7 strategies for building strong female leaders
Over the past few decades, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of female leaders in businesses. Women have been breaking down barriers and shattering the glass ceiling in industries that were previously male-dominated, and the impact of their leadership is being felt across the corporate world. One of the key reasons why female leaders are important in businesses is the diversity of perspectives that they bring to the table.
Women have a different set of experiences, values, and approaches to leadership than men, and this can lead to more diverse and creative solutions to business problems. Studies have also shown that companies with a higher percentage of women in leadership positions tend to perform better financially. This may be due to the fact that women are often more risk-averse and focused on long-term sustainability, which can lead to more stable and sustainable business practices.
However, despite the progress that has been made in recent years, women still face significant barriers to reaching leadership positions in many industries. They are often subject to unconscious bias, gender-based discrimination, and a lack of access to opportunities and resources. To help women leaders succeed and shine bright, People Matters spoke to industry experts to find out some of the best strategies that could assist in building stronger women leaders. Here are a few tips that would unlock the full potential of female leaders and drive long-term success.
1. Women for women
In a world where women have historically been marginalised and underrepresented in positions of power, it is critical that they stand together and lift each other up. Women who lead by example and pave the way for other women to follow in their footsteps are trailblazers who inspire and motivate others to break down barriers and shatter stereotypes. They demonstrate that women are just as capable, intelligent, and innovative as their male counterparts and that they have an essential role to play in shaping the future of business.
“While you are moving ahead in your journey, make sure to guide other women too. Mentoring is an essential component of leadership. When you mentor someone, you grow as a leader. When you encourage another woman, you empower her. Even if you don't have the opportunity to mentor others directly, encourage other women to ask questions and seek answers. Your support will inspire other women and give you the satisfaction of seeing more women scale greater heights. Together, let us help women realise their full potential,” encouraged Ms Radhika Arora, Group CHRO, Jakson Group.
2. Trust matters
Trust is essential in creating an environment where employees feel valued, supported, and empowered. When there is a high level of trust within an organization, employees are more likely to feel comfortable sharing their ideas, taking risks, and collaborating with each other. This, in turn, can lead to increased innovation, better decision-making, and improved overall performance. Women leaders can build trust within their teams by being transparent, honest, and authentic. They can communicate openly with their employees, share information and feedback in a timely manner, and create a safe space for discussion and collaboration. When employees feel that their leaders are trustworthy, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and committed to their work.
"In 2023 and beyond, strong female leaders in business will need to lead with empathy and inclusivity, leverage technology to drive innovation and agility, continuously upskill themselves and their teams, and build a culture of trust and collaboration that inspires everyone to reach their full potential. Trust is the foundation of all brands and the sole pillar on which consumer relations are built. Without empathy and inclusivity that provide a safe space for most internal and external stakeholders, it might be difficult to create a world of trust. To drive pathbreaking innovations women leaders will build equations of trust with collaborators and teams,” suggested Ms Neha K Bisht, CEO and Founder of Blue Buzz.
3. Lead with heart
Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is a critical skill set that is essential for effective leadership, particularly for women leaders. Women are often expected to be more empathetic and collaborative than their male counterparts, and they may be subject to gender-based stereotypes that can hinder their advancement in leadership roles. However, having high EQ can help women leaders navigate these challenges by enabling them to build strong relationships, communicate effectively, and navigate complex interpersonal dynamics.
“In the leadership journey, managing your personal energy greatly influences your resilience levels and mindset of not letting opportunities slip by. For women leaders to become stronger, I'd say consciously working on and leaning on one's EQ, clubbed with a high level of independent decision-making ability (for building strong teams), sensing or creating opportunities for one's self and others, is key. A mindset of setting milestones coupled with the ingredients of a strong leadership mix, EQ and independence could be a winning combination,” advised Tulika Dass, Group Head, HR, Ambit.
4. Embrace the unknown
Moving beyond one's comfort zone is critical for women leaders as it helps build resilience and confidence. When female leaders take on new challenges, they develop new skills, overcome obstacles, and prove to themselves and others that they are capable of achieving great things. Additionally, it can expand their professional networks and allow more exposure to new ideas and perspectives.
"Female leaders today are gradually narrowing the gender gap. Women are continually breaking new ground in the struggle for gender equality by using their education, experience, and life experiences to obtain power and leadership. But, in order to develop a successful and fulfilling profession, one must move beyond their comfort zone, dare to be different, and focus on cultivating one's skills. Furthermore, women should embrace their inherent leadership characteristics in order to create healthy workplace environments, and they are constantly breaking new ground in the fight for capitalising equality by leveraging on their strengths and leadership qualities,” said Ms Divya Jain, Co-founder of Seekho.
5. Networking is key
Networking is a crucial skill for any leader, but it is especially important for women who want to advance in their careers. Effective networking allows women leaders to build valuable connections, gain new insights and perspectives, and expand their professional opportunities. One effective way to network as a women's leader is to attend industry events, such as conferences, trade shows, and networking events. These events provide opportunities to connect with other leaders in your field, learn about new developments and trends, and gain insights and perspectives from experts and peers.
“To advance to leadership roles, women professionals should take several strategic steps. First, they should focus on building a strong professional network by attending conferences, networking events, and joining industry associations. When it comes to leadership voices, there is a bias against women, and being present and vocal at these forums can help change that. Second, women should seek out leaders directly for guidance and support in the area of work. Third, women should advocate for themselves by taking credit for their achievements and negotiating promotions and pay increases. Finally, they should be proactive in seeking out leadership roles and expressing their interest in taking on more within their organisations,” Neha Juneja, CEO and co-founder, IndiaP2P told People Matters.
6. Build skillset
It's also important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in your field and to seek out opportunities to learn from experts and peers. Upskilling is a critical component of success for women leaders and can be achieved by seeking out education and training opportunities, building relationships, knowing what’s happening in your industry, and committing to a lifelong process of learning and growth. The key is to develop the skills and expertise necessary to become a more effective and impactful leader in your field.
“As a women leader, it's essential to recognize that there's always room for growth and improvement. By continuously upskilling ourselves, maintaining an open mind, and embracing new learning opportunities, we can stay ahead of the curve in a world where processes and technologies are rapidly evolving. Adapting to change and expanding our skill set is crucial to ensuring that we remain competent and effective leaders in the long run. So let's make a commitment to keep learning and growing, both professionally and personally, to become the best leaders we can be,” said Carina Kohli, Founder and CEO at Humm Care.
7. Dismantle stereotypes
Stereotypes can take many forms, from the belief that women are not capable of excelling in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, to the assumption that we are not suited for roles that require physical labour or fieldwork. Such biases can be particularly problematic for women who work in industries such as construction, agriculture, or manufacturing, where physical labour is a necessary part of the job. When women are excluded from these types of roles, it can limit their opportunities for advancement and reinforce the idea that they are not as capable or competent as their male counterparts.
“We still live in an ecosystem where certain tasks lack gender parity. Basic example- field visits are mostly considered a man’s job. Machines, factories, manufacturing etc are the words mostly associated with male leaders. A strong leader has no boundaries. She should erase the boundary of her comfort zone and take every step which is required for her to take as a leader for her enterprise and lead the team by example. Ask for help when needed but it is important to be a part of every initiative,” advised Shaily Mehrotra, CEO and Founder, Fixderma.