Why Women Are the X-Factor in the New Working Environment

New ways of working and leading are desired in today’s business environment.  In order to succeed in that system, organizations will need two fundamental sets of skills. The first being digital skills for which many organizations are actively hiring software developers, data scientists and analysts, experienced designers, and people with critical digital skills. The second skill set, however—is just as important: human-centred skills in areas such as communication, collaboration, motivation, emotional intelligence, creativity, and imagination.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, its economic disruption and uncertainty, has only underscored the need for these skills. Over the next decade, these leadership skills will become must-haves as traditional, top-down approaches decline in the face of fast, highly collaborative, agile organizations. Nonetheless, today’s leaders will have to navigate uncertainty and comprehend the needs and challenges of various stakeholders in the ever-changing scenarios. Leaders must be empathetic and able to encourage others, inspire teams, develop relationships, and learn with humility, in a business world with increasingly differentiated, multi-functional teams that operate independently.

A NEW LEADERSHIP MODEL

While algorithms can perform standardised processes and make straightforward decisions much faster, cheaper, and more accurately than humans, other skills – which only humans can leverage, such as empathy, imagination, and judgment—are essential for complex problem-solving.

That’s why, in today’s agile organisations, leaders don’t just issue orders based on their own expertise or experience instead, they identify a problem and then support autonomous teams that do the actual work of solving that problem. Such leadership necessitates a level of vulnerability, such as someone who encourages and supports people who have better knowledge about a given subject than their superiors and are more likely to find a solution. 

Then, the question arises – How can women leaders contribute to this change? Something that many people already know – women tend to be highly empathetic, with strong emotional intelligence, active listeners who solicit ideas, collaborate, share credit, and change course when necessary. It has also been observed that when there are more women on a team, the collective intelligence of the groups tend to increase. Moreover, gender-balanced teams are how diverse leadership teams boost innovation than their competitors, and perform better. While empathy and relationship-building skills appear to be uncommon among leadership candidates, most organisations will find them in their own untapped pools of women employees and managers.

GROWING EVIDENCE OF WOMEN’S ABILITY TO LEAD IN THE NEW WAYS

Empirical evidence suggests that many of the essential leadership qualities are more likely to be displayed by women.  For example, a recent study published in Harvard Business Review found that women in leadership roles were ranked higher than men in a variety of key competencies, such as encouraging and motivating others, building partnerships, cooperation, and teamwork.

When looking at more granular skills, researchers from a German university discovered that women, in general, can accurately decipher emotions from people’s faces. Another research discovered that women are better at reading body language than men. According to a third study, men detect subtle signs of emotion like depression just around 40% of the time, while women can notice them 90% of the time. Furthermore, a study published in the journal Science found that having more women on a team improved the collective knowledge of the groups. Rather than attempting to dominate a conversation or a task, women are more likely to consider others, elicit feedback, listen actively, and take turns contributing. As a result, women-centric organizations have become more collaborative and better able to tap into the potential.

For organizations that understand the need to work and lead in new ways, and the imperative of diversity, the message is clear: workplaces need to identify people with these skills and put them in leadership roles. That was true even before COVID-19, but the pandemic has emphasised the relevance of empathetic, collaborative leadership. Companies that wish to reap the benefits of these leadership skills must increase their efforts to recruit, retain, and encourage women.

About the Author:

Payal Singh, a Production Engineer by qualification is currently pursuing MBA (Analytics) from IIM Kashipur.  She is a part of  Team Insite- Admission Support Body at the prestigious institution. You can connect with her on Linkedin.

Stand for yourself! | Choose to Challenge

On this occasion of International Women’s Day, we need to look back at what we have accomplished for the better status of women in society and what more needs to be done. The status of women be it in the economic, social, or political sphere, needs to be analyzed and needs to make sure that gender is not a factor anymore.

We have several government support programs, social media campaigns, and women activism movements, but a lot remain to claim significant improvements in this regard. The hidden issues which are still behind closed doors can be looked at only when the people who suffer get a voice of their own, that is, women.

If we have a peek in the economic sphere, women contribute mostly in unpaid labor, which includes taking care of the family, bearing children, taking care of the house. Only 29% of management roles are occupied by women as of 2020, which is a direct impact of the glass ceiling effect, which does not let women grow above a certain level in corporate offices. The burden of managing workload along with family responsibilities is impacting the efficiency of women. Women form the major chunk of the impoverished population, due to the patriarchal setup of the society- no hereditary rights (termed as “Hissa maangne waali”), no decision-making rights, and not even a right on how many children they have. These common but strong reasons have a strong impact, and if this needs to change, women need to stand up for these rights – method can be spreading awareness, reducing fear from what society will think, and if need be, a legal course as well.

Talking about the social angle, the status is not much different. The number of laws in India against female foeticide and infanticide is a testament to the views of people for the girl child. Despite a girl child being twice as strong as a male child at the time of birth, we face a low female-to-male ratio. Girls need to go out of their way to have a quality education despite several upliftment programs by the government, this can be attributed to the mindset of parents. Social customs have always held women as inferior, and our histories are marred with such tragic beliefs. For curing this we need a complete reset from the past belief of considering women as a “Bojh” to “Dharohar”. Women should focus on building on themselves and need to challenge the notions to change them.

 Lastly, but most importantly, we need to look at leadership. Time and again women have proved their leadership skills, but still, we see minimal participation from women in these roles. Despite the one-third reservation of women in local bodies, we have a patriarchal rule in the form of “Pradhanpati”. World politics has only 24% of representation from women leaders.

The above views show the sad reality of the status of women, which can be twisted only if women around the world are made aware of their rights, and it’s time women stand for themselves as no one understands the sufferings of women more than themselves. The quote from Rosalyn Sussman fits well, “We live in a world where a significant fraction of people, including women, believe that a woman belongs and wants to belong exclusively in the home.”

Kamya (MBA BAtch 2020-22)