First up I struggle with a few phrases. I constantly find myself wishing that I did not have to specify a ‘woman leader’ or ‘women in leadership’ or “women in Tech” and that it was a given. Unfortunately, we have yet to meet that day. Research shows that companies with women on boards, women in leadership roles and women included in decision making outperform the rest. I look forward to a day that is just around the corner, where that research is put into action to and we see more women in those roles. In a group of students I mentor I was asked if it would sound very aggressive if we asked for a specific salary range in a job interview being a woman – needless to say it is not ok that in 2021 we are still talking about these things.
I was recently asked to speak at a forum which interviewed women in leadership that were heralding new age tech industries and the first question I was asked was about the future of women in leadership roles, given the way our lives had changed during the pandemic. It was a no-brainer that women have obviously adapted way better. We are often still looked at as the primary care giver, parent with household duties. There’s a secret to how we do all of that and make great leaders – we are able to multitask, prioritize and empathize.
The critical role of women in organisations
With the pandemic we have had to reassess our working culture. The future of work now is moving towards a more hybrid structure with a focus on more flexible work practices. The future of work also stresses on a key factor – inclusion. Companies have to be more inclusive, more diverse and more sustainable. Women in leadership roles can provide the best captainship to steer organisations into a more balanced and thriving landscape.
As we move towards a gig economy where we pick up work that we’re good at and not work particularly for one organisation or industry vertical, there is an incredible opportunity for women to chart their own paths. Regardless, women have an opportunity to rise within an organisation or capitalize on what we want to excel in. Organisations need women to build their future.
But what does the future of work look like within an organisation for women aiming at leadership roles? Here’s my two cents:
- Look into the organisation, see if there are women in their board that are impacting strategy not just delivering strategy.
- Are there mentors who will help, guide and walk with you through your journey?
- Does the organisation have a clear path for you to grow? Its not just a promotion or job title
- Are there similar leaders who have been able to grow into those roles?
- Do they have policies to support flexible work? – Real flexible work is time out when you need it not when its convenient to do so.
- Beyond policy, what actions do they take?
- Do they provide an infrastructure to support flexible work?
- Do they offer benefits that make sense to us- like childcare, meal service for the family, housekeeper services or anything that is relevant for you to make sure you are creating an impact.
- Are they looking out for practices and policies that encompass and influence our family unit and not just the individual?
- Is our mental wellbeing important to them and its acceptable to talk about it?
- Are we valued- do they care?
- Are we paid what we are worth?
- Are we given learning opportunities – Its beyond courses, it is acceptance of a learning journey?
- Do we have access to an effective and efficient network?
Organisations and legislations still have a lot of work to do in terms of working towards strategies and policies that provide support structures from home, like meal delivery, access to child care, housekeepers and perks and practices that enable and empower women to rise to leadership roles.
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Women in leadership roles really foster a diverse and inclusive workplace that is a necessity to thrive today. The pandemic has also affected the working styles of everyone but in particular women who are single parents or primary caregivers. There is a decline in women wanting to do full-time work due to conflicting priorities and that is a sad reality that needs to change and is only possible with organisations and legislations helping them build a support structure. Providing work/life balance is a focal point in the future of work. The hybrid working style does work for women and people are not opposed to it being the new normal. No one should be put in a position to make choices between work, career ,family and friends to have only one aspect thrive – let alone Women.
Women are still considered ‘diversity hires’ in a lot of organisations. What companies and industries need to look into is that they perform better financially with a workforce that is more inclusive of women of all ages. It is also important to create allies with other women in similar roles. Not only is it beneficial to have a support system that understands what we are going through but also a way forward in creating an efficient and effective network. Building a network with other women in leadership roles, could also open up pathways to share growth opportunities, to recognise each other and to advocate for and help each other thrive in those roles.
The choices are here, albeit slowly, it is important to equip ourselves in this journey. To create a support system, to make changes, to create an impact and to lead by example. The hybrid working future allows us a chance to also work towards a coveted promotion or a lifelong dream and we must utilise and capitalise on that. At a personal level, identify and have mentors who believe in you, build a support system around you and more importantly find the time to take time out , be kind to yourselves and one another.
And while we’re busy prioritising, multi-tasking, empathising and thriving, let us also make sure we pave the path for the girls looking up to us right now. As I am documenting these as my thoughts and experiences am also curious on how this article will age ten years from now.