Dorothy Parker once said: “Compared to men, women have to work twice as hard to be thought half as good.” Breaking the invisible glass ceiling has always been difficult, especially for women aspiring for leadership roles. Women in the boss’ chair are no longer a rarity. But in almost all fields, women’s representation is thin in leadership roles compared to men.
Some critical impediments, especially socio-cultural and psychological perspectives such as sex-role stereotyping, few female role models and societal attitudes towards women have become hurdles to their career progression. Lack of acceptance, and “it’s a man’s world” attitude are some of the other factors. These barriers and the measures to be adopted by corporate India for empowering women were discussed at Cisco’s women action network (WAN) India, which launched ‘Connected Women Leadership Forum’.
Dr Ganesh Natarajan, CEO, Zensar Technologies and chairman, Nasscom, said there was a perceptible glass ceiling which limited the advancement of women to top managerial roles. This constraint is based on some form of discrimination, most commonly gender. “Currently, women constitute about 23 percent of the IT employees in India. Of this, only 3 percent of women are in top management positions.” “Though women have a natural flair for leadership, in professional lives they face the glass ceiling.” This ceiling can be broken by building networks, building one’s reputation in a company and being aware of one’s rights.
Many Indian IT companies have taken steps to have more women employees on their roles but not many make it to managerial roles. Some of the reasons cited for this is lack of experienced women executives to occupy top positions and myths like women find work-life balance difficult, they switch jobs often, etc.
Alka Manchanda, director of engineering, Cisco, says: “Technology in India has made the single largest stride in recent years. As an individual, few things that always work are leadership skills and being able to innovate. It’s irrespective of gender here.” But there are some critical factors, which lead to success. Sharada Satrasala, director, Texas Instruments, says: “It’s about capability, credibility and confidence. We have to set things right for ourselves.” “At present, what matters most are only an individual’s efforts and skills...these are the factors which count while selecting leaders rather than gender.”
Women leaders from corporate India Nagamani Murthy, VP, Wipro; Vasantha Erraguntala, head of design lab, Intel; Priya Chetty-Rajagopal, VP, Stanton Chase International spoke on improving leadership skills, mentoring and self branding.
Nagamani Murthy said: “Mentoring is a key aspect. Women should make sure to use this channel effectively.” In reality, there are not even a handful of companies, which are headed by women. Many feel that women are ruled by the heart and not the head, their personal life gets priority over professional life and that these restrict women from being ‘accepted’ in any organisation and from getting due recognition for her contributions towards organisational success.
Companies are becoming more sensitive to family needs. They have been considerate to women raising children, offering many of them flexible working hours and are even offering childcare facilities. One of the best practices in a few companies is the ‘paternity leave’ being provided to help women employees.