Women Leaders: Carving A Niche

Women Leaders: Carving A Niche

”She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible. She walked with the Universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings.”- Ariana Dancu


The sheer strength, endurance, tenacity and creativity of women in a nutshell! The world accepts, acknowledges, upholds and glorifies how amazing women can be. But how often do women actually get their fair share of opportunities to prove their mettle?


Sample this- According to a Morgan Stanley study in 2017, women account for roughly a third of all employees globally, and, barely a quarter of management positions. And, according to a study by Ipsos in 2018, an abysmal 3% of the world’s 500 largest companies have women CEOs at the helm. Such a situation is prevalent despite the documented and realized benefits of gender diversity in organisations- a 2017 Deloitte study suggests that diverse and more inclusive organisations are six times more innovative and agile, as well as twice as likely to meet or over-achieve financial results.


However, it is indeed heartening to note that the number of women entrepreneurs have been steadily increasing. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor estimates that in 2016, 163 million women across 74 countries were launching or running new businesses, while 111 million were running established businesses. The female Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) has increased by 10% over the last two years, while the gender gap has declined by 5%.


In our Leadership Demystified journey, we were curious to understand various aspects of entrepreneurship and the way in which it has enabled or deterred women from attaining success. We were fortunate to interview some of these great women in our podcast series. We have used the insights gained from these charismatic ladies, to analyse the important factors mentioned below. We hope these insights will serve as a catalyst for the woman reader to take the journey to become a women leader.


How the journey started?


Listening to these women, we gather that they embarked on their entrepreneurship journey in different ways. It was not as if all of them knew at a very early age that they would become entrepreneurs. In fact, they were pushed into Entrepreneurship owing to certain circumstances in life. When delving into the circumstances, some pursued it through necessity while looking after the family, some through natural progression from where they started, and, others while pursuing an interest or hobby. This is an interesting insight as none of them had prepared themselves for the role of entrepreneurship, but were courageous enough to pursue this path.


Finding their purpose


Again, there is no clear evidence to say that they had a purpose on the top of their minds when they embarked on their journey. For some, it was experiential, while the others pursued an interest or a hobby. None seem to have spent much time in envisioning this purpose as they embarked on their journey. And, as they progressed, they became very clear that this was a purpose that they would pursue with passion and determination.


Entrepreneurial mindset 


An entrepreneurial mindset is one that takes risks that the others are hesitant to take, sees creative solutions to obstacles, and, opportunity to everything they see. This mindset was not mentioned widely by these ladies, but is apparent in how they went about building their business, and, how they have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with.


How hard did they work?


All of them spoke about overcoming substantial challenges while building their businesses. They were not the type to let challenges get them down. They were of a pedigree that learnt as they progressed and were sufficiently brave to take on new challenges. Some mentioned how they were very hard on themselves as they were afraid that the business would suffer if they stepped away. Some even pushed themselves to attend to their business within a short time span after giving birth. Travelling the path they did, they are more empathetic towards other women needing support in balancing work and family. They also recognised that working hard for long periods of time was not sustainable. This made them supportive leaders, who enabled a flexible work place for their teams.


Support from Family


This was a strong point that resonated among all the women we interviewed. They had strong support from family and from the teams employed by them. This is a true demonstration that they are strong leaders, who look after the growth and welfare of those working for them. It is apparent that one cannot go on this path alone. The women understand this well and actively foster their support networks both on a personal and professional level. 


Being there for their families


All the women in our podcasts, take their roles as mothers very seriously. They welcome the flexibility of entrepreneurship since it very well supports their ability to juggle both family and entrepreneurship.  Some women spoke about taking good care of their health, since without this, there will not be a business or a family.  The belief of the past that one has to sacrifice family or career in order to be successful at one, is no more.


Being intentional about career development


The women were very focused and purposeful in the manner with which they managed their career. This is evident with some of them becoming founders and entrepreneurs at an early age and others gaining valuable experience in the consulting space to launch their own businesses. One mentions the need for women to be intentional about career development after child birth as it will enable them to find a way out of the challenges they face after returning to the work force. 


The Expert Take


It would be very interesting here to bring out the perspective of Sally Helgesen- the world renowned expert on women’s leadership, and unravel some facts around women’s leadership. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to host Sally Helgesen at Leadership Demystified She has been involved with women’s leadership issues for over thirty years and highlighted certain noteworthy trends in women’s leadership.


Mainstreaming of women leadership traits


One of Sally’s key observations is that over the years traits that were exclusively identified with women leaders are now increasingly being seen as desirable qualities for all leaders. These qualities include empathy, ability to nurture relationships and foster direct communication, adopt collaborative leadership, be open to diverse perspectives, and thus being adaptable. 


Avoiding pitfalls in the leadership journey


The three key traps that are most likely to create obstacles for women leaders according to Sally are:

  • Expecting immediate recognition for their contribution without making the necessary efforts to highlight their work.
  • Overvaluing expertise and focusing on mastery of a job rather than building visibility and enlisting support.
  • Aspiring for perfection in every task they undertake.


The brilliant women leaders who featured on our podcast beyond doubt possess the most desirable skill set that makes a great leader- an ideal blend of empathy, flexibility, agility, persistence, relationship building and a collaborative approach. And of course, the burning desire to make a positive difference. These inspirational women are like torch-bearers who have often taken the road less travelled, carved out their own path and faced challenging situations head-on!


“So here’s to strong women. May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.”


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