March 8th is International Women’s Day: a day for us to commemorate women’s successes and contributions. More significantly, it is a call to action to persist the fight for gender parity.
Inequality is alive in every corner of our society, but the tech industry in specific is still a ‘male club’ in several ways. Women make up for less than 20% of tech jobs, and holds less than 5% of leadership positions. Correspondingly concerning is the fact that female-founded organizations obtain less than 3% of all the VC funding.
We feel a responsibility to use our platform to enact change. Here are nine ways that we can level the playing field for Indian women.
- Foster Financial Literacy for Women
- Cultivate Networks and Opportunities
- Conceal the Confidence Gap
- Diversify High-level Corporate Leadership
- Treating Women Fairly at Workplace
- Promoting Learning and Development for Women
- Ensuring Well-being of All Women Workers
- Measure and Publicly Report Women Progress
- Promote Equality Through Community Initiatives
Foster Financial Literacy for Women
Women have never felt more emboldened than they do today. There are more women CEOs in Fortune 500 today than ever before. Females are running for office in record numbers. More females are pursuing entrepreneurship. Women are earning more degrees than their male counterparts. More working mothers are the primary or may be the only earners in their families. The list is never ending.
These notable strides are what are making the results of a recent report so overwhelming. The 2019 Women, Money and Power study report elucidates on women empowerment. It states that the past few years had a limelight on women empowerment. Even so, females were battling to make progress with financial literacy.
This report was quite surprising! The reason is that women have come a long way. And when it comes to roles in work and family, but they don’t feel prepared financially. This solicits the question, at a time when females are achieving so much, why aren’t they feeling more empowered about their financial future?
How to achieve this?
There is an urgent need to encourage financial literacy for women from an early age. One needn’t wait until women are wealthy or have their own businesses before having these conversations. We need to assure education early on will empower women to comprehend how money flows. This would help them to see themselves as good asset owners. This needs to take place in academic settings, but it also depends on us as women to be good guides to young people.
Capitalizing in financial education pays off-literally. When women are financially independent and successful, they are empowered to invest in companies and other women that they believe in. For women to achieve true empowerment, it is imperative to close the financial literacy gap.
For companies, investing in women’s financial literacy is the way to accomplishing economic and social equality. As women acclaim leadership roles globally, it is crucial to make sure that they have access to a robust and meaningful financial education. With superior economic self-sufficiency and empowerment, there are no limits to what women can achieve in life.
Cultivate Networks and Opportunities
Networking is one of the greatest tools to have in one’s arsenal, whether you’re a CEO or just a fresher starting your career.
We know this to be true, and yet, women fall short of the networks and opportunities that the male counterparts have. If you consider the fact that there are radically scarcer women in tech and leadership, the pool of potential peers to network with is naturally smaller. Henceforth, it is the need of the hour to participate in cultivating networks.
That doesn’t mean that women must seek female-only networks. However, it is beneficial to partner and connects with women who can advocate for you, and who have experienced steering unique challenges that we face as women. These connections can transmute to a network full of individuals one can tap into for new opportunities, advice, or mentor-ship.
On a greater level, this can mean financial advancements, more women on board, and more career paths for organizations. It is required to take time to nurture and cultivate those relationships and speak up in asking for what you might need.
Conceal the Confidence Gap
Women relish the breaks today that our mothers, much less our grandmothers, never had. However, despite all this progress, several women still lag behind men on many signs – still battle to ‘have it all’ or to at least feel good about ‘all’ that we do have presently.
Mostly, women still battle to believe in themselves; to feel confident in their own skin, in who they are and about what they do. A report by Cornell University stated that men overestimate their capabilities and their performance, while women underestimate both. Naturally, not every men ooze self-confidence, and not every woman lacks it. However, the ‘gender confidence gap’ is real and addressing it is the linchpin to addressing gender inequity.
This is not to tone down the external and universal barriers or dis-affirm the need to address them. From established ‘think manager, think male’ gender norms to scarcity of sponsors opening doors for women higher up, or strong women role models inspiring the ambitions of younger females further down – there are several established barriers and biases that make the journey of a women tougher, and the climb steeper.
There are a few ways women can take to dismantle the confidence gap:
- Lower your bar to ‘good enough’
- Challenge old ‘norms’ about what a woman ‘should’ do
- Befriend your inner critic and don’t let self-doubt call the shots
- Celebrate and elevate other women
- Do not wait for confidence, lean towards risk
Diversify High-level Corporate Leadership
When it comes to empowering women at work in corporate leadership, WSJ reports that it’s more than double the number of US organizations. The bad news is that women still lead lesser than 6% of those organizations. This is unfortunate considering that women now represent more than half of college-educated workforce.
The issue is not that women fall short of what it takes for any leadership position. A study that foresees whether a candidate will take up a leadership role looks at four factors – general ability, execution skills, charisma, and strategic skills. The study found that there was no difference among women and men. However, women are 28% less likely to be hired as CEO s.
Many organizations are focusing on diversity these days and empowering women at Work. Thanks to risen media scrutiny and incidents illustrating challenges that emerge when diversity is not a priority. The reality is still pretty bleak when it comes to gender parity in the workplace –particularly leadership positions. Women hold just 20% of C-suite roles, according to a survey by McKinsey. Gender diversity remains a challenge in every aspect of the corporate pipeline, and for organizations to move the needle, any mandate needs to come from the top.
Data strongly advocate that high-potential women in many organizations are not treated fairly and given an equal opportunity to progress.
It is not surprising to know that women leave their jobs at a rate that is almost four times higher than men. This is because of the lack of opportunity that women are given to compete for higher positions on an even playing field. But they are rarely leaving the workforce; they are leaving to engage in better opportunities.
This should worry organizations that make it tougher for their most talented women to rise as high as their talent, ambition & commitment will take them.
Treating Women Fairly at Workplace
Gender discrimination comes in varied shapes and sizes. Sexual harassment, paying different genders differently, hiring/training only one gender for a certain type of work, or even denying a promotion to a pregnant lady simply because of her pregnancy are some examples of gender discrimination at the workplace.
It’s 2020, but women are still holding back when it comes to pay and promotions at work because of their gender. A report finds that women are twice as likely as men to say they have been passed over for a promotion because of their gender. The gap is even greater when it comes to pay. Four times as many women as men report being denied a pay raise because of their gender.
Patterns on promotions and pay have remained largely as it is. However, there has been a rise in the percentage of women who admit advancement in career is ‘very important’ or ‘somewhat important’ to them, nearly closing the gap between males and females.
Women suffer the impact of gender discrimination the most both at and away from work.
Regardless of hopes for significant improvement in equal pay and the removal of barriers for women to advance in the workplace, progress in these areas has been slow. Greater awareness to combat biases that hold women back from being allowed to compete fairly and be paid equitably is a priority for organizations.
Promoting Learning and Development for Women
The shortage of women in leadership roles speaks volumes of the failures of businesses to tackle gender discrimination and establish a mixed gender leadership pipeline as a top priority. It is significant for industry leaders to arm organizations with tools that can facilitate every member of the workforce reach their potential.
We observe more event-based development opportunities for females. A relentless approach to developing leadership competencies is important for companies to build gender parity in the leadership roles. In a report by Skill Soft, 54% stated the significance of offering leadership training specific to women. 70% of women stated that their employers do not provide adequate resources and support to facilitate them in advancing their careers.
Organizations must foster the culture of respect for people’s time, identify the deeply ingrained problems women face and begin to realistically empower their career advancement. There are myriad elements that go into shaping company cultures supportive of productivity and advancing women.
We can engage peers, mentors, and sponsors across organizational networks to increase the number of women in leadership roles only when companies begin implementing formal training & development programs that customarily review key leadership concepts.
Ensuring the Well-being of All Women Workers
Work – formal and informal, paid and unpaid – plays a pivotal role in the lives of people all across the world. Through work, women and men define themselves and their roles in the society. Yet while several jobs cater both income and personal satisfaction, they may also pose hazards and risks to health and safety.
Increasing share of women in the workforce has led to a wide array of gender-related queries about the different effects of work-related risks on women, in terms of exposure to dangerous substances, or the effect of biological agents on reproductive health, the physical demands of heavy work, the ergonomic design of workplaces and the length of working day, especially when domestic duties also have to be taken into account.
The ’wellness trend’ has congregated considerable traction in the last few years. This influences women looking forward to live their lives healthily and positively. Maintaining good health is not just about mindfulness and super-foods. It is rather influenced by how women feel about in every area of their lives, including at work.
Maintaining good working relationships, feeling valued and working in a positive atmosphere all contributes to women’s well-being. Factually, several reports have stated that organizations investing in well-being enhance their employee productivity and performance.
Day-to-day experiences with colleagues and managers, how purposeful they feel, and the actual works they do are a few factors that affects the well-being for a working women. Organizations promoting health initiatives are often seen as being more likely to be creative and successful organizations. Women working in these organizations often feel part of the inclusive work culture.
Measure and Publicly Report Women Progress
Women continue to be vastly underrepresented at every level, despite the organizations continue to report that they are highly committed to gender diversity.
Women are doing their part. Now organizations need to lean in, too. Change begins with treating gender diversity like the business priority it is. Experts agree that articulating, reporting, and rewarding their progress are key to driving empowerment in women at the workplace.
Do not wait till you feel brave or you are confident you can’t mess up. Rather rise up to the change maker’s plate. Raise your voice. Own your values. Claim your seat. May you occasionally pay a larger penalty for your decisiveness, assertiveness, or missteps than your male counterparts would do? Yep. It happens.
However, it may take forever if we keep waiting until gender bias and double binds are eliminated from our gendered power structures. Which is why it is so important to rally more women to step courageously into their power as change makers and to re-imagine and redefine power through a non-gendered lens?
Never before have had we needed more women to do just that!
Women Empowerment, Empowering Women at Work & Beyond is written by santosh sarang for emxcelsolutions.com