Where is Women Empowerment heading in 2019?

When was the last time you read through an interview by a woman CEO? For that matter, by a woman CXO?

For ages we have talked about the upliftment, development and success of women but the pertinent question remains – how much did we actually do to empower them?

No matter how much we harp on gender diversity there always seems to be a big gap between the CXO count between the two genders, sometimes glaringly so. Reports after reports have talked about how the number of women in CEO or other leadership positions has come down over the last couple of years. While some of these women retired others had to leave as a few companies got taken over leading to a change in the management.

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So, what are the stats saying?

Ampliz has conducted a survey of the Fortune 1000 companies and has come with some interesting data points that strengthen the case for a need to have a greater number of women in leadership roles. Out of the 9000+ CXOs and corporate leaders only 832 women occupy such positions.

Interestingly, 25% of these women (208) are CIOs or Chief Information Officers showing signs of women picking up roles related to technology and tech strategy. Under the current circumstances, there is a great demand for experienced CIOs who can set and lead the internal technology and IT infrastructure strategy and women seem to be doing well in this space.

Women, in general, prosper well in HR and Marketing roles and our stats show that 117 or about 14% women hold the designation of Chief Marketing Officer or CMO. A reason often quoted here is that since women are ‘’soft’’ and more ‘’empathetic’’ by nature the roles of CMOs and Chief Human Resource Officer suit them well.  While this could be true, women do have the skill to go beyond these roles to handle other leadership roles.

The report also states that the role of Managing Director has found 127 or a little above 15% of women indicating a higher percentage compared with other roles such as President (86), Chief Financial Officer (65) and Chief Operating Officer (26).

Unfortunately, the most coveted among all roles, that of the CEO, finds only 85 women or just above 10% of the total. A stark gap with their male counter-parts. This number, though, is higher in comparison with a few other studies but is a far cry from what can be shown as a proof of gender diversity at leadership positions. It also shows that for every female CEO there are at least 10 male CEOS – a staggering gap that begs for a catch-up.

 Women Empowerment

Where did the women CXOs go?

It is true that there has been a decline in the number of women in leadership positions, and in certain cases for valid reasons. Take the case of Indra Nooyi who has had one of the longest CEO tenures in recent times as she finally stepped out after a 12-year stint at the helm of affairs at PepsiCo in 2018. Of course, not every woman is as fortunate as Ms. Nooyi to have a long and illustrious career at the helm.

Women CEOs and CXOs retire just as men do. But unlike in the case of men, where the successor-to-be is more often a male than a female, the number of women filling the gap of a retired CXO is very minimal and almost negligent in some cases. Now why this happens, is only left for our creative minds, for there are as many reasons.

A good number of women move away from leadership roles when they start families because balancing both roles – that of a CEO and a Mother, becomes that much more difficult. There are cases of women CXOs leaving their positions for becoming home-makers. This might sound odd, but it is, in fact, true.

Interestingly, women start their careers with equal pay, designation and work profile as their counterparts and yet as they move ahead in career things seem to change leading them into a different direction. Research says that as women move upward in their corporate journey they tend to ‘’disappear’’ at different levels. Do they lack in skills or are they side-stepped in favour of their male counter-parts is a debatable issue?

What can be done to set things right?

Early Initiation: It is a fact that most parents do not talk as much to their daughters about leadership roles in general. Not a complaint against parents but then its only natural for parents to expect their sons to take bigger risks and grab challenging opportunities while almost all of them hope for their daughters to have a comfortable, safe and secure life. This, perhaps, could be the beginning.

Taking the case of Nooyi again, – it is said she has had several interesting conversations with her mother over dinner on leadership role and creating impact. At the grassroot level, it’s always about having guidance and encouragement from the family and friends circle.

Board’s Role: Boards should adopt and promote gender diversity at the leadership level not in words but in action. Boards will do well to have clear and specific objectives to achieve this which could eventually lead to a more balanced gender diversity. Creating an environment that not only encourages women to feel safe and secure but also to take up challenging roles is something boards should work towards, incessantly.  The thing is, women should be provided the right impetus to help give them a fair chance to both take up and handle leadership roles.

At the end of day, the culture should be such that there is an equal opportunity for both genders that helps the growth of female leaders as much as it does male leaders with no bias towards either genders.

Backing Themselves: No matter what happens, great leaders are those who have always backed themselves up, and consistently so. It’s not enough if women have the required talent, experience and skills, there is also a sheer need for them to back themselves up when a challenging opportunity arises. Believe it or not, their male counterparts go through the same thought process and same sort of nervousness.  When that single window of opportunity arises, more often than not, the individuals who reach leadership positions are those who do back themselves up.

Women got talent; we need more of them

It is true that we do not have a number of CEOs or CXOs that we ought to have; there is an obvious amount of talent among the women to handle such roles. But with the world of business undergoing great disruption, there is more scope for women getting leadership roles going forward. Be it through vertical rise in corporate or through lateral hires or even going as far as setting up their own firms, women have the potential to handle and do well in these roles and we are hoping it is a matter of time before we see trend going upward.

Hema Malini Nidamanuri

Hema Malini Nidamanuri is the President & Co-Founder of Ampliz, the data division of Champions Group. A philanthropist, reformer & entrepreneur, she heads various key divisions of Champions Group and is actively involved in uplifting & nurturing the unexplored potential of women, providing them with various opportunities & platforms to thrive. She dons multiple hats gracefully with an innate charisma of excelling in everything she does. Ms. Hema Malini Nidamanuri is also an author actively associated with the marine tourism industry & has co-authored a book titled - The New Frontiers of Nautical Tourism. She strongly believes in the power of data to unfold global business opportunities.

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