Women Leaders Show The Way
These women leaders believed in their capabilities and moved ahead
Way back in 2001, Serena Williams struggled hard to cross the quarterfinals in the Grand Slams. She had lost four consecutive quarterfinals and was playing the fifth one in US Open. She kept building leads and was close to sealing the match, but the opponent was a former champion and kept demolishing the leads. Serena was not only battling a physical game of tennis but also an emotionally draining mental game. She was a former Grand Slam winner and believed that she could do it. She said to herself, she quotes, “I decided I can't pay a person to rewind time, so I may as well get over it”. Determination and sheer grit!
While it is true that leadership skills are essential equally for men and women, research shows that women adapt quicker than men in certain aspects of work. They exhibit those skills consistently and naturally. Mother Nature has created men and women in equal proportion to embody the fact that diversity is a natural phenomenon. So, we must take the cue from nature and ensure that diversity exists in all walks of life. An ecosystem becomes holistic and complete when we have diversity across genders, cultures and backgrounds. People will have their own preferences, unique personality traits and capabilities. We have to find the right people for each job that exists in the world. It is a simple postulate. But, then why do organizations across the world find it hard to keep up the gender diversity?
The Indian Context and Women Leaders
In India, social norms in the surrounding and the economic context of a family play important roles in the decision for a woman to pursue what she is passionate about. Her interest could be in any area from art, music, science, technology and travel to education, business, healthcare, community work, politics, sports, law or anything else. However, a woman’s decision about her career is governed by a far larger number of factors than her male counterpart’s.
We celebrate women leaders like Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, Naina Lal Kidwai, former Chairperson of HSBC India, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairperson of Biocon, Shikha Sharma, former Chair of Axis Bank, Sudha Murthy, Chairperson of Infosys Foundation and many more. All of them have beaten the odds to take definitive steps in their careers. Each one of them is immensely talented and at the same time, have been determined to create a greater impact over a period of time. They have kept growing in their stature and impact. Their ecosystem at work and home eventually comes together to provide them with all the support needed to deal with their personal circumstances.
Is it, Just Destiny
Someone could say, it was destined to happen that way. But, as the wise saying by Steve Jobs goes, “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” All these leaders have seen the bright side of possibilities rather than getting bogged down by the social norms, the risks and the fears. They believed in their capabilities and moved ahead. Organizations find a shortage of women talent at the mid to senior levels because many talented women drop off the talent pool just to conform to the social norms.
Women leaders are known for their abilities in empathising with their colleagues at work, building strong relationships, fostering camaraderie, injecting a sense of balance and wholesomeness into the decision-making process. They make a management team well-rounded in its approach to evaluate risks and respond to opportunities.
Someone said the global financial crisis could have been averted if Wall Street was truly diverse. We see diversity being mentioned on an earnings call these days. Companies hiring a large number of woman interns and making pre-placement offers to women MBA students. We hope, they will be able to retain them and make the workplace holistic and complete. India Inc. has a task at hand to transform our beliefs at home and build the social infrastructure that facilitates women to keep working through their life stages of marriage, childbirth to raising a child. We have to get over it as Serena did in the quarterfinals of US Open in 2001!