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“Aspiration Deficit Of Women"

We need to reset the compass of corporate cultures in India — and trust deficit for all our “soul sisters” has to be dispelled, for the progress of our great nation

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In a country oof 500 million women, there can be no real explanation for the dismal 12 per cent of women in senior leadership and the mere six per cent of women on corporate boards in India — except lack of a clear demand to fast-track women executives to top positions in business and industry. A conservative business mindset among corporate leaders deflects the critical need for companies to embrace the richness of diverse talent, wealth creation and enterprise that women bring to the workplace culture, leading to best business results and a competitive edge in a sharp, volatile and unpredictable global marketplace.

The time has come to create equal opportunity eco-systems for women, who continue to balance home and office priorities through hard work and sacrifice. Several companies continue to struggle with moving up these hardworking and competent women to strategic decision making positions, on the misplaced perception that women are unable to take on longer, harder and more demanding business work. This perception is the root cause of the “conscious bias” against the capability, conviction and competence of women at the workforce that leaves little space for women to shine and show their excellence.

While companies continue to provide outdated reasons for the dismal number of women in top positions — like unavailability of qualified women, attrition of women at entry levels, perception that women do not want to lead etc. — the reality is that there is a continuing and visible ‘trust deficit for women’ in corporate India.

Tackling the ‘trust deficit’ among male counterparts is a tough job. It is manifest in the “difference” of women’s style of leadership, which is inclusive, collaborative, open and collegial and public-spirited in many ways. The style is often seen as “feminine” by male counterparts and not considered aggressive and ambitious enough for tough business decisions. The truth is the exact opposite. This very flexible, fluid and agile approach is critical for success in diverse global cultures.

It is now time to mentor the men at the workplace — so that they understand the “new and different” leadership styles of women, who are CFO’s, auditors, legal heads, business unit heads, M&A experts, infrastructure specialists, communication leads, enterprise drivers and generators of billions of dollars of revenue for their companies across IT, pharma, hospitality, finance, manufacturing and new areas of businesses.

If changing mindsets of male managers and business leaders seems a challenge, then companies that aspire to be “employers of choice for women” need to embed measurable and powerful gender-audit policies and good governance at the board level.

The argument that there are not enough talented women for top positions, defies all logic. The trust deficit for women is real — and corporate India continues to call it the “aspiration deficit of women” — even as women struggle to assert their competence, capability, commitment and aspiration for leadership positions.

We need to reset the compass of corporate cultures in India — and trust deficit for all our “soul sisters” has to be dispelled, for the progress of our great nation.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Poonam Barua

A business leader, economist and author, Barua is founder chairperson of the Forum for Women in Leadership and CEO of WILL Forum India

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