While women make up half of the world’s population, they have been historically underrepresented in leadership positions. As we strive toward a brighter future, the need for gender diversity in leadership roles has become more crucial than ever. Studies have shown that having more women on top leads to better business outcomes.
For instance, diverse leadership teams are more likely to make better decisions, solve problems more effectively, and achieve better financial results. Not to mention, female leaders bring unique perspectives, skills, and experiences that can help drive innovation, creativity, and competitiveness.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day this month, what better time than now to reflect on the significance of gender diversity in leadership?
For the personal and vocational growth of the team
Gender diversity in leadership means that there is a wider range of experiences and backgrounds represented, which leads to a more creative and innovative workplace. However, female leaders tend to bring a different set of skills and qualities to the table than men. For example, women are often more empathetic and emotionally intelligent than men, which can help them to build strong relationships with their team members and create a positive and supportive work environment. Women are also more likely to prioritise collaboration and communication, which can lead to greater teamwork and higher levels of job satisfaction among team members.
“Women leaders are often more inclined to emphasize collaboration and communication, which can create a more supportive and inclusive work environment. They tend to value building relationships with their team members and encouraging open and honest communication, further fostering trust, respect, and teamwork. Also, women leaders often prioritize the personal and professional growth of their team members. They recognize the significance of investing in their employees’ development and creating opportunities for them to learn and grow,” said Ms Nidhi Marwah, Group Managing Director, The Executive Centre.
For unlocking the effective solutions
Due to being more collaborative and inclusive in their approach, women leaders are effective at finding solutions. They are also often better at handling conflict and managing difficult conversations. Additionally, women tend to be more adept at listening and responding to feedback, and are skilled at finding common ground and working towards solutions that benefit everyone. By prioritising collaboration, inclusivity, and empathy, women leaders can create a more innovative and productive work environment, where everyone feels supported and valued. Shaili Chopra, who is the founder of Gytree.com and SheThePeople Network, believes that this not only benefits the organisation but also helps to create a more equitable and inclusive society as a whole.
“Our world has changed and we now live in a crisis. To combat a fast-spinning world, we need more women as leaders as they invest in people. Having launched a new health start-up this year, focussed just on female health, I realised what a huge barrier care has been for women to get into the workforce. Nearly 60 per cent of women don’t opt for careers because they have some health issue – from menstruation to menopause. I believe our world needs empathy with focussed goals – both of which women bring to the table. We need leaders who think of impact with intent. Some argue that when women become leaders, they provide a different set of skills and imaginative perspectives. I think that’s true. And not because their leadership isn’t about numbers, profits or goals, it’s because, more importantly, female leaders bring structural and cultural differences to the table, which drive effective solutions.,” Shaili told People Matters.
For achieving equity and equality
The underrepresentation of women in leadership positions has been a persistent issue in many organisations for decades. Despite advancements in gender equality, women continue to face significant barriers to breaking through the glass ceiling and attaining leadership roles. On the other hand, women bring a different perspective to leadership that can broaden the organisation’s understanding of the needs and expectations of diverse groups. This, in turn, can lead to better decision-making, improved communication, and more creative problem-solving.
“Over the past decade, tremendous strides have been made towards building equity and equality at workplaces, however, the fundamental gap in leadership roles still exists. While organisations bear the responsibility of improving policies, building structure, and providing opportunities for women, encouraging females to break traditional barriers that hold them back and to seize opportunities that would propel their professional and personal growth is crucial too. With concerted efforts, the wheels of change will move to leverage on the strengths women leaders bring to organisations, from pay parity to diversity and gender equality,” stated Dr S Narayani, Business Head-Fortis Hospitals Maharashtra.
For fostering soft skills in your team
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of soft skills in leadership. Soft skills, such as communication, empathy, and emotional intelligence, are critical to building strong teams and creating a positive work environment. Women leaders, in particular, are often seen as promoting and embodying such skills. Also, they are known to be natural nurturers and caregivers, which is reflected in their community-driven thinking. Their inherent nature of caring and supporting those around them, which helps them to think beyond themselves and prioritise the collective well-being of their community,” believes Pooja Thakran, Sr Director – Corporate Communications and CSR for Honeywell.
“Women possess a unique skill in community-driven thinking, making them an essential asset in fields impacted by artificial intelligence. The higher likelihood of women reinvesting money back into their communities is why aid organisations advocate for investing in women. Neglecting oppressed voices in the development of AI products only enhances inequality, making a community-driven approach a prerequisite for anyone seeking to be active in this field. The importance of having more women in leadership extends to ethical decision-making. Companies with more women on their boards have been shown to make more ethical decisions. Women’s perspectives are also critical in the development of extended realities like VR, AR, and MR. As academic institutions increasingly use VR, the lack of women’s access to these technologies is becoming problematic. To promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in technology, we need more women leading the charge,” said Pooja.
For combating microaggressions
Microaggressions are subtle, often unintentional forms of discrimination that can have a significant impact on individuals and groups. Women leaders may be particularly well-equipped to address microaggressions in the workplace as they may have firsthand experience with the types of biases that women face. For instance, being interrupted or dismissed in meetings, or having their ideas credited to others. This experience can give them a better understanding of how to recognise and address microaggressions when they occur with any other female employee in their team. Additionally, women leaders may be more likely to create an environment in which microaggressions are less likely to occur.
“It is often considered that women after a certain age will struggle to balance family needs with the requirements of a senior position or women are more sensitive, thus not able to handle the pressure that goes with leadership. These are all generalisations and stereotypes. Women bring to leadership a more complete range of the qualities modern leaders need, including self-awareness, emotional attunement, humility and authenticity that significantly foster innovation. They are an undeniable requirement for any organisation seeking to find success in the twenty-first century. If a company trusts its female leaders to lead with compassion, the entire organisation will benefit. Therefore, businesses must make every effort to provide women with suitable leadership roles that will allow them to prove their productivity and potential,” said Pallavi Utagi, Founder and CEO, SuperBottoms.
For fueling the fire of innovation
Diversity of thought is essential for generating new and creative ideas, and women leaders bring with them a wealth of experience and insight that can lead to breakthroughs and advancements. One reason why women leaders are critical for innovation is their ability to bring different perspectives to the table. Research shows that teams with diverse backgrounds and experiences are more innovative and effective than those without. Women leaders, in particular, can offer unique perspectives on issues related to gender and diversity, which can help to identify new opportunities and challenges.
“It has been acknowledged that diverse perspectives are key to fostering innovation. In this context, women leaders contribute unique experiences and viewpoints to the decision-making processes of any organisation. Women leaders bring valuable skills, fresh perspectives and cultural diversity that facilitate more effective problem-solving. Given their empathetic leadership style, women are adept at inspiring others to work towards an organisation’s common goal. They have high emotional intelligence which is crucial as leadership behaviour for recognising the pulse to get the best out of employees,” said Ritika Aghi, Assistant Vice President, Axa France Vie India Reinsurance Branch.
For challenging traditional leadership styles
As more women break through the glass ceiling and reach top positions, they are able to challenge traditional leadership styles and promote a more balanced, inclusive, and equitable workplace. Female leadership style is based on trust, collaboration, and communication, and is less hierarchical than traditional ones. By promoting a culture of inclusivity and collaboration, women in upper positions can create a more equitable and balanced workplace.
“A woman embodies masculine and feminine energies within herself and can play those well when required. Creating a fine balance between results, actions, measures and milestones on one hand and compassion, empathy, and inclusiveness on the other is something that comes naturally to most women. This fine dance between the two is needed as the organisations move towards adopting a more sustainable, inclusive and conscious way of doing business and I believe women have a huge role to play in furthering this agenda,” explained Meenu Bhatia, Co-founder, VMentor.ai.
For tackling systemic barriers
Creating an environment that encourages and supports women in leadership is crucial. This means breaking down systemic barriers that hinder women’s progress and providing them with the necessary resources to succeed. By celebrating the achievements of women leaders and striving for gender equality in all spheres of life, we can pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable society, suggested Tarusha Mittal, COO and Co-Founder, Dapps and UniFarm.
“Women’s unique perspectives, life experiences, and ways of thinking can offer valuable insights that drive innovative solutions to complex problems. A diverse group of leaders fosters creativity and creates an inclusive environment that leads to better decision-making. We must recognise and embrace the value that women bring to the table and actively work towards increasing their representation in leadership positions,” said Tarusha.
For navigating crises with unique insights
During times of crisis, women tend to exhibit qualities such as empathy, collaboration, and a focus on relationships, which can help to build trust and inspire confidence in their leadership. “The role of women leaders in the Indian corporate sector has undergone a paradigm shift in recent years. Women leaders are breaking the glass ceiling and building businesses from scratch to create value for all the relevant stakeholders of the industry. Women leaders not only bring a fresh perspective to the table but have a very unique approach to crisis management. They are better equipped to understand the issues faced by the female workforce and can address those issues more efficiently. If we have more women leaders at the top, it will be easier to fill the gender pay gap which is a major hurdle in providing a level playing field to the female workforce,” Sandhya Bollam, Vice President – HR, Liminal, a digital wallet infrastructure platform told PM.
This International Women’s Day, let’s recognise the critical role that women play in shaping our world.