Article: A Holistic Approach to Leading at Work: A need for women professionals

#Women of Change

A Holistic Approach to Leading at Work: A need for women professionals

It's time for the women to go past their limitations, societal misgivings and stereotypes to tap into their enormous potential.
A Holistic Approach to Leading at Work: A need for women professionals

Whether it’s about making tough choices or battling an unconscious bias, most women find themselves stretched physically and emotionally. Straddling two responsibilities of home and work is by no means an easy balancing act.  It’s only natural to feel fragmented and exhausted in the process.  

A McKinsey study reveals that while women hold high aspiration of professional growth for themselves, only 58% believe they will make it to the top. Contrast this to 76% men, who believe they will get there.  There is a wide gap between people’s self-belief and their desire for excellence and achievement. This is often dependent upon the different roles that men and women are expected to play and also on the differences in the way in which they are perceived at the workplace.

Challenges of Women Workers

Women face some specific challenges at work because of their expected social roles and perceived professional qualities. Some cases are given below:

“Women face certain unique dilemmas that men don’t.

  • “Should I quit my work to bring up my children or stay and get that promotion?”

  • “They just assumed that I wouldn’t be able to travel and sidelined me for this new role.” 

  • “Should I change my behavior? I have received feedback that I am too aggressive but how else will I get the respect of the sales team?

  • “I am an integral part of the brand management team. Male colleagues took a critical decision on my brand over an informal drinking session to which I was not invited.”

Expressions like these are fairly common among our circle of women professionals.  

Whether it’s about making tough choices or battling an unconscious bias, most women find themselves stretched physically and emotionally. Straddling two responsibilities of home and work is by no means an easy balancing act.  It’s only natural to feel fragmented and exhausted in the process.  

There are very few forums where women can share candidly without the fear of being judged. Even organizations that invest in learning and development focus more on generic skills and techniques. Moreover, women leaders hesitate to talk about their challenges in front of their male colleagues.

I am a single parent bringing up a special needs child. Hence, I have to leave office by 5:30 pm. I ensure that nothing is pending at my end. The culture in our office is to work late, and I know they pass comments when I leave on time. I have started feeling guilty too, but I can’t discuss this with anyone at work. I don’t want them to think that I am unprofessional. A senior woman executive remarked during one of my coaching sessions. The anguish in her voice was evident. 

Women need a safe place to share and discover themselves. Their challenges are unique and they need opportunities to voice them uninhibitedly. In being heard with empathy, they find some alleviation of the struggles they go through. However, mere ventilation of their concerns is not enough.

A Solution: Analyzing One’s Inner Self

The solution for the women to deal with the pulls and pressures they feel at work is to analyse their inner self. They need to delve deeper to understand who they are and what kinds of ideas, beliefs and values they have. The process of self-discovery requires the integration of all aspects of their being - spiritual, physical, intellectual, relational and emotional.  When these are aligned, they can effectively lead with their whole being.

As women workers unpack the layers of conditioning and narrate their life experiences, they start evaluating themselves in a realistic manner. They embrace all thoughts and feelings as part of their whole selves, without judgments or labels. They recognize the impact of this self analysis on their physical and psychological well being. With curiosity, they question the legitimacy of beliefs they have held till now. They choose to discard limiting beliefs. They recalibrate relationships that may not serve them well.  As they shed the unnecessary value systems, behaviour patterns and thought processes, they create a mind space to build new and empowering ideas. This helps them to shift their actions to ones that are more constructive for their work and for their well being.

When women work towards embracing different parts of their being, they gain greater access to enabling emotions such as confidence, inspiration and equanimity. Leaning on such a powerhouse puts them in control of their demanding circumstances, rather than the circumstances controlling them. As long as the process of integration of women workers is stronger than their feeling of fragmentation, they will navigate our responsibilities with considerable ease.

Women have to contend with a culture of patriarchy, systemic biases at the workplace and the demands of their traditional roles as mother, wife, daughter-in-law and homemaker. These issues will not disappear immediately. They will take their natural course to get resolved. Women should seriously consider whether they are in charge of their lives. It’s time for the women to go past their limitations, societal misgivings and stereotypes to tap into their enormous potential. Women owe it to themselves, their children and their work.

Topics: Women of Change, Diversity

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