Women have been quite successful in making a space for themselves in the corporate world. We have women like Indra Nooyi, Sheryl Sandberg, Leena Nair, Ariana Huffington who have set high standards for women leaders. Now organisations, even in India, are waking up to the need for gender diversity like never before. One new trend is “hiring for diversity” in the leadership team which generally means “hiring a woman”. My friends who are recruiters tell me they struggle to find women to fill up leadership positions. And it makes me wonder why.
Perceived Wrong Timing
Many- a- times, leadership opportunities come at the wrong time for a woman leader. Wrong, not professionally but personally. Wrong, because the timing of that opportunity coincides with heavy demands in her personal life. These personal tasks of parenting and of taking care of elders in many families are still the prime responsibility of the woman more than the man. Most corporate women that I come across decide to take a step back and look for easy assignments because they are already dealing with many other things on the side.
Sometimes, women are so conditioned with patriarchal thinking that they feel less capable and more plagued with self doubt. I have seen women friends stressing over whether or not they should apply for an internal job posting that seems so exciting. They half-believe in themselves. They may feel capable and yet not be ready. It is such an irony. Their apprehension is usually related to the time it would need to learn and grow into the new role and its conflict with their other personal priorities. So they make half-hearted attempts or none at all. They see others go for the opportunities which they themselves deserved and it sets them into a further spiral of self-doubt and lack of confidence.
The Way Out
The external environment refers to the expectations she deals with at work as well as at home. She must engage with all stakeholders including spouse, children and in-laws to set right expectations. She would need to have some assertive conversations stating her need for support and sharing her aspirations.
Hopefully, then she will definitely and happily put her hand up for the “hiring for diversity”. Amen to that.
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