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And Miles To Go Before We Sleep…

With a strong social support that begins with family, a woman can fight against typecasts and taboos both at the work place and social circles

It is intriguing that even in today's world where technology is at our fingertips, innovation is at our doorsteps and professionalism in our thriving force, and names like Zarin Daruwala, Indra Nooyi or Chanda Kochhar are not common. Despite India scoring very high on innovativeness, new product and technology development, the Female Entrepreneurship Index 2015 ranks India 70th out of a total of 77 countries. Countries like, Uruguay, Peru, Barbados, Mexico, Jamaica, Panama are some of the leading countries in women leadership. However, when it comes to entrepreneurship, US tops the list followed with Australia, UK, Denmark, Netherlands and France.

Development Dimensions International's Global Leadership Forecast of 2014-15 investigates organizations which are at the top 20 percent of financial performance counted 37 percent women leaders. The scenario is not very different globally. While research shows growth in the number of women in senior roles, gender equality still remains a pie in the sky. As per McKinsey analysis, women hold just 15 percent of seats on corporate boards and 14 percent in executive committees, globally. The highest female board membership is represented by Norway (35 percent), India being one of the lowest with 5 percent women representation on corporate boards and 3 percent on executive committees. Grant Thornton's International Business Report (2015) senior management roles held by women in India is 15 per cent.

When it comes to IT project management, there exists perfect gender equality at entry level positions. However, due to the leaky bucket syndrome, the numbers drastically fall at middle management cadre and finally there is only 33 percent at senior level. Excluding the IT sector, it is just 9.32 percent. This is indeed worrisome!

Glass Ceiling
Many a times, women despite representing the workforce adequately, hardly make their presence felt at senior management positions. What actually goes wrong? What are the reasons for the leaky bucket syndrome? Is there a glass ceiling? Well, reasons are aplenty, including those which are ingrained in the socio-economic system. Natasha Mokale, a senior relationship manager in one of India's renowned fintech company says, "The glass ceiling is omnipresent with its invisible hand! Be it salary gap, policy discrimination, exclusion in informal networks or occupational segregation - it is present across companies; it is sector, size or geography agnostic." The glass ceiling is subtle, yet strong; transparent yet invisible. While most corporate policies promote equal rights without any gender bias, the tentacles of glass ceiling are far reaching and manifest is diversified forms, preventing women to move up in management hierarchy. Even in family businesses, women's presence in ownership doesn't necessarily imply their chance of influencing decision-making processes, equivalent to their male counterparts.

Reasons for the existence of the glass ceiling can be organizational, social, individual or even typecasts. Oftentimes, organizational factors that contribute to the glass ceiling can include policies, informal cultures, women not representing boardroom, lack of mentoring and training or even the queen bee syndrome, i.e., women in leadership role adopting counter militancy steps in preventing other women to rise to the top. Simran Shah (38) says, "After completing Bachelors in Civil Engineering, I worked with a major infrastructure company in Mumbai. In a men's world, I was promoted to project manager in 5 years. After getting married, I had to leave my job as family and household took priority above my career. Now my kids are grown up, but is so difficult to return back to work!" The societal factors are often deep-rooted in a patriarchal society where masculinity is worshiped and women's boundaries are limited to the four walls of the house. The environment in which women grow often force them to believe that they are the weaker section of the society with low self-esteem, their leadership qualities are poor, they are less assertive and incapable of handling crises.

In order to break the glass ceiling, there needs to be compelling support structures that can resist the so-called systems, cultures and policies. With a strong social support that begins with family, a woman can fight against typecasts and taboos both at the work place and social circles. At the corporate level, an unbiased and congenial work environment, graceful acceptance, encouragement, mentoring and empowerment, can perhaps bring about a gradual change.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Tags assigned to this article:
management Women Empowerment leadership


Prof. Vanita Bhoola

The author is an Associate Professor and Head, Centre for Project Management with SPJIMR, Mumbai. She also serves as a visiting professor at Nyenrode Business Universiteit, Netherlands. Apart from teaching Project Management, she offers consultancy, training programs and customized MDPs across varied areas in Project Management. Her research interest lies in Project management, project risk management, HR issues in Projects, etc. She has published in national and international top tier journals and has been a speaker in management forums.

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