Reshaping the Corporate Realm

Reshaping the Corporate Realm

Women’s empowerment is key for the social and economic development of any country. Yet, for the third consecutive year, India ranks third lowest in business leadership roles for women. According to a recent survey conducted by Grant Thornton India, only 17 percent senior roles are held by women in India. Despite current low numbers, the proportion of senior roles held by women in India has increased seven points since the last year. Achieving gender equality in the workplace may be a slow process, but a steady increase in women employees across industries is extremely encouraging. As a global infrastructure and development firm, Louis Berger has therefore been taking steps to support the advancement of women in the workplace, and, is seeing measurable business results. The company takes pride in its diverse workforce, which it sees as integral to innovation and creativity.

Over the years, Louis Berger has focused on creating a culture in which women are able to achieve career satisfaction. In 2013, the company established Women at Louis Berger (WLB), an employee-led initiative that provides guidance and support for women at Louis Berger. This grassroots committee brings together women and men to improve employee engagement around topics that support women’s empowerment and greater diversity. This committee has been providing additional support and organising various summits, that, in turn, have provided women within the company a great opportunity to network with others across the globe. The company also encourages all employees to be sensitive towards diverse communities, thus leading the workforce towards a future where individuals can freely share unique perspectives and strengthen one another through diversity. With support from senior leadership, the company is actively integrating gender equality into its vision and goals.

Mutual empowerment and mentorship

I have been fortunate to work with many companies that encourage strong gender equality, diversity, and the empowerment of women. Today, companies are realizing the values and qualities that women bring to the table in terms of integrity, sincerity, multitasking and motivation, in addition to technical competence. Women have long understood that they will have to work hard to prove themselves in a male-dominated industry and are therefore ready to go the extra mile. Women today are unlocking their potential through mutual empowerment and mentorship. I have had the privilege to work with women leaders who help other women take on leadership roles and actively foster camaraderie. Today, women are going for more advanced and skilled jobs. While the corporate world has definitely come a long way in nurturing talent among women, the workforce needs to accept women in leadership and mainstream roles rather than supporting roles. As we begin to break gender barriers, India is embracing a new future of women’s empowerment.

Changes that add value

Women bring different perspectives to the workplace that stem from a unique set of life experiences. Companies with women on their board usually outperform other companies in terms of financial success and innovation. There have been times when I have found myself to be the only woman in executive meetings, but that is changing now. More women are stepping into leadership roles and thriving in their respective fields. I believe women have a great ability to balance a number of responsibilities, build relationships and empower others. All these skills make them an asset to the company and help them grow in their roles and positions in the workplace. That said, I believe we still have a long way to go. Several surveys show a wide vacuum when it comes to women joining the workforce that needs to be addressed. India’s gender gap index has been a concern for years. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report, only 50 percent of working-age women are represented in the labour force globally, whereas, in the case of men, the proportion is 76 percent. Countries that continue to make progress in gender diversity are Iceland, Norway, Finland and Rwanda. India, on the other hand, stands 108th on the list, as there are several women who are either doing unpaid jobs or are not working due to social pressures. Therefore, we see fewer women at the executive level across industries. This is a paradigm shift for sure, and, will take time. The solution is to bring more women into the workforce, give them more flexibility and empower them to succeed. There are several institutions and companies that are tailoring existing policies and programmes to ensure women’s advancement in organisations. Additionally, women’s equality and empowerment are now recognized by the United Nations in its sustainable development goals. These goals focus on ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls as well as adopting and strengthening policies for the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls at all levels. There is still a lot to do in this space, as achieving this requires stepping up efforts on all fronts. However, these goals can ignite change around the world.

In Quotes “India’s gender gap index has been a concern for years. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report, only 50 percent of working-age women are represented in the labour force globally, whereas, in the case of men, the proportion is 76 percent. Countries that continue to make progress in gender diversity are Iceland, Norway, Finland and Rwanda. India, on the other hand, stands 108th on the list, as there are several women who are either doing unpaid jobs or are not working due to social pressures.”

Reshaping the competitive landscape

It is exciting to see how willing companies are going to pursue change. We have made certain progress since women today are given more opportunities and support to advance their careers. Recent reports show that various countries are encouraging women entrepreneurship support groups and promoting expansion of women in the workforce. Workshops, networking programmes and summits are providing the knowledge and support women need to succeed and contribute to their roles as corporate leaders. Several global and local forums are actively involving women at various levels to empower change in the society at large. According to the World Bank Group, 70 percent of women-owned, small and medium-size businesses in the developing world do not have access to the finances they need. Therefore, in July 2017, the World Bank Group announced the creation of an innovative new facility to advance women’s entrepreneurship in developing countries. This Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), the first World Bank-led facility to advance women’s entrepreneurship at this scale, will work to enable more than $1 billion of financing to improve access to capital, provide technical assistance, and invest in other projects and programs that support women and women-led SMEs in World Bank Group client countries. All these are necessary steps for achieving women’s empowerment and gender equality in the developing nations.

Additionally, businesses in India are adopting a new regime. The recently concluded eighth annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) was another move by the government to highlight how women are committing themselves to building sustainable projects. The theme for the summit was “Women First, Prosperity for All” and focused on supporting women entrepreneurs and fostering economic growth on a global scale.  Women can definitely gain more from the financial opportunities and policies being introduced by various countries to allow women entrepreneurs to conduct business seamlessly. We are beginning to see distinct changes as a result of these initiatives.  Similarly, some companies are leading the way by encouraging women to participate in various programs for career advancement. Mentorship programmes and educational opportunities can provide the skills and behaviour needed to support professional development and career satisfaction. In addition, women leaders can serve as a support system for other women, enabling them to discuss challenges and seek advice. It is now incumbent upon the organisations themselves to give thoughtful attention to creating a gender-equal environment.

In Quotes “Mentorship programmes and educational opportunities can provide the skills and behaviour needed to support professional development and career satisfaction. In addition, women leaders can serve as a support system for other women, enabling them to discuss challenges and seek advice. It is now incumbent upon the organisations themselves to give thoughtful attention to creating a gender-equal environment.”

Shefali Saxena is the Chief Operating Officer For Asia, Louis Berger. She brings with her more than 20 years of cross-functional experience in finance and operations. Prior to joining Louis Berger, she served as the chief financial officer for Scomi-Urban Transit Pvt. Ltd. and has held a series of leadership roles at multinational companies in India and abroad. Shefali holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and a Master’s in Business Economics from the Delhi University.

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