Earlier this month, Droupadi Murmu, a woman from an indigenous community in Odisha, was sworn in as India’s 15th President. After Pratibha Patil, Murmu is the second woman President. Before being elected, Murmu was the Governor of Jharkhand and had served in the Odisha government. Many will mull over the special qualities she possesses that have helped her achieve success. A lot has been written about the tragedies she suffered and how she persevered despite potential fallouts of loss. Resilience, determination and perseverance are some qualities that come to mind while describing Murmu.
Just like Murmu, many women have also not found it easy to achieve goals and rise to the top. Social conditioning has been one factor that has led women to feel restrained while pursuing a career. “Many times, social programming about what women are supposed to do, such as be kitchen-bound, leads to women not pushing forth in their careers. Ideas like women are meant to be house-bound lead them to suffer from self-doubt. I believe women are as competent as men to be leaders,” says Psychotherapist Jimmy Mody.
Different styles of leadership
Women and men bring different things to the table. Each gender possesses different qualities and traits, making them function differently at the workplace. “I find that women are more transformational game changers as compared to men. They are not always by-the-book followers of the system. They have a more innovative approach, along with the ability to question. Statistics have shown that women are more honest and what makes them great leaders is their compassion and honesty. They are also natural multi-taskers and hence bring a better-rounded, holistic view to the table. In my role as a leader, I find men often telling me 'this can’t be done'. I feel the killer instinct and ability to challenge norms is more a woman’s domain,” says Nisha Jamvwal, a luxury brand consultant.
A McKinsey & Company Women in the Workplace 2021 report states, “Women’s representation has increased across the corporate world. However, women, especially those of colour, remain significantly under-represented.” The study adds that for every 100 men promoted to managerial roles, only 86 women are promoted. Hence, fewer women rise the ranks and get to “C-suite” (top managerial) posts.
“It’s still a patriarchal society where chauvinism is prevalent, which I’ve observed at public offices. I believe female entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of any economy, as women leaders are both examples and trailblazers in bringing more women into the workforce. Women who are currently in the workforce serve as role models for other women. We need such participation to grow if we want to evolve into a five trillion economy,” Jamvwal shares.
Women can become better leaders by learning to say ‘no’ and setting boundaries at the workplace. Communicating their perspectives in a firm, yet unaggressive, manner will shape their roles at the workplace. “Relationships can be complicated and one needs to take time out to work on them, making corrections in how one interacts with others, without blame games. To avoid being taken for granted, women have to learn to say ‘no’ and establish robust boundaries at the workplace. Women should guard against becoming push-overs,” Mody adds.
Online initiatives pushing leadership
Online platforms today want to help women become more confident, and not shy away from pursuing dreams. Portals such as Ladies who Lead, founded by Business Editor Aabha Bakaya, aim to encourage women entrepreneurs, professionals and influencers to do more with their careers. “We want to encourage women to be everything they want to be, to go after whatever they want. Whether it be about starting their own small, independent businesses, or putting in those long hours to make it to the top, we are here to support women’s dreams and flash a gesture that says - stop being apprehensive about choosing yourself first. Keep at it, we got you.”
Other portals such as Business Chicks, founded by Emma Isaacs, teach women how to “smash fears” that interfere with going after what they want.
Such platforms help workplaces become more conducive for women, help them build on their inner uniqueness, which men cannot always bring to the table.