Reimagining Leadership: The Indispensable Role Of Women Leaders

While the government and other stakeholders are working to bring gender diversity to the workplace, companies must go beyond mere compliance with mandates.
Reimagining Leadership: The Indispensable Role Of Women Leaders

As the business world evolves, organisations are eagerly integrating futuristic technologies like Agile and AI to hurtle forward. However, amidst this rapid progress, a noticeable gender gap persists, particularly in the leadership terrain. 

Women in India currently occupy only 18 per cent of C-suite roles, a figure notably lower than that of many other countries, including 27 per cent in the United States, 33 per cent in Singapore, and 25 per cent in South Africa, as highlighted in a recent LinkedIn report. 

Taking cognisance of the same, the government has actively worked to foster gender diversity in boardrooms through a range of initiatives. Notably, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) introduced a mandate a decade ago for listed companies to appoint at least one woman director on their board, based on specific criteria.  

Despite widespread initial compliance, reports have also disclosed that, until September of FY2023-24, SEBI imposed fines on 20 listed companies for their failure to appoint a single woman director—a notable decline from the 64 fines imposed in 2019-20. 

While these initiatives serve as encouragement, companies must go beyond mere compliance with mandates. This shift towards a more inclusive leadership landscape not only aligns with diversity goals but also underscores the vital question: why do women in leadership roles matter? 

How Women's Leadership Enhances Organisational Success 

To begin with, companies need to grasp that diversity, encompassing gender, culture, age, and race, sparks fresh ideas and fuels innovation. Men and women often bring different approaches to business due to their diverse life experiences. These distinct perspectives offer various lenses for growth and draw in diverse talents. 

For a business to thrive, a vital element is establishing an environment of open, accountable communication and execution. Putting each other to the test and working together with those who have diverse perspectives can foster creativity and lead to breakthrough innovations that drive businesses ahead. 

EY’s recent report on women's representation emphasizes that having women on leadership boards can contribute to improved stock prices and scores in corporate governance and innovation. 

While technical skills and knowledge are essential for career success, CEOs consistently rate soft skills as the most valued professional characteristics. Hugely valuable personalities include good communicators, empaths, and self-aware individuals who are conscious of their strengths and weaknesses.

Research linking character strength with business performance, claims that CEOs who score highly for traits like compassion and integrity can earn a 9.35 per cent return on assets over two years. 

Soft skills and emotional intelligence may be a competitive advantage for women in business. Studies have shown that women surpass males in 11 of 12 major emotional intelligence characteristics like emotional self-awareness, empathy, conflict management, flexibility, and teamwork—all essential skills to becoming a good leader at work. 

Gender Diversity in Leadership: Practical Steps for Companies 

As we persist in our efforts to achieve gender equality in the workplace, the positive strides observed in enhancing the representation of women in senior leadership roles are indeed encouraging.

For Indian organisations and companies, the initial step involves more than just acknowledgment – it requires a genuine recognition and active support for the valuable insights that women bring to the table. Specifically, prioritising the amplification of women's voices, especially in influential settings like board meetings, is crucial. 

Beyond recognition, equipping women with training and support in empathetic leadership becomes pivotal, enabling them to lead authentically by leveraging their innate strengths instead of conforming to a stereotypical leadership style.

As previously mentioned, women often excel in the soft skills essential for effective business leadership. When companies instil trust in women leaders to guide with compassion, it fortifies the entire organization. 

Recognising that work is not the sole priority in an employee's life and considering the additional challenges women often face in balancing career and personal life, the implementation of remote work has proven to be a game-changer in retention strategies. Beyond enhancing efficiency, remote work provides employees—especially women—with the opportunity to exercise greater control over various aspects of their lives.

It offers a more flexible and supportive environment for managing the intricacies of both professional and personal responsibilities. 

To sum up, fostering a culture of clarity on success metrics through measurable goals, coupled with empowering leaders to set healthy boundaries and decline non-supportive commitments, is vital for organizational support. In essence, it's about defining the "what" and allowing employees to determine the "how." 

The significance of seeing more women in leadership roles should not be understated, as it serves as an inspiration for others to strive for similar achievements. Accelerating progress requires the implementation of more policy or change-driven programs, increased transparency on leadership pathways, and the cultivation of a business culture that fully supports greater diversity in senior leadership. 

Authored by Uday Chawla, Managing Partner of TRANSEARCH India

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Business & Money