With news out on India slipping 21 spots from 87 to a dismal 108 in a recent gender gap report, there is no better time than now to herald the clarion call for gender equality within the workspace. Low participation of women in the economy and lower wages paid to them compared to their male counterparts are the primary reasons for this slide.
In the face of these challenges women leaders like Arianna Huffington, Indira Nooyi, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Sheryl Sandberg, have time and again shown how important it is to push the boundaries and succeed despite all odds.
The challenges are not going to disappear anytime soon especially if things continue to get worse, but does that mean that women need to give up? No, this is the time to push boundaries, to draw inspiration from women who have been there and tackled all roadblocks.
Start with small steps, draw inspiration from business and corporate leaders to see how you can use your strengths to your advantage:
"People told me, no we can’t give you a job as a brewer, you’re a woman. I was very determined to show that a woman can manage a business. Any business." Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw had shared in a one-on-one with YourStory. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something. People will always question your potential but here is where you need to turn a deaf ear and doggedly follow your dreams.
Women in powerful positions are often tempted to emulate their male colleagues. They believe that being soft will give them a disadvantage. However, that’s far from the truth. You shouldn’t be afraid to be who you are, as that’s probably what got you to where you are today. If you’re comfortable with yourself, you’ll inspire confidence in others and get them to follow you. A true leader should wholeheartedly be his/her authentic self.
There is constant debate about which gender is the better communicator. Most people are unable to listen effectively to others, which puts them at a disadvantage. If you're aiming to be a transformative leader, you should better your communication skills to effectively and sympathetically listen to others. Being a good listener will definitely take you a long way.
Women who are aspiring to be leaders need to develop a strong voice. Your message might not align with the status quo or be part of the popular opinion. However, your willingness to voice your view and be heard will take you further. You don’t have to be loud. You simply have to share your thoughts and opinions in a manner that will inspire change. Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, has on all occasions - be it her book or talks - always emphasised how important it is for every woman to stand up for herself and for others who do not have a voice.
Take advantage of your skills and talents. Help your colleagues and team members whenever you have the chance. Humility is one of an essential quality of a great leader. Your weaknesses count too. Work towards transforming your weaknesses into your strengths. Your flaws not only teach you a lot of things, they also remind you that you’re not perfect and that you have a lot to learn.
So for all those aspiring career women, lay still your troubled heart; the glass ceiling might seem firm but there are many among you working to shatter it. Gender equality may sound like a distant dream but remember each drop fills the ocean.