Article: Women leaders: Sharpening the saw in today's digital age


Women leaders: Sharpening the saw in today's digital age

Women claim to be sandwiched between family and work responsibilities, which makes it difficult for them to invest in self-development; but it's just about shifting what you spend your time on to 'real time development on the go'
Women leaders: Sharpening the saw in today's digital age

Centuries ago, learning happened in Gurukuls, under the guidance of a Guru who was an expert. In this sacred environment, knowledge got passed on from one generation to another. Written literature was absorbed by those who were interested in a certain subject or theme over long periods of time to truly internalize lessons. Cross-pollination of learning happened largely through rare instances of mobility of experts from one geography to the other, collating information as they went and dispersing it through sessions and written forms of communication. Students would sometimes move from region to region, looking for the right Guru to further their knowledge, like Kung Fu students crossing many barriers to reach Guru Llama who was the spiritual leader of Chen Wai, an island at the furthest corner of China. Or like the famous poet Rumi's work moving across borders and influencing masses in various regions. Learning by doing and practicing it for years was the deep practice meditation that developed the core domain. Back then, it was a world that had few experts and sharing knowledge was limited to specialized channels.

Today, we are sitting at the curve of digital disruption which is rapidly transforming everything around us, including learning. Rate of change is doubling every 18 months, we are in a whirlpool of disruptions which require constant reinventing yourself. Expertise and knowledge have become mass commodities and are available to anyone who wishes to pursue them with passion and patience. The formula of ardor, learning by doing and deep practice remains the same to acquire expertise but the availability of this expertise whenever and wherever one wants has changed the game.

Learning today is Just-in-Time which is in short bursts, anytime and anywhere. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have revolutionized learning and moved it to become 'Learning on the go'. You can do courses in Psychology, Finance, History, Behavioral Economics, Coding, and many other topics from leading global universities and colleges on your phone/laptop. Social Learning using Twitter has made it so easy to access bite-sized information on virtually everything you need and has the ability to connect a wide range of scholars across the world! There are many social learning online tools like LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Facebook etc. that may provide formal or informal learning environments to help create connections between learners, instructors, and information. These connections add to sustainable and dynamic knowledge networks. Skype has made online mentoring an effective possibility as an online video-calling tool that allows users across the world to communicate.

Duolingo is a language learning app and website that features comprehensive guides to nine of the most commonly taught languages including Spanish, French and German. The Internet is made up of over 130 trillion individual pages and is constantly growing, which makes it the biggest library that exists, accessible to anyone who wants to quench their thirst of knowledge from it.

But despite 40 percent of the global labor workforce being women in more than 80 countries, only 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, while, as per a McKinsey survey report, 75 percent of women aspire to progress to top management roles including the C-suite, which is at par with their male counterparts. Amongst others, one prominent barrier that gets debated is women having limited access to networks and having few female role models at high levels of leadership to look up to. Women claim to be sandwiched between family and work responsibilities, which makes it difficult for them to invest in self-development. But when you widen the lens to look at the world as a network of people and developmental resources connected through online platforms, then you will be able to focus your energy on the glass being half full.

No matter the region, women are consistently more social on the web than their regional male counterparts. It's just shifting what you spend your time on to 'real time development on the go'. What you read and learn shapes your thinking and helps you grow to become what you want. Like the right care helps plants grow, the right development inputs will help you shape your professional lives. Life-long learning in today’s digital age is a survival mantra for everyone who wants to be relevant and women can’t be exception to this. Indra Nooyi, CEO PepsiCo, beautifully expresses “I am a lifelong student.” Moving up the chain doesn’t change this requirement, on the contrary it just intensifies because what got you there won’t keep you there or get you where you want to go.

Despite 40 percent of the global labor workforce being women in more than 80 countries, only 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women

Having spent years in people development space gives you an opportunity to constantly get inspired by others who make development a habit and also gives you enough reflection time to introspect how to strengthen it for yourself. Here are few things that I believe work for us as Corporate Women who firmly balance family responsibilities:

  1. Carve Your Development Time as it doesn't happen automatically: Life stages are not permanent pauses. Family needs are not static. Creating support ecosystem around is a possibility for everyone. Prioritization and at times compromises are a part of what we call ‘life’. 24 hours can include ‘your development time’ whether 5 minutes or 5 hours a day. No one else is going to come and help you create the time you need to do it yourself. Change follows Intent and Perseverance.
  2. Choose from the vast buffet of resources spread which keeps evolving: Explore new avenues, as they keep getting added. Development discussions shower you with new know-how on resources. Experiment and move on to anything that works for you. The online world is an ocean; keep diving to explore and find development treasures. Curate your own thought leadership by exchanging online voices of interest.
  3. Every mentoring relationship is meant to help you run and not cripple you: Look for people you can learn from as they are all around you. Each of these relationships helps you to shape your development in context to certain realities. They can be across geographic barriers and nurtured over a vast number of online platforms. While, there is nothing like personal connect but not all times do we have luxury to enjoy them in person.
  4. Lend a hand to others in their development because it ís a connected development network: Learning multiplies when shared. Teaching others is learning twice; similarly, developing others is an opportunity to connect with ourselves at a different level. We live in an era where there cannot be any learning egos. Reverse Mentoring is powerful to keep yourself relevant through the lens of the younger generation. Information on new apps, new white papers, new learning videos will reach you as you build development connections.
  5. Navigate your career with a focus on the development compass in your hand: Keep curiosity alive and desire to learn actively at every stage and age because it will put you in charge of your career. As you take curves in your career path, be mindful of what your development compass shows. Design a new chapter of your development journal and stay committed to it.

Don't get trapped thinking of what you can't do. Instead, befriend the online developmental world to tap into all possibilities. Look at it as a world of new possibilities awaiting to be embraced at a pace you decide. This will enable you to contribute to your own growth and will give you wings to fly towards your dreams! 

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Topics: Diversity

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