How companies can make 2023 a year for women leadership
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How regional companies can make 2023 a year for women leadership

How regional companies can make 2023 a year for women leadership

How women are treated at work depends on the tone set by the executive office

How regional companies can make 2023 a year for women leadership

The evidence is overwhelming: Accelerating the gender equity in employment has massive upside for economic development. World Economic Fund and International Monetary Fund reports estimate a rise of 9 per cent in GDP for the US and Japan, 13 per cent for Euro Zone and a sizeable 27 per cent for India with gender parity in labour.

What is true of countries is true for companies too. Data from various research show that even for business this growth factor holds good. Companies with strong female leadership generated an ROE (return on equity) of 10.1 per cent per annum, as against 7.4 per cent for those without women in leadership roles.

What studies show…
Numerous studies have been undertaken to find out why there are so very few women in the C-suite. For long it was believed that women chose to be less ambitious due to raising kids and building a family, and that they lack the confidence and line expertise needed for the C-level job.

But a study commissioned by Sheryl Sandberg (former COO of Meta) busted this myth and found a totally different perspective: Women are not abandoning their careers across the board for raising kids, but are keen on promotion and higher pay.

There is also no statistical or scientific evidence for them being less ambitious or confident than men counterparts. However, when given a hypothetical choice to grab the top role in their companies, a majority of the women executives hesitated to take up the task.

With only 5 per cent of CEOs and 19 per cent of C-suite positions occupied by women even in the US, the path to the top indeed looks very steep and troublesome for women. More than 85 per cent of listed companies do not have any female board member.

Interestingly, women in senior positions stick to their companies more than the men, yet they don’t get to break the glass ceiling.

Women, on an average, compared to men, are 16 per cent less likely to be promoted to the next level, which incidentally means gender parity at the top, will not become a reality until 2120 at the current rate of change.

Steps corporates can take
Given the positive correlation gender parity has with economic growth and business performance, enterprises must take serious steps this year to drive healthy growth.  It should start at the very top in order to nurture more female leaders. How women are treated at work depends on the tone set by the executive office.

Here are a few steps that companies in GCC can take to make 2023 a year for women leadership.

The first is to ensure that you attract and include adequate number of women candidates in the pool when evaluating and interviewing candidates not just for internal promotions but also for entry-level recruitment.

HR policy should be tweaked to attract and retain the right women talent. Research indicates that bias against women in certain job positions still exists in many companies. The 2018 film Molly’s Game captures this bias in a stunning manner.

The second is related to what Time magazine had talked about. The publication had coined two words that never got popular for obvious reasons. Companies should ban what these two words represent. “Manterrupting”, which means unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man at meetings, and “Bropropriating” that means taking a woman’s idea and taking credit for it by a man. Enterprises must roll out programmes to educate employees on this.

The third one is what most business publications feature religiously every year: Gender pay parity. Yes, this cannot be resolved in the immediate future, but here’s a different proposition: Do not seek previous salary details while negotiating the remuneration package for women.

It will be better to offer a compensation package based on the role she would be taking and what value it is to the organisation. Of course, women will put up with this lower pay issue for some more time but it is in the best interests of the company performance that they should start the changes now.

Fourth, enterprises should make promoting and advancing eligible women a KPI for managers, and link this to their compensation in order to make them work on it hard. Good companies will have KPIs aligned to business goals and this idea of women in key roles should have a business rationale such as revenue or value growth.

For instance, sales teams that are selling to female decision-makers in clients’ organisations must reflect the composition of the client’s teams. Or in businesses that cater to women, the team can have more women members. The direct selling industry, for example, is bucking the trend with women far outnumbering men three times over.

Fifth, start giving more line jobs to women in senior positions. It is seen that most women tend to occupy staff roles as they reach VP level, which is the typical first rung of C-suite. Women fall short in showcasing tangible value creation because of this. So, here’s the action agenda: Don’t categorise women disproportionately into the “R” jobs (HR, IR, PR, etc). Make sure that they have opportunities for line roles.

Finally, adopt a “blind” evaluation and selection policy while recruiting for senior roles and for internal promotions. Globally, more women got selected into orchestra when they were auditioned behind a curtain and in carpeted rooms so no high heel sounds would be heard.

Such a selection was found to be more favourable to get more women representation. This was found to be true even in coding where women coders were found to be better as long as their gender identity was unknown. When the gender is unknown, women found more acceptances and better pay. So, to the extent possible, hide gender.

Defy definitions
If you are a woman on the rise, it will be a good idea to remember Jessica Chastain’s (the lead actress from Molly’s Game actress) words: “Don’t let men to define you.” Instead, just learn to talk really loud to be heard.

Dr M Muneer is an author, startup investor and the co-founder of the non-profit Medici Institute

Also read: The potential consequences of encouraging diversity in boardrooms


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