Struggles of the 'second sex'

Even with more leadership roles, women still face a number of challenges at workplace


With the movement for women empowerment firmly taking over social spaces, the number of women in professional spaces and positions of power have increased substantially. As the landscape has changed, I have observed a trend of women with education, ambition and passion taking every industry by storm. They have taken responsibilities and stepped up into positions of authority.

“Presenting leadership as a list of carefully defined qualities (like strategic, analytical, and performance-oriented) no longer holds. Instead, true leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed…. Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.” -Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
“Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, 'She does not have what it takes.' They will say, 'Women do not have what it takes'.” -Clare Boothe Luce, former US Congresswoman
“I hate to say there are female and male ways of dealing with power because I think each of us has a male and a female part. But based on my own experience, women will tend to be inclusive, to reach out more, to care a little more.” –Christine Lagarde, managing director, International Monetary Fund

Though things have been changing for the better, the process is not always smooth sailing. Women still face a number of challenges in whatever job they do. Despite the comparatively positive numbers from past years, men still outnumber women in most industries. Additionally, the number of women starts decreasing as you look higher up the hierarchy. The disparity in the quality of positions is still evident. The glass ceiling metaphor, which has been applied to women in corporate spaces all around the world, is just as relevant in our country as well. Furthermore, with society teaching us to be more accommodating and compromising from a young age, breaking this glass ceiling becomes an even more difficult task to accomplish. The expectation for women to have families and be the primary care-taker in the household also hinders their professional progress.

Sheryl Sandberg Sheryl Sandberg

Women at workplace often have to deal with the additional pressure that comes with their gender. The failure of an individual woman is often taken as an example for the gross generalisation that women are somehow incapable of producing the same quality and quantity of work as men. Though these challenges make it a daunting task for women to climb up the corporate ladder, so many of us carry forward and blaze new trails in these spaces every day.

There are certain advantages that women bring to the table that can stand them in good stead when dealing with colleagues, especially subordinates. Women in leadership roles tend to do well for a number of reasons. Primarily, women tend to be more proficient when it comes to soft skills. Society trains us to be empathetic and caring from a young age, and that translates very well when leading a team and communicating with subordinates. Leadership has a lot to do with making sure that everyone in your team is productive and content, and the easiest way to achieve this is through open and thorough communication. Secondly, because the female experience is so vividly different to the male experience, women can offer fresh perspective and insight in a number of fields. I have noticed that creative fields like design, marketing and advertising always benefit from having more women on the team, as they can provide an alternative viewpoint.

Clare Boothe Luce Clare Boothe Luce

Lastly, I believe that most women learn to multitask because of the various roles they are expected to fill in society. This makes a difference in management positions as juggling the needs of your subordinates, answering to your superiors and managing your own work is of paramount importance to any manager. Women also tend to nurture talent in their teams with more patience and care than men. In my experience, these advantages do make for valuable qualities in any leader.

In the time that I have spent dealing with various companies and various industries, there have been a few moments that stood out for me. I was not as confident and efficient as I am today when I came into this space. I did have the benefit of having some fantastic mentors, though. The faith they showed in me has helped me. The abilities required to lead teams and tackle projects always existed within me, as they do within every woman and man, for that matter.

Christine Lagarde Christine Lagarde

I have been blessed that my ambition, passion and talent have been nurtured without any particular attention paid to my gender and I firmly believe this has brought out the best in me. Furthermore, I believe that a lot more women can become invaluable assets to companies if they are given the confidence they require to let their talent shine. This is something I always aim to nurture in any teams I lead.

In conclusion, I can safely say that the number of women in the corporate world and the quality of positions they hold has been steadily increasing. This is promising for women all over the world, but there is still a lot of work to be done if men and women are to be equal at the workplace. If we just let our talent, tenacity and maturity shine through, us women can be incredible assets to any company or industry in the world.

Kolte is the founder of Imagination Inc.