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BW Businessworld

Accelerating Women Leadership

An inclusive culture in organisations will definitely remove the barriers faced by women at workplace and accelerate women leadership!

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Recognising the importance of bringing about gender balance and pay parity, the corporate world is echoing the need to increase representation of women within an organisation. It is extremely critical is to strengthen women leadership to create an equitable and diverse workplace of the future.

Women have always played a central role in the sustainable growth of society and nations at large. Leadership as a trait is not new to women! Our history is full of stories, where women ruled the world for many years; led many movements and fought for their own rights and those of their people. The digital transformation and associated advancement in technology is offering innumerable opportunities to empower and emancipate women. However, there still exists a digital divide between men and women, obstructing their fair representation in areas of education and work. While women are inching their way into senior leadership in the workplace, it is happening at a snail’s pace. As per the World Bank- India Development Report, women account for approximately 17 percent of senior management. Leadership diversity is critical to ensure that leadership reflects a holistic perspective which is key to organisational success and growth.

Aligned with the SDGs, the United Nations has invited the industry leaders, entrepreneurs and activists to work out innovative ways to enhance gender equality in order to empower women. It is important to ensure equality at workplace to everyone, everywhere so that the employees feel valued, safe and contribute their best to the organisation. One way to do this is through a strong diversity and inclusion policy as it generates greater engagement, performance, and innovation. Gender equality across level is beneficial for employees and important for the overall growth of the company. It brings variety of thought and perceptions, enabling the organisation to harness the strengths of both the genders, leading to innovation, creativity, balanced decision making, finer understanding of customer needs and so on.

Since the number of women opting for higher education has increased, leading to an increase in the number of working women, there is no dearth of qualified women possessing the required skill for leadership roles. However, the opportunities for women at the top remain quite elusive. While the number of women in junior and middle management positions has increased, they are under-represented at the top management level and in the boardrooms. It is therefore imperative to take appropriate measures to fill this gap by developing women employees through robust learning interventions. Equally critical is to develop and train people managers for effectively managing a gender diverse work force, so that women are retained in the workforce.

Accelerating women to higher roles also necessitates creation of an equitable, diverse and inclusive work culture with flexibility and fair expectations set for both men and women. Apart from designing training and development programmes, it is important to have a holistic and inclusive approach to attract and retain women, with policies to support women during the significant phases of their lives such as marriage, motherhood, elder care etc. This will enable them to manage their personal and professional lives in a balanced manner. This will facilitate career continuity for women and will ultimately lead to enhancement of company’s productivity and business.  

Organisations that focus on gender balance agenda, develop policies and practices to manage the pay equity between both genders as a critical priority. Family related leave and insurance policies are also assigned due importance.

Lastly, while developmental efforts and policies have immense potential in changing the scenario in organisations on gender balance, it is also important to raise employee awareness to unconscious biases and stereotypes, particularly for people managers. An inclusive culture in organisations will definitely remove the barriers faced by women at workplace and accelerate women leadership!

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.

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Rachna Mukherjee

The author is CHRO, Schneider Electric India

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