Over the last century, global endeavours, advocating diversity and increasing women's participation, have yielded tangible and positive outcomes
While significant progress was made in 2023, further demographic shifts will require collective commitment and combined efforts across industries
Diversity in the startup ecosystem is a strategic advantage, reflecting a diverse customer base's varied needs and preferences
Women leaders hold a distinct position in our modern, intricately complex world. Whether in the hallowed halls of political decision-making or the dynamic landscapes of business, women have been instrumental in propelling innovation, fortifying economies, and fostering sustainable growth.
In the relatively brief period since women have become integral contributors to business, many remarkable narratives have emerged, showcasing exemplary leadership and perseverance.
Over the last century, global endeavours, advocating diversity and increasing women’s participation, have yielded tangible and positive outcomes. Today, diversity transcends mere social obligation; it is a strategic business imperative that guarantees higher performance outcomes.
As women continue to change gender dynamics and ascend to leadership positions, progressive workplace policies and practices like women-specific L&D programs, formal women’s networks, flexible & remote work, and parental leave have created an environment more conducive to fostering women in leadership.
Women Leaders In 2023 And Beyond
In 2023, women CEOs ran 10.4% of Fortune 500 Companies, an 18% increase from 2022.
According to HerKey’s DivHERsity Benchmarking Report 2022-23, there has been a noteworthy uptick in the recruitment of women at mid-management to senior levels in India.
In 2021, women constituted 19% of hires in these positions, surging to 26% by 2022. This upward trajectory mirrors the expanding involvement of women, spanning from entry-level positions to leadership roles, within the corporate landscape in India.
Equity is characterised by fair access to opportunities, resources, and the infrastructure to thrive. In 2024, these efforts must move beyond mere initiatives and towards outcome-based concerted efforts in inclusion.
While significant progress was made in 2023, further demographic shifts will require collective commitment and combined efforts across industries. We need to examine spheres of influence—namely, the workforce, the marketplace, and society—that pose challenges, exert impact, and support organisations striving toward gender equity.
Women At The Helm Of Startups
The number of women who have successfully taken the entrepreneurial leap has risen dramatically in the last few years. In 2022, 18% of Indian startups had women at the helm, a sharp rise from 10% in 2017. Technology, healthcare and sustainability are sectors where startups have the greatest number of women founders.
Inclusivity is of utmost importance for startups, as inclusive environments attract a more comprehensive range of skills and cultivate a culture where all individuals feel valued and heard. This inclusivity contributes to a dynamic work atmosphere that stimulates collaboration and enhances team performance.
Diversity in the startup ecosystem is a strategic advantage, reflecting a diverse customer base’s varied needs and preferences. By integrating a range of voices and backgrounds, startups are better equipped to address global challenges, capitalise on emerging opportunities, and create products and services that resonate with a broad and varied audience.
A Glass Ceiling, A Sticky Floor And An Implicit Hurdle
The “glass ceiling” denotes organisational barriers preventing women from reaching leadership positions. These might include inequitable training and advancement opportunities, or lower remuneration compared to male counterparts.
At the same time, a “sticky floor” confines women to low-paying, female-dominated roles if they cannot overcome the glass ceiling, limiting their career progression. While overcoming the glass ceiling is often seen as the end of many barriers, it is only the starting point for a woman’s leadership journey.
Even if women break through the glass ceiling, they encounter an ‘implicit hurdle’ involving gender stereotypes, organisational culture, and networking challenges. Gender biases and family-work prioritisation stereotypes hinder women’s advancement, while male-centric cultures and biassed policies impede progress. Building networks like those of men becomes challenging for women, particularly in organisations where men predominantly hold leadership positions.
Mentoring and networking create a dynamic support system that empowers women to thrive, break through barriers, and ascend to leadership positions. Through mentorship, experienced individuals guide other women through organisational complexities and challenges.
Mentorship cultivates a supportive environment and safe space for women to discuss aspirations and receive constructive feedback. On the other hand, networking opens doors to diverse opportunities by facilitating connections with professionals across various levels and industries.
Building a robust network through events and online and offline connections enhances visibility and creates avenues for mentorship, collaboration, and career advancement. Moreover, it helps change perceptions of women and their contribution to the workplace, helping to break down societal barriers and gender prejudice.
Technology integration and data-driven decision-making are other workplace changes that help create a more meritocratic environment. New technologies have more potential to mitigate biases by objectively evaluating skills, performance, and contributions.
Decisions are increasingly based on measurable outcomes and objective criteria in a data-driven workplace rather than subjective judgments. This shift has the potential to level the playing field for women by providing a transparent and equitable assessment of their skills and contributions. Algorithms and data analytics can help identify patterns and trends, allowing organisations to recognize and reward talent based on merit.
4 Steps To Gender Diversity In 2024
Achieving increased gender equity requires a perceptual shift towards viewing individuals, including women, as leaders. This shift can be facilitated by:
- Address external factors: Companies should make efforts to address factors such as gender bias and stereotypes by redesigning hiring processes and implementing fair assessment criteria to minimise bias and foster gender-neutral evaluations. As per the DivHersity Report, 63% of companies have established women-specific hiring drives while more companies are ensuring gender-neutral job descriptions and minimum number of female hires for job titles.
- Appoint more women leaders at the top: Increase the representation of female leaders in top management positions, as research indicates that having more women in leadership roles reduces gender segregation within organisations, promotes open communication, and encourages women to speak up and contribute.
- Offer more skill building opportunities: Boost women’s confidence through self-development and skill-building to counter internalised gender stereotypes. Provide women-specific leadership development opportunities, mentorship programs, and networking opportunities for women to build personal and professional connections.
- Provide more support: Support female leaders in choosing leadership styles that align with their strengths, emphasising the importance of adopting leadership approaches that showcase their abilities rather than conforming to traditional gender norms. Establish training programs to enhance women leaders’ self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-efficacy.
There is no universal formula for achieving increased gender equity. However, organisations that prioritise and promote gender equity within their internal structures can position themselves to impact public policy, mold cultural norms, and distinguish themselves in various spheres of influence, including their workforces, the marketplace, and society.