Women's Voice: How to encourage female leadership in an organisation
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Women’s Voice: How to encourage female leadership in an organisation

Women’s Voice: How to encourage female leadership in an organisation

Women may not realise how poised for success they are in leadership roles


For many years, career success for women has hinged greatly on their ability to adjust to a male-dominated culture and business processes in their field.

They often play by the existing rules in a workplace, all while trying to conform to society’s ideas of how women should behave and express themselves. In fact, a study by McKinsey & Company states that women are less likely to be hired into entry-level jobs than men, even though they currently earn more bachelor’s degrees and have the same attrition rate. This disparity increases with seniority – only 79 women are promoted to managerial level, compared to every 100 men.

Education and awareness have no doubt brought about a great deal of positive change and progress in recent years. Women in the workplace are today leveraging their skills and leadership qualities in order to effectively manage their career progression.

Here are some tips to help women achieve leadership positions.

• Build confidence

Compared to men in general, women struggle with being confident, even when they are highly competent. This lack of confidence can hamper career progression in many ways. For example, self-promotion is often an essential tool for career advancement. However, someone who does not feel confident is likely to be uncomfortable about self-promotion. Similarly, a lack of confidence can lead women to believe they must have 100 per cent of the necessary qualifications before moving forward. By contrast, men feel confident when they check 60 per cent of the boxes.

It is important for managers and companies to encourage female employees to take risks while providing a safety net for failure. In the long run, this will build their confidence and result in them putting their hands up for projects and roles which can bring about career progression.

• Supporting work-life balance

Working women sometimes struggle to find the right work-life balance. They experience guilt at not being at home enough. At times, this can get so bad that it can result in them choosing to leave their jobs altogether. Employers and managers should proactively look for ways by which they can support women and help them excel at work and at home. This contributes greatly to women thriving in the workplace.

At no time has this facet of gender diversity been more important than it currently is. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a particularly negative effect on working women. Even pre-Covid, women in senior-level jobs felt compelled to work harder and longer than their male colleagues. Once the pandemic began, with many of the support elements such as daycare and physical schooling being taken away, mothers are working harder than ever. Many are juggling work with virtual schooling, and several additional household chores as a result of entire families working from home.

In fact, recent studies on women in the workforce during the pandemic has shown that one of every four women in senior-level positions is thinking about cutting back on job responsibilities, taking a leave of absence, or leaving the workforce altogether. If this comes to pass, far fewer women will be in leadership positions or on their way to one. The onus therefore is on employers to step up their support of women and boldly make changes will result in a more diverse and equitable environment.

• Basics matter

In the pursuit of leadership, it is critical not to lose sight of the basics. Have a deep and honest think about what you really want from your career. Leadership roles in particular are demanding, so you must be sure you are willing to put in the long hours and make sacrifices which will be required from time to time. Plan your career really well, and work to that plan.

A leadership role is not something that happens by chance. Map out the journey that will take you to the top. Equally, take time out to review progress. Self-reflection, and having a mentor can help you understand what habits you need to change or improve.

And finally, always communicate effectively. Speaking with confidence is a life skill. But for women who are striving for leadership positions, it can play a big role in career progress since it is necessary for vital activities such as stakeholder negotiations and effective presentations.

Cracking the glass ceiling can be challenging, but it is not impossible. Women may not realise how poised for success they are in leadership roles; their potential and inherent skills such as the ability to multitask, being empathetic and being good listeners make them a powerful force. The time for change is here.

Claire Roper-Browning is the regional director – Marketing, Recruitment, Admissions and Communications at Heriot-Watt University Dubai

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