Here’s a three-pronged approach for businesses to adopt to boost women in leadership roles

If boardroom diversity is the end goal, flexibility, upskilling, and inclusion are building blocks for India Inc.

Updated: Dec 26, 2022 02:37:11 PM UTC
A recent data revealed that only 18 percent of leadership roles in India are filled by women today. Image: Shutterstock

Progress in the world of work has taken many forms in the past decade—tech has grown, skills have evolved, and businesses have changed the way they run.

Year after year, new leaders find a seat at the apex of this evolution, bringing in fresh innovations that give birth to new opportunities. And the key to ensuring equity in these opportunities is boardroom diversity. But before reaching the boardrooms, let’s take a look at the state of inclusion for women when it comes to senior management or leadership positions in the country.

Our recent data revealed that only 18 percent of leadership roles in India are filled by women today. To close this gap, many perceptive companies are already setting several decisive measures in motion to ensure they bring more women to leadership positions and ultimately get them a seat in the boardroom. Given the ongoing global economic uncertainty, it is imperative for businesses to eliminate bias, build more diverse teams of decision makers, and democratise opportunity for all to include more women in leadership roles.

Also Read- Salary Negotiations: A catch-22 for women

So what lies ahead in our journey to help more women find a seat across industry boardrooms today? While this question attracts scholarly research citations and labour reform nuances, there exists a three-pronged approach that businesses can adopt with immediate effect to boost women in leadership roles, one step a time:

1) Lay the groundwork with inclusive policies and culture

Belongingness is key to unlocking your workforce’s full potential. Making gender representation a strategic priority through inclusive hiring practices will not only give businesses access to a wider and fresher range of ideas and perspectives but also help them drive a fair, equitable, and competent work culture. Opportunities to engage in gender-sensitive subjects like being a male ally, breaking the glass ceiling, and encouraging gender-neutral conversations at work are key to building an inclusive and welcoming work culture. With a wide variety of analytical tools, employers can kickstart their inclusion journeys by identifying existing inclusion gaps in their teams and filling these with the right talent.

2) 'Flexibility' as a success mantra

The past two years have seen many of India’s working women exit the workforce or in some cases turn to entrepreneurship in an effort to seek greater flexibility as they chart their career paths. Nevertheless, women shouldn't be required to do more because of their gender to advance in their careers. Their need for career breaks, maternity leaves, and sabbaticals shouldn't derail chances of progression. Today, as many as 4 in 5 (81 percent) employers in India are offering greater flexibility to their workforce, allowing more women to break free from the expectations of a conventional 9-5 and set the pace for their careers on their own terms.

3) A skills-first approach will help remove biases

L&D opportunities are critical not only to foster a culture of growth but also to retain your best talent. In fact, one of the most progressive measures for companies to bring more women into leadership roles is adopting a skills-first approach towards hiring and talent development. Focusing on transferable skills can help women return to work and explore more relevant roles where they can grow their careers as well as business prospects. A skills-first approach immediately removes bias and sees candidates for what they bring to the table. And women stand to benefit the most from this in the current scenario because this will allow them to achieve lateral moves or pivot to new roles that best fit their career goals. By encouraging the right upskilling programs alone, L&D professionals can boost retention by nearly 2x, opening up avenues for better representation of women in the workforce.

As we continue our journey towards equal opportunity, decision makers must understand that forgoing gender stereotypes and embracing a talent-first approach are the building blocks to bringing more women in leadership roles and eventually helping them make their way to industry boardrooms. Levelling the playing field for more women to climb the ladder will not just further their journeys of growth, but also set up our country’s landscape for equitable representation and success.

The writer is senior director, India Talent & Learning Solutions, LinkedIn.


The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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