Women in Leadership


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Women in Leadership
Ms. Poonam Barua
WILL's forum

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Women in Leadership

  1. 1. WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP: FROM HR TO EMPLOYEES WELL-BEING Poonam Barua, Convener, Forum for Women in Leadership Invited Guest Presentation at the NHRD Network Meeting – Le Meridien Hotel May 31, 2008, The growing uncertainty in the global marketplace and competition for talent in high growth economies like India – has brought into sharp focus the important need to move beyond the short-term challenges of retention, recruitment, and attrition – to building lasting companies that will respond to the vast range of stakeholders that define business organizations and markets worldwide. This has led CEOs and HR leaders in corporate India to redefine their priorities and roles in companies, and break the traditional cultural formats to seek new ways to bring innovative best practices in the organizations. Leading the trend is the increasing focus on understanding the role that senior women executives can play, and the vast talent-pool that is available among women executives that is clearly not being leveraged by corporate India. The National HRD Network Pune Chapter arranged a most excellent open discussion with the “Forum for Women in Leadership” to share the findings and perspectives of the WILL Forum that brings together senior women executives from over 70 leading Indian companies and multinationals. Since its launch in November 2007, hosted at the Infosys Technologies campus in Bangalore, the WILL Forum has held meetings and “WILL Open Roundtables” in partnership with Wipro (Bangalore), Satyam Computers (Hyderabad), Indian Oil Corporation (Gurgaon), Genpact (Gurgaon), and Infosys Technologies (Pune). Among the key insights drawn from the collective-thinking of the WILL Meetings, are some the following: • There is no “level-playing field” in corporate India with equal opportunity for women executives for moving into leadership positions • Maintaining work-life balance is not the key priority for senior women executives in top-management – and only relevant at entry and middle-management • Women can deliver best in an “environment of respect.” -- with best employer practices in place, that offer career advancement opportunities to senior women to move into top-positions. These companies will be able to retain women longer in the workforce. • Companies need to recognize that leadership skills are “common at the top” for both men and women executives –and women do not require any special privileges that highlight their abilities to multi-task or provide emotional intelligence or empathy. • There is a clear need to focus on mentoring the Indian corporate mind-set to get past the “subtle glass ceiling” and resolving inequities in the workplace, for leveraging best talent and performance among women executives • HR leaders and CEOs will need to redefine “Best-Employer” organizations, from the traditional and outdated indexes to ones that include best practices for building a sustainable organization, with a corporate code for women employees, and diversity- dashboard. The focus will be on prioritizing building “most-admired companies” across the stakeholder base Copyright NHRD Pune Chapter, May 2008
  2. 2. • Appraisal systems need to be more gender-neutral in corporate India, and interview panels should be more inclusive. • Women need to unambiguously celebrate their success – and there is need for more success stories to be outreached, more women role-models to learn from, more networks for experience-sharing • There is an important need for Mentoring women in the “successor generation” – so that they are able to meet the challenges in a male-dominated workplace –while they are trying to also maintain their work-family commitment in the early stages of their career. There is also a need for providing “executive coaching for fast-track women” and providing interface with the top-management for understanding their expectations – for best performance and retaining them in the company. • Women need to market themselves better in the organization – and create visibility in external networks. This is one of the key invisible barriers to women’s advancement • There exists a hesitation to appoint women as Directors on company board – both executive and independent – as they bring in a ‘novelty-factor” that may upset the comfort-zone. As companies aspire to become global leaders and bring innovative thinking in the organization – investors and market consumers will begin to look for more women on company Boards. • Diversity programs in organizations provide an excellent network for women executives in the organization. A Diversity Officer is a important independent function in the company – and needs to take audit of the HR Director to ensure inclusivity in the organization. The changing workplace environment -- and the inputs above from senior women executives – has wide implications for HR leaders who would like to be successful leaders and move closer to the goals of prioritizing “employee well-being” and building “sustainable” organizations that retain good people. Successful HR leaders will need to bear some of the following key indicators in mind: • The HR function is fast changing into a Strategic Workforce Management function • HR function will need to integrate closely with the core business function – such as finance, strategic planning, risk management, and marketing • HR will need to engage diverse capabilities and skill-sets in workforce planning – particularly in multinational and cross-cultural global Indian corporations • HR will need to find ways to retain talent in a competitive market – and understand the format of a “Total Rewards Strategy” • Establish an open-minded organization with a “level playing fields” based on meritocracy and inclusivity • Developing comfort levels within the organization – and place priority on “employee well-being” • Establishing a common language for jobs and competencies • Create an enabling environment – for employees to shop for new jobs and assess their own developmental needs • Build on succession planning There is clearly a need for collective-thinking among all corporate leaders and professionals to respond to the changing business environment and its innovative needs –and the WILL Forum would like to welcome the participation of all stakeholders in our mission for leveraging the vast talent-pool of women executives to make an important contribution to strengthening the performance and best practices in corporate India. All comments and suggestions, may be sent to Ms. Poonam Barua, Convener, Forum for Women in Leadership, at pamasia@vsnl.com Copyright NHRD Pune Chapter, May 2008