44 Unicorns. FDI inflows worth more than $30 billion.
All of this happened in India in 2021. It’s a really nice picture. But it’s not the complete picture. One among those 44 Unicorns has a very different story to tell.
On November 10 last year, Falguni Nayar joined those 43 other Three Comma Club entrants. It’s a commendable feat, considering that we’re speaking 10 figures. But, six out of 237? Seven in a nation of nearly 1.4 billion, which reduces to two if we’re talking about starting from scratch? Or, how about one among two dozen in the whole, wide world?
As a woman in today’s Indian professional sector, you’re far more likely to be struck by a lightning bolt rather than fancying your odds for pulling off an encore of this story.
On November 10 last year, when Nayar became the richest self-made woman billionaire in India, she didn’t just break a glass ceiling. She smashed right through a brick wall.
A World Of Not Good
In the current context, the sliver of hope that Nayar’s meteoric rise has given to India’s working women is just that: a sliver of hope. Rise in awareness over the past few years or not, the professional gender gap of our nation has continued its nosedive.
Even in the lands beyond India’s borders — which are supposed to be home to a more progressive outlook — the story remains the same.
Yes, the likes of Whitney Wolfe Herd continue to be heard. Yes, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said last March that on the fronts of health and education, 37 countries have achieved gender parity. And yes, from a global perspective, this gulf has been narrowed down to five per cent.
But, these are just pieces of a massive jigsaw puzzle, one that’s still going to take 135.6 years to solve.
The Onus Is On Us
WEF’s explanation for a big gender-gap in Economic Participation and Opportunities offers clues for the right way forward.
“On one hand, the proportion of women among skilled professionals continues to increase, as does progress towards wage equality, albeit at a slower pace. On the other hand, overall income disparities are still only part-way towards being bridged and there is a persistent lack of women in leadership positions, with women representing just 27% of all manager positions.” (sic)
Let’s decode this in plain-speak.
Women representation at the subordinate level has increased, but their presence in the Senior and C-Suite levels has plateaued. Hence, those in power need to shoulder the responsibility of building narratives for a gender-egalitarian workspace.
Political Empowerment — the other front that WEF has singled out as skewed — offers more proof for this line of thought. Four among the top five countries on WEF’s Global Gender Gap Index list have a female Head of State.
One set an example with her handling of the pandemic and delivering on promises. One’s sincere, feminist approach to political administration has put her nation at the top of this table and earned her a second term. One’s nation is still the happiest in the world. And one has ascended — albeit dramatically — from Finance Minister to the helm of one of the most gender-progressive nations in the world.
Political nuances may differ from organisational ones, but the moral of this story remains the same. Women in policy-making roles have the potential to level the playing field.
The Voice of Reason
We know about the kind of obstacles that women face in the professional world. And we also know the fact that for the status quo to change, women leaders are the ones who need to step up. But for doing so, let’s lay down a few attribute- and approach-based markers by breaking down recent success stories of great women leaders.
1) Be empathetic: Among the slew of articles and analyses of Jacinda Ardern’s leadership during the pandemic, one word found frequent mention: empathy. As women leaders, the need of the hour is to inculcate empathy — be it through policy, or by leading through example — among employees.
2) Be relentless: Herd had to go through a protracted sexual-harassment lawsuit, endure months of online abuse, and then navigate a very cluttered market before Bumble came into being. As a woman leader, strength and perseverance are key to bridging the gender-gap in your workplace.
3) Introduce change from the ground up: When the world was going gaga about Leena Nair’s ascent, a very simple-yet-pertinent initiative of hers earned a lot of praise. As women leaders, look for every opportunity to introduce the right changes in your organisation, irrespective of the level at which they may be implemented.
4) Adapt to changing times: While April Underwood is known better for being the Chief Product Officer who kept Slack relevant, #Angels is an excellent example for how women leaders can be in touch with the pulse of the time they’re in and implement gender-gap measures.
The Brass Tacks
While overviews, numbers and desired leadership traits are helpful in viewing the bigger picture, it’s in the smaller pieces where the real work begins for women managers and decision-makers. We at Dale Carnegie know the importance of this. I myself have been one among the many voices that have been — and will continue to be — a part of this conversation, one that needs to be had.
If you’re in a role that can influence company policies, and you’ve read this far, remember these three things the next time you go to work:
1) Women have to deal with hiring and pay-related biases: Women are equally adept — if not more — at leadership. But societal ingraining reflects in hiring trends and pay decisions. As a decision-maker, try to break this pattern whenever you spot it.
2) Women deserve their due for being skilled workplace navigators: The perception of women being more empathetic and better handlers of interpersonal dynamics isn’t just an assumption. It’s true.
3) Women can make brands, or break them: The world is becoming more woke with each passing day. And a big Gender Gap is surely not a brand legacy — even in Glassdoor reviews — that any company would want to leave behind.
As managers, work towards ending salary gaps, bringing in an Inclusive environment, and tear down stereotypes that have been passed down over the years. As an individual, remember that “God is within her. She will not fail.”