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28 February 2018

Breaking the Glass Ceiling at Work

Women, the better halves, constitute nearly half of the global population. However, the irony is that only one in four of the world’s current politicians are females. Only 4% of the Fortune 500 companies are run by women. Although we have progressed leaps and bounds in terms of civilisation, technology and innovation, women are still trying hard to cope up with men in the boardrooms and real decision making roles.

The issue of gender diversity is plaguing many companies across the globe, especially Indian companies. According to the 2017 Human Capital Trends survey conducted by Deloitte, 48% of Indian companies are not prepared to tackle issues of gender diversity. In a country where we have campaigns like ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ the stark question is where or rather when our ‘betis’ will be given their due? In a country where there is no dearth of female idols – we revere our goddesses, love our female actors – it is surprising that even after 70 years of independence we just had one female Prime Minister – Indira Gandhi.

As per a global survey conducted by Grant Thornton – Women in business: New perspectives on risk and reward, India ranked third lowest in having women in leadership roles for the third year in a row with only 7% of its senior level executives being women. In our country, women make up 42% of new graduates, but only 24% of entry-level professionals. Of these, only 19% reach senior-level management roles, while only 7.7% of board seats and just 2.7% of board chairs. This is after SEBI’s 2015 mandate of having at least one female Board of Directors.

The Indian government is committed to ensure gender parity in the country and realises the UN’s mission of Planet 50-50 workforce by 2030. NITI Aayog’s 15-year vision document also proposes key reforms to increase women’s participation across all sectors. Helping them in this endeavour is UNESCO-supported National Women’s Parliament (NWP). In order to develop, promote and spread knowledge about women’s roles in society and economic trends which affect women’s lives and status, NWP undertakes, promotes and coordinates the advancement of women involved in all aspects through the exchange of various programs and cultivation of productive relationships. One of its key objectives is to give women a platform to actively participate in politics and play key roles in the decisions of national development.

Besides gender discrimination, there are other key factors that are keeping women away from influential positions. Here is how you can break the proverbial glass ceiling at your workplace:

·      Speak up: Traditionally, the Indian society has always maintained a docile image of women, be it sister, mother, wife and daughter. Unknowingly, even after extensive education, we tend to take the backseat during discussions and meetings. Put your point across and make your presence felt.

·      Ask for more: It is alright to be ambitious and have dreams of scaling the corporate ladder. Develop the skills and have an open discussion with your senior management of taking additional responsibilities.

·      Develop leadership skills: In the rapidly changing business environment, it is imperative that you hone and develop new skills for survival. Increasing number of professionals are signing up for executive management and leadership programmes. The Indian Institute of Management, NMIMS and S P Jain are some of the leading institutions providing quality programmes.

·      Help your sex: In a world where bro-code or brother code has high value, develop a sister code. The ‘Queen Bee’ syndrome is a major dampener. According to research, over 60% of females in managerial roles or lower feel that a woman boss is more critical towards the same gender.  

·      Be the change: Join associations like NWP and bring a positive change in your life as well as those of others. Single we are alone, together we are a force.

As Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving together, then success takes care of itself.  It is now time to not just break the glass ceiling but to shatter i    

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