While people’s mindsets and corporate culture play a significant role in deflecting women’s paths towards achieving their career goals, there are other aspects that make it more difficult for them to reach the top. JFW finds out the real deal.
Contrary to popular belief, women have just as much drive to climb the corporate ladder as men do, but are faced with many challenges on the personal and professional front. However, in most cases, women are willing to sacrifice part of their personal lives to reach a top management position.Sunitha S, a Chennai-based HR consultant says, “Women who are one step away from C-suite positions, often promote themselves and directly communicate their ambitions to the top-level management; however, assumptions about demographics and life choices – they won’t migrate to other states or countries or that they will leave the organisation to start families – have become excuses for gender inequality in the management ranks.”
NO PRIDE, JUST PREJUDICE
Swathi Jain, an HR professional for an IT company in Bengaluru says, “Women make more than 40% of the global work-force; they are slowly but steadily making progressive growth in certain countries. They’re earning advanced professional degrees in record numbers and in some areas, surpassing men. It is said that companies have implemented programs to fix certain biases against women and support their full participation in leadership. If only they were true! I personally know women who have impeccable résumés and ace interviews – they are smart, confident and have clear objectives. Yet, most interviewers they sit before are prejudiced when hiring female interviewees – companies need to hire employees based on qualifications, not presumptions.If names were removed from the resumes of people who had applied for management roles and then assessed, women would have the upper hand,” she adds.
Talking about the prejudice against female employees, Ruhee K, Associate Director of a Coimbatore-based research firm says, “It’s especially disconcerting that even after aggressive efforts to create opportunities for women, inequality remains entrenched, only because most firms fear that women will choose their family over career or can’t handle pressure or even deliver results as well as their male colleagues.”
NOT A GOOD START
Even after having great resumes, women don’t start off their careers on the same note as men in terms of remuneration. AarthiHegde, a Bengaluru based business consultant expresses her views, “Even after years of work experience in challenging roles, men start their careers at higher levels than women. And it isn’t because women don’t aspire to get to the top and it is not a matter of parenthood slowing women’s careers either. It is the companies’ failure to acknowledge that women are just as capable as men – they should do away with prejudice and offer equal remuneration.” After starting out behind, women don’t catch up. Men move further up the career ladder—and they move faster. For women, early-career success is crucial. Mihika A, a Chennai-based HR consultant says, “Organisations underutilize and undervalue their highest-potential female talent. Though women can make it to the top just as quickly, their tenure at an organisation is directly proportional to the equation they share with their immediate superior.That first landing spot—the way you get coached, developed, and mentored by a manager is the deciding factor. Companies need to put more emphasis on employee–supervisor direct report relationships in that first job that will help women steer their career graph in the right direction.”
At the individual level, women’s career ambitions are just as high as those of their male peers. Many female senior executives who are one step away from c-suite designations face discrepancies when compared to their male colleagues. ShikaSoni, a headhunter from Mumbai says, “Many companies prefer their c-suite employees to be from the same organization as they would know and understand the internal functions of the company. While that notion is not incorrect, women are not provided with the same opportunities as men. Most companies feel women lack ambition, leadership, and motivational skills and do not take initiative. Women put in the same effort as men and sometimes even excel in what they do. As opposed to men, women are better listeners; understand the mindset of their subordinates better and work towards achieving better results.” It can be deduced that women are among the most talented and respected leaders in an organization. They help in building better teams and are also aware of their team members’ actions. “It can be said that they are more than capable of combining intuitive and logical thinking seamlessly and think more accurately about the resources needed to accomplish a given task – these are key factors that make one a good leader,” she adds.
SENIOR MEN HIRE MORE MEN
Women represent less than 10% of Fortune 500 CEOs and less than 25% of corporate executives at top companies worldwide but give it time, it’ll change.Nisha Miranda, a Hyderabad-based consultant says, “It is shocking but true that less than six decades ago, women in business were almost exclusively secretaries and receptionists – and only stayed in those jobs until they got married. As time progressed, less than 5% of married women worked and only 0.33% held managerial positions and less than 0.12% were mothers. The men who run most companies have been raised in such an environment and feel that it is inappropriate to make married women work, and their parents’ expectations still taint their hiring and even decisions pertaining to promotions. Although they are one generation away from these beliefs, they are sometimes unsure about employing women in managerial positions. However, these phenomena are less prevalent where men in their early 40s are concerned, as they are aware of current scenarios and are gender-neutral in their hiring and promotion decisions.”
MORE SUPPORT FROM THE PARTNER
While men are supportive of their partners’ progress in work initially, sometimes, the enthusiasm they show for their better halves wanes along the way, eventually turning them bitter towards their success, especially when it outdoes their own.SunandaNarain, who works in a reputed firm in Bengaluru says, “Women trying to become top leaders in a workplace aren’t getting the same support on the home front as men are. While my male colleagues say their spouses support their career advancement and help them manage work and family life, very few of my female colleagues feel that way. My husband and I work in the same organisation; he was supportive of my work when we started out and didn’t mind the odd hours I worked. But it has become an issue now. Though we started out together in the same firm, I have excelled in my work and have even received the promotion that I had deserved. Ever since he has been distant and speaks about us not spending enough ‘time’ together.” Namrata Karthik, a Hyderabad based graphic designer says, “It took me a lot of time and effort to establish myself as an able designer. I was at the peak of my career and was earning more than my husband when he had suggested that we should have a baby. I chose family over my career and complied; it has been a few years now and my child is in school, however, I don’t feel comfortable going back to the same work as my colleagues would have surpassed me. Though other firms would understand the ‘break’ on my resume, I don’t want to re-establish myself all over again. I am contemplating changing my career path altogether.”
On a concluding note, beyond the implementation of specific measures to recruit, retain, promote and develop women in managerial roles, companies need to create a corporate culture that welcomes various styles that are gender-neutral.