders in the workplace as men. 

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