Creating gender parity - the role women play in staying relevant

employee88 percent of women feel that they experience more obstacles at the workplace when compared to men. 63 percent of women feel that there is gender discrimination at the time of hiring – it starts right at the beginning of a woman’s professional career. And it does not wane. 59 percent of women agree that they receive unfavorable performance reviews and miss out on growth opportunities because they were going on or returning from maternity leave.

These figures from our Gender Perception Survey 2019 clearly show that parity is a persistent problem fueled by both corporate culture and societal norms. Earlier, we have featured a number of articles on why organizations must treat this as a business issue – and recommending what organizations can do to narrow the gender parity gap.

This article will look at what women professionals can do proactively to address the disadvantage they face. For, it is they who are impacted, and it does not help them to wait for someone else to pick the cudgel on their behalf.

One word holds the key to women leading the charge on commanding parity. RELEVANCE.

To make things pragmatically simpler and doable, let us segment relevance into three forms.

On top of the list stands relevance in capabilities.

Call it discriminatory, but there is a colored perception of a woman’s ability to fit into today’s disruptive work environment. Staying current on new developments in the industry, in the specific function, and corresponding technology and communication tools are vital musts. Women have to be and be seen as savvy and contemporary.

Experience is valued, but only if it convincingly demonstrates the ability to read changes and adapt to newer realities. Knowledge and mastery are hard competencies to be ignored. Strategy, finance, budgets, performance analytics (to translate data into actionable intelligence and informed decisions) are critical subjects to keep abreast of.

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Domain excellence with execution skills of the digital age will actually compel women to be actively sought after. Being open to change and trying something different are attitudinal shifts that women need to imbibe and display. Read extensively. Attend workshops and conferences. Talk regularly with thought leaders. Introduce a new idea, initiative or work process.

The second is the relevance in self-empowerment to lead.

This calls for confidence to speak up, willingness to make decisions, disagree assertively, and confront conflict in the workplace. This is what lends executive presence to women professionals, and earns respect and attention.

Neither should women shy away from being visible – they should put up their hands for and accept speaking and presentation opportunities. It is okay not be perfect, and sometimes fail too. Cringing from the spotlight is no virtue in the workplace – it shows a reluctance to lead and be in the spotlight with the right attitude.

The third is relevance in behavioral attitudes.

As women ascend the corporate ladder, they will confront the ‘only’ challenge. This is the issue of perhaps being the only woman in the company of their contemporary colleagues. It is not easy to handle, and calls for radical shifts in attitudes. They may have their abilities challenged, in subtle and blatant ways.

Accepting matter-of-factly that they are different and the only one of their gender in a particular group is important. Resolving to be a role model for others who follow is an even better attitude. Demonstrating the relevance in capabilities that we earlier talked about will make others sit up and acknowledge women in their midst.

Instead of trying to be one of the men, here is an opportunity to demonstrate their unique behavioral skills – such as adaptability, resilience, communication, empathy and problem-solving. Raising their hands to take on organizational responsibilities can give them the needed visibility and hone their capabilities further.

If we can see some cracks in the glass ceiling today, the credit, in large measure, goes to many women who have done it right. And while there is a lot of pressure on organizations to step up to make gender parity a business imperative, the onus equally lies on women professionals to walk at least half the distance.