The Economic Survey 2018 had some startling data on gender gap in labour force participation. The gap is more than 50 percent points which is much higher than under developed countries like Rwanda. Despite educational gains, the labor force participation rate for women in 2017 was 28.5% (compared to 82% for men). By 2027 the working-age population in India will be almost 20% (18.6%) of the entire global labor force. Reaching gender parity would have a bigger impact in India than in any other region in the world. The Pipeline for Women starts small and continues to shrink. 140 women held 12.4% of board seats and just 3.2% of board chairs in 2017.
At the entry level in any organisation, the gap is not conspicuous. One can see as many women as men, or sometimes more of women. But as we move higher up the corporate ladder, the gap widens. Middle level and senior level management is where the gap is the widest.
Why does this happen when both the genders are equally qualified, started out at the same time and were given equal opportunities?
The steep curve in participation of women is mainly attributed to deciding to have kids, where managing child care along with work becomes a big challenge. Women who decide to take it slower on the work front owing to small kids or elder care responsibilities feel the pressure of spending as much time in office as they used to do in the past and they also fear asking for remote working or flexi working schedules.
While organisations have the responsibility of creating a conducive environment in which women can thrive, its also upto the individual in question to be resilient and not give up, not after toiling for a good 7-10 years when its time to reap the benefits of the efforts put in.
Here are a few tips on how women can own their careers and make it to C suite, even with responsibilities of raising a family and caring for elders.
- Being passionate about your career is the foremost thing thats needed. Only when you love something so much, would you be ready to walk that extra mile and not give up. Don’t treat your job only as a means of livelihood, find something exciting in your daily job that propels you to move forward. Read about inspirational women leaders, their journey and how life has changed post the elevation to C suite and you are sure to have found your mojo.
- Find a good mentor and that need not necessarily be a woman leader. Someone who you look upto and you can confide in without any inhibitions, seeking career guidance is surely going to be of great help. To make the most of the mentoring relationship, its important for the mentee to take the lead and decide in advance the agenda of each meeting plus make sure the actions assigned during the previous meeting have been performed.
- Do not hesitate to ask for flexi work arrangements. This can include and need not be limited to working a few days from the office and a few days a week from home or working for a few hours in the office and a few from home. Do not be under the misconception that working from home tantamounts to working part time. At end of the day what matters is ‘was the work done in time’.
- Talk about your career development plan with your line manager, have frequent one on one meeting where you should have a candid conversation on your goals, the steps needed to reach there, cite the help and support you need from your manager in this journey which includes flexi arrangements. Do not be apologetic or think of this as a favour- have a professional conversation.
- It helps to talk to other women who are going through a similar journey- share your struggles, dreams and stories and cheer for each other. Take the lead to form a network of women with similar experience who are facing similar situations such a Parental Buddy group. These kind of networks help to get to know more people in the organisation and boost each other’s confidence.
There is no sure shot way to success and its quite a rocky terrain for women but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Take charge of your career and envision yourself in that corner office- this is not a distant dream but can become a reality one day – so keep going and do not look back.
Research data on statistics from https://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-workforce-india
Image courtesy :Dailymail.uk.
4 thoughts on “Aspiring to reach the C-suite- here is why you should not give up comrade”
I understand where you are coming from, but sometimes, I wonder if the gender parity numbers give out the right information. My position is not that more women should not reach higher positions, but it’s also whether they feel inclined towards having that. Balancing careers is a tough challenge, especially for women, and if more women prioritize child care or elder care, it may not always mean that’s a bad thing from a macro perspective. I feel women being financially independent (through gigs, small businesses from home) means more than them holding positions higher up in the corporate ladder. Of course, if someone wants to do that, that’s great. If not, I think that’s fine too. We don’t have to do anything because we wants the stats to go higher up. At the end of the day, it’s also about capability and sometimes you do need to be married to your job, and that may not be for everyone.
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Yes I agree there is no such norm people have to confirm to. You may love your job more than anything in the world – that’s fine and you may just be working cos of monetary reasons with no real aspiration- that’s fine too. But the reality is for lot of women out there – they do have a dream. Those who have quit for the sake of family, taken flexi work and are on a slower growth part – ask them and you would often see that longing in their eyes and if they are frank enough you would know it’s not always a decision they made out of choice. I can say that based on the scores of women I have met in my career and interacted with offline when they read my blogs.
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Yes, in whichever case it applies, the society needs to become accommodating of such needs – the state of affairs is sad today and there’s huge room for improvement. My only issue is the overall agenda of increasing the numbers just for the sake of increasing it, or improving representation. That’s not just with gender equity, it could be anything else. We need to put a premium on skillset, capability and intent than just fill a couple of slots because some law/rule says so.
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Agree with you wholeheartedly on this one Arpita it cannot just be a number game, meritocracy does matter.
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