The conversation on the myriad benefits of women in leadership should not have to be brought up in an ideal world. But there are so few women in leadership holding on to their stature. In stark contrast, the drop-out rate is so much greater than the numbers of women making it to concrete gender equality in the boardroom. In such a scenario, the discourse can help highlight the advantages of female leadership. Delineating this bleak picture during the times of a pandemic where job losses are random and widespread merits even sharper an eye on women and leadership. Startups for one benefit a lot from female leadership.
The truth told by the numbers about women in leadership
The fact that 50% of women workers drop out of corporate jobs before reaching a senior role sounds like a sweeping statement. However, facts from a Women in Management 2019 survey by Catalyst.org pointed out that as of 2017-18, only 20% of the senior roles were filled by women. Even lower, only 7% of CEO/Managing Director roles were held by women. Gender parity in leadership continues to be skewed due to conventional beliefs of upbringing and social mores which women still have to fight in the 21st century.
The figures denoting the lack of gender equality in leadership in India show that a big shift has not come in the last three years. Come COVID times, the challenge for women in exposed sectors is trebled. Hospitality, personal care, entertainment, and leisure are some of the areas in which women find employment and look to grow. As the logistical and economic slowdown resulting from the spread of the coronavirus deepens its hold on the society, these are the sectors that cut jobs down first. Teaching and school administration are other areas where women in leadership reach appreciable levels of achievement, in both the personal and professional sense. However, hiring and promotions in Education and Edtech areas have seen an unforeseen cutback due to the shutting down of schools because of the pandemic.
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Obstacles of female leadership are compounded in the COVID crisis
Analyzing the Indian economy by the three-sector theory shows that women are hired mainly in the tertiary sector which concerns itself with services. By gaining tenure and performing in an exemplary fashion, a tenacious section of women workers ascend to leadership positions in retail, tourism, banking, IT (information technology), and entertainment functions. The impact of the coronavirus outbreak has spread speedily into the non-essential sectors. Since client-facing jobs and in-person meetings fall to the services sector, women tend to lose out on the income during and after extended lockdowns as such operations are slow to return full-speed. The most resilient section of women leaders and employers are those who possess certification or degrees in STEM courses and have professional training.
Extraneous factors that help women in leadership channel innate strengths
In this scenario governed by a multitude of factors, the one advantage where enterprising women make self-propelled decisions is when they start their own businesses. Startup India is one initiative going strong in protecting and providing resources to all entrepreneurs during times of limited funding and reduced demand. It recognizes Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, and Hyderabad as the top five cities in India with entrepreneurship potential for women. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) pegs the numbers of women entrepreneurs in India at 14% according to the Sixth Economic Census. Startup India nurtures and incubates worthy ideas and also provides specific skill-building programs for women. As a result, women starting a business have the unique ability to understand the challenges faced by other women and work actively to bring gender equality in the boardroom. Some women in leadership positions in corporate bodies eventually transition to founding roles in startups.
To complement the efforts of administrators, corporate India has started to take active measures to encourage women into important positions in organizational hierarchies. The unique strengths of female leadership are recognized of late thanks to behavioral studies and psychometric tests. Many women are natural leaders who forge bonding within the team. They nurture one-on-one relationships with team members and foster healthy communication and interpersonal values. Women in leadership in the workplace help people identify personal strengths and skills and help team players use them to the advantage of the entire team.
Women leaders scale growth despite veritable obstacles and unforeseen challenges
Bringing personal, emotional, and professional qualities to a meritorious head, several women in leadership go on to find business concerns that rise above challenging highs and lows of demand, personnel challenges, and liquidity limitations. In the scheme of social entrepreneurship and welfare, women in leadership positions and female managers with an enterprising mindset contribute directly toward creating employment. In an ode to soft power, women in leadership achieve distinction both as business owners and employees. They have high retention propensity and emotional intelligence which translates into direct revenue-saving and generation for an organization.
The mindset shift that makes a big difference to women in leadership
The startup ecosystem is welcoming to Indian women. Concerns of age, qualification, and other demographic factors matter less in the case of female leadership when the business idea is potent, and the business plan is solid. India’s vibrant cities cater to women’s needs of a safe conveyance, convenience in running their homes and business on par with their male counterparts, and childcare facilities to assure peace of mind are available in plenty.
Women in leadership roles would have mastered multi-tasking and thrive at running businesses while working from home, from office spaces, and on-the-go as they travel. With the pandemic changing up everything from the way people travel to the workplace to the division of labor at home, obstacles of female leadership changed somewhat. The availability of reskilling and upskilling opportunities in the form of self-paced courses, webinars, and workshops is a propitious learning avenue for women who juggle many roles throughout the day and week.
Specific resources for women in leadership roles to explore:
The government of India partners with private sector outfits like Startup Oasis in Rajasthan, Dhriiti for the North-East India region, and Women Entrepreneurship Hub of Telangana. Others are NGOs (like SEWA – Self Employed Women’s Association, Azad Foundation, Swaniti). Initiatives by Punjab National Bank and Dena Bank and CENT Kalyani are a few examples of women-centric support systems for entrepreneurship in India.
The slew of resources, tools, and programs for women in leadership to take advantage of keeps growing. In tandem, as the mindset of societal support and acceptance for women at the workplace increase, women can channel the mental and emotional energies that set them apart and direct them toward productive use. Startups with women at the helm can turn the fortunes of a society and even an economy around. Women can accelerate the potential and emancipated outlook of the current times to get over the temporary slowdown created by the pandemic. The dynamism and versatility that women are known for come to the fore in taking strength from bail-out packages that stem from the COVID situation. It is this strength which can gain mileage and traction and give rise to more female leaders in the years to come.
- Jyoti Nath, Why women leaders can make a huge difference to the Indian startup ecosystem, Your Story, Feb 25, 2020
- Agence France-Presse, Women bear the brunt of Covid outbreak at the workplace, more likely to be furloughed and lose jobs as compared to men, The Economic Times, June 22, 2020
- Hilla Ovil-Brenner, 5 Ways to Empower Women Entrepreneurs During COVID-19, TechStars, May 19, 2020
- Rukmini S, How covid-19 locked out women from jobs, LiveMint, June 11, 2020
- Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Management, August 7, 2019
- Women Entrepreneurs, Startup India, Ministry of Commerce and Industry
- Anu Thomas, How Covid-19 Can Be An Opportunity For Businesses To Support Women In Tech, Analytics India Mag, June 8, 2020
- Ashlin Mathew, Making It in India, International Monetary Fund, March 2019
- Madhuri Dubey, Funding and support for women entrepreneurs: List of resources, National Skills Network, March 8, 2018
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