Companies used to be hesitant in hiring women in the workforce because of the demand on women’s time – balancing work at home and at the workplace. Taking time off from work to have children and look after them added to management hesitancy. But with the advancement of technology, help from family, relatives, friends, hired help and a supporting and encouraging partner, things have changed.
All businesses should be doing the same thing – investing in women in the workforce. Why? Because they cannot afford not to. Women now make up half of the world’s working–age population – meaning, as McKinsey Global Institute reported, “if women do not achieve their full economic potential, the global economy will suffer”. Research shows that organizations with a significant number of women in the workforce and in leadership positions achieve greater financial success. Women bring parity, compassion and a different perspective into the workforce.
Here are some inspiring women in business who embody the spirit of leadership in India.
Dr. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw
The gutsy Mazumdar-Shaw is one of the most famous and inspiring women entrepreneurs in India. She started out with very little money and single-handedly converted her start-up, functioning out of her garage to the Rs.2,100 crore worth Biocon Pvt. Ltd. as we know it today. For her contributions to the field of biotechnology, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is known as the “Biotech Queen”.
Dhawan is a successful woman leader in the field of Information Technology in India. As the Managing Director of Microsoft India, she currently leads the sales and marketing operations in the country. However, her journey to the top has not been an easy one. She was rejected from FMCG giants like Asian Paints and Hindustan Lever, as they did not want to employ a woman in their marketing division.
Naina Lal Kidwai
This Padma Shri winner has put India on the global map of banking, by becoming the first woman ever to head a foreign bank on Indian shores. She is the Country Head and Group General Manager of HSBC, India. She is also the first Indian woman to pass out from Harvard Business School (in 1982).
What does it take to retain and advance women into roles where they will make the biggest difference? There are 3 steps listed below that can be looked into.
Companies need to provide the right learning opportunities and career tools for their workforce if they expect them to advance. Passionate speakers who can pass on career and life lessons will engage, encourage, motivate and act as a blue print for women to follow.
Being an enabler
A forum where customers, partners, employees and the leadership team can come together and engage in discussions surrounding equity and diversity in the workplace is a good way to start promoting women in the workforce.
Leadership is paramount in accomplishing important goals. Parity at all levels of the workforce and gender pay equity require support from the C-suite down. Committed leaders need to retain and advance enough women to build critical mass in leadership roles.
Companies can also encourage everyone, from entry-level employees to leaders, to talk openly about gender stereotypes and provide women with more leadership opportunities, access to sponsors and recognition for their contributions.
If the number of female workers was to increase to the same level as the number of men, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in the United States would expand by 5%, by 9% in Japan, and by 27% in India. The onus of increasing women in the workforce lies with the Government and the Private Sector. Improving this ratio is perhaps one way of boosting economic growth. The statistics are encouraging, but there is a long way to go before a supportive and diverse workplace environment is seen.