By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

Achieving harmony in work-life balance sounds utopian as a concept, especially with the stark impact
that COVID-19 has had on workforce dynamics. Reports are now indicating that a majority of the
women are being forced to drop out of the workforce at an escalating rate. However, in the face of
unprecedented challenges and the way the pandemic has transformed our society, leaders like
Shalini Ramakrishnan – Director, Product Marketing at Numly, is endeavoring to bring about a change
with guidelines and solutions that boost resilience and productivity.

1. In your present role, what are the unique qualities or characteristics that you have brought to
your career and workplace?
My innate ability to work across divisions and verticals is the most unique quality that I bring
to my role. I have had the opportunity of using this ability to experiment across divisions –
Sales, Operations, Product Training, and Customer demos without having to be streamlined
into a single role.

2. Every woman has different commitments and schedules in and out of the office. How do you
strike a balance between work and home?
We all know that achieving harmony at work and home is always a challenge, what with the
system redefining the ‘new normal’. The way I have learned to juggle both responsibilities is
by defining strict timelines and dividing up tasks to make work-life integration successful,
especially with my presence required across three time zones. This has helped me shift my
mindset in a way that I can prioritize my well-being and define boundaries for a more
productive and improved ecosystem – at both work and home.

3. How do you see COVID-19’s impact, both immediate and long term, on changing the nature
of how we work?
COVID-19 was almost a bolt out of the blue for organizations across the globe, and the
disproportional impact that it has had in the way organizations and individuals work cannot be
discounted. The immediate impact was transitioning to a remote working model that isolated
employees and left behind a silo mindset with minimal engagement and communication.
Overall, I see a fall in employee morale with organizations struggling to restore trust and
positivity. With the hybrid working model here to stay, they are now scrambling to re-invent
the work culture in the face of these existential challenges. Sustainable solutions are,
therefore, critical in the long-term – with increased engagement between peers and
managers, corporate flexibility to ensure the same levels of productivity, and the need for
reskilling and upskilling for innovation and strategic leverage.

4. What are the biggest challenges that you see with women in the workplace? Notwithstanding,
are there any benefits or opportunities of how the pandemic is transforming how we work and
live?
The challenges that women have had to face have been vastly disproportional and more
impactful on women. Women are striving to strike harmony with multiple responsibilities of
work, family, and home. Also, the biggest predicament for women is to be able to keep a
sense of normalcy in the current circumstances and how they can be best managed.
Organizations have started to recognize the struggle that women have been facing due to the
shift in work dynamic and incorporating initiatives that enable women employees and leaders
to drive a successful career for themselves. Work-life balance in the post-pandemic world is
an art that women in specific have to grow to master, with the transition from remote working
to the hybrid working model. The only benefit that I foresee is a sense of flexibility and a
smarter and more productive way of working.

5. In these trying times, how has Numly been a pillar in your work-life? How do you stay
motivated?
With the undue burden of mental load that has taken a toll on the well-being of women at
large, I would consider my team at Numly as one of the most dynamic and adaptive teams
that I have worked with thus far. Numly has been a pillar and extremely supportive of my
career choices, regardless of my gender. The freedom to define my timelines or decisions to
drive initiatives across numerous verticals was a shift that was graciously accepted by the
management and is motivation in itself.

6. What are some of the stereotypes and biases that you have experienced as a female leader?
How did you champion gender equality?
There have been some stereotypical situations that I have faced as a female leader, which is
questioning my ability to work effectively and deliver productive results. In the initial stages of
my career, these typical gender-biased remarks were prevalent and I chose to push them
under the carpet. However, the nagging question remained in my mind and I started to
introspect about how these preconceived notions could be dealt with. And I worked around
championing gender equality through empathy and behavioral changes.

7. Tell us about the Women Leadership Development and D,E&I programs in Numly. Has it
been implemented, and if yes, how has it worked?
Numly has successfully implemented comprehensive programs with a collective vision – the
Women Leadership Development and D,E&I programs. Amongst the gamut of programs that
are being implemented across organizations, these programs are designed on the core
foundation that developmental changes are essentially driven by behavioral and cultural
changes within an organization. The D,E&I program identifies skill gaps, addresses changes
in behavioral and critical skills, and recognizes and empowers women leaders to work and
evolve without bias. As opposed to the conventional external coaching formats employed
across organizations, Numly believes that peer-peer coaching not only elevates the
engagement within your organization, but is an experience that is bound to resonate with
employees in terms of connecting, engaging, and networking through an exchange of skills –
and most importantly, by breaking hierarchical barriers. We also have a host of ‘Getting
started’ programs where organizations can get started and onboard their employees with
ample learning material that is bound to transform their learning journey into a peer coaching
experience.

8. What advice would you give to women who want to be a mentor/coach?
The best advice that I would give to anybody who wants to be a coach is to understand that
every individual has struggles, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. And the ability to take
cognizance of the fact that you have to first be a coach before you can become a leader is
imperative. I believe that the coach-learner dynamic is a mutually beneficial learning journey –
where both reap benefits that contribute to their growth. If there is a skill that is unique to you,
the onus of imparting that knowledge to another individual as a mentor or coach lies with you.
Embrace any opportunity to be a coach as it not only minimizes the distance between you
and the mentee but also helps foster mutual trust.

By Kavita Ryali, Product Evangelist & Advisor, Numly™ Inc.

My very first recollection of the word “Allies” was back in middle school.  It was in a school debate in a Simulated United Nations Council as an inquisitive 12-year-old that I understood the true power of Allyship for nations. A simple meaning that I tacitly derived was a group of nations in helpful association, called treaties, with another group of nations. What I learnt in the process was that the power of “Allied” nations changes the course of how countries work with each other, in socio-political environments, influence economic growth and overcome the threat of war. All pretty darn good Super Powers I must say!

Being All-In with Allyship 

Workplaces today across geographies, cultures, and economic and social influences are no less of a representation of a so called Simulated United Nations. The power in “Allyship” today to educate, unite, help and grow individuals goes way beyond in every macro level of personal and professional relationships. It is showing up and uplifting colleagues, mentees, friends, acquaintances of underrepresented groups in an empathic and educated way. We see more and more “Allyship” being a crucial part both inside and outside of our working institutions. Building a diverse and creative workplace is a flagship priority for enterprises to nurture all possible inclusive behaviors. 

Know Your Allies

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion goes across professed and non-professed groups in terms of gender, race, and sexual orientation. Supporting people with accessibility needs, supporting women, supporting people of color, and supporting the LGBTQ community. Much less traversed but I would even include the “good guys” aka men who form strong allies and take intentional unbiased action towards diversity, inclusion and advocacy for these groups.

The Y factor for Women Leaders 

In her acceptance speech, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris made a request of America’s children. “Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities, and to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they’ve never seen it before.”

Per a Research Study from Penn Law we see a widespread pattern of how women face criticism and various detractors to their growth.

  • 58% of the 52 women interviewed reported having been criticized for being soft spoken or “not assertive enough,” which is very subjective;
  • 54% indicated they have been hesitant to take on leadership roles because of criticism of their behavior; and
  • 71% said they had been reluctant to speak up or speak frequently in meetings or group settings because of criticism of their behavior.

The effectual journey and success of Kamala Harris as the first woman of color, biracial Black-Indian woman being nominated by a major party for the vice presidency is a marker of major gender and racial progress in U.S. society. It is testimony to the fact that women of all backgrounds have accomplished important outcomes and many leadings despite hostile or biased workplace settings. 

Allyship is a significant factor in successful culture change and build the mindset of grit and resilience in women in tech and in multiple male dominated industries. It’s a weighty catalyst that empowers women to hold their fort, rally their teams and drive change and growth for their respective organizations. Allyship leans in to the culture change, to create and maintain an inclusive environment. We NEED our Allied counterparts as trusted partners to ensure we are presented with equal opportunities and in turn erasing some of the factors as to why women are losing interest in certain careers such as STEM. Allyship can open doors, broaden networks and advocate for female emerging leaders.

Power up your Y Factors

In my quest for tapping into what makes Allyship work for women, here are the Y factor aka power skills that can transform women’s workplace and professional experiences.  In my earlier blog, I share what is the Y factor and how multiple women shared their transformation stories towards their growth and success. 

Here are 5 ways you can take intentional inclusive actions and take advantage of allyship, form allies in systemic improvements and gaining the power skills to go with it. 

  1. Being Self Aware: Train on Soft skills on Self-Management that make you aware and empower you to gain confidence, understand your stress factors, willingness to change and build personal credibility. These have demonstrated how you can understand your own strengths, weaknesses and seek help in coaching and mentorship allies. 
  2. Understanding Unconscious Bias: It is not enough to just be self-aware but also understand factors that cause inequities in workplaces. Inequities in not overt actions of unacceptable behavior but also in subtle ways of unconscious bias. For example, female leaders, particularly female leaders of color, are often disparaged more starkly and receive personality-based feedback instead of skills-based feedback. Marginalized group members have long noted these experiences, but majority group members often miss the subtler signs of bias. 50 ways to fight gender bias   
  3. Understanding your Privilege: Arduously going through the practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, by which a person holding privilege and power actively seeks to uplift his or her allies, goes a long way. For example, understanding the privilege men can have in being allies to empower women, understanding the privilege one has in empowering minority communities or a person with disabilities and systematically helping can transform societally and in workplaces. 
  4. Networking and forming Allies: Make a conscious effort to know who you have worked with who share a positive energy and share constructive feedback. Be proactive and seeking out cross functional sponsors and mentors or even outside your organization. Attend networking events, offer to volunteer and often reach out people you want to learn from or stay connected. Be an Ally to a person in need. Be involved in peer coaching. How can you help 
  5. Bringing Diversity to the table: Organizations both big and small are breaking legacy barriers by bringing in necessary training, awareness and leadership efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion. Be it in the Hiring processes, or promotions, providing adequate opportunities for growth or bringing in champions, diversity and inclusion fosters allyship and brings in revolutionary changes in organization resilience. Harvard Business Review Article captures How to be a Better Ally

To see your Allyship Building Skills in Action with the power of AI , take a look at NumlyEngage(™). Get a live demo today!  

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

The recent second-term win of New Zealand’s Jacinda Arden and the Oval Office welcoming its first female vice president in 200 years of history shows that the glass ceiling is breaking…and the women across the world are waiting with bated breath to grab what’s due to them, with their shoes on. If we look at New Zealand’s Prime Ministerial candidates, this year both in the running were women. From Germany to New Zealand, to the U.S to Norway and Taiwan, Finland and Denmark, female leaders of these countries have taken over by storm.

Women Leadership Matters

There are enough studies that show that organizations with gender diversity not just amongst the workforce, but with senior leaders, outperform organizations that don’t. 

A report from McKinsey revealed that “In the UK, greater gender diversity on the senior executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in our data set: for every 10% increase in gender diversity, earnings before interest and taxes rose by 3.5%”. 

However, a 2018 Goldman Sachs report on gender diversity, whilst noting limitations on available data propounded that “Women make up about 40% of all employees – but just 6% of CEOs.”  

Without delving into the details of this disproportionate allocation of leadership roles, let’s evaluate what can be done to develop a strong bench of women leaders in an organization.

Strong is not equal to aggressive and compassionate does not mean weak

One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.” — Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand

The fact that  the Prime Minister of a country says this is quite revealing. Years of social conditioning that equate strength with aggression and empathy and compassion with weakness, not just with women but with men as well. 

If anything, these are archaic ways of thinking. Some of the best and the most successful leaders across the world display these traits irrespective of their gender. It is about time to correct the narrative.

Organizations have their work cut out for them to coach their entire workforce to understand, accept, and internalize this difference. A good starting point for this is to have women leaders and develop a company culture that moves away from the straightjacket and rigid definition of leadership as defined by the ages and moves towards a more progressive and flexible definition of the same.

Help women leaders find and define their leadership style

What organization and coaching strategies have to change is trying to fit women into the mold of leadership as defined by men across the years. It is essential to understand that strength and decisiveness are complementary to empathy and compassion. They are not competition.

Research shows that empathy and leadership performance are directly related. The surprising part is that this is the competitive edge that most leaders are missing. So, instead of trying to build strong women leaders who are aggressive, does it not make more sense to leverage the inherent nature of women and coach them on how to use empathy and compassion to their advantage? 

Does it not make more sense to give women leaders the support, tools, and guidance to help them curate the individual leadership styles that help them accentuate their inherent strengths – empathy and compassion being two of them? When we have an opportunity to take advantage of a unique skill set, why must we try to fit it into the same old box?

Leadership development and coaching programs for women have to become more focused on helping women leaders find their inherent leadership style and with it, help them raise their leadership voice.

Read: Fix Gender Imbalance with Innovative Women Leadership Development Programs

From the glass ceiling to the broken rung – women leadership has to be intentional

While it is the glass ceiling that prevents women from reaching the top, it is not the only barrier. The McKinsey 2019 Women in the Workplace report showed that “Women are often hired and promoted based on past accomplishments, while men may be hired and promoted based on future potential.”

Organizations have to overcome this barrier and help women reach their potential by becoming more data-driven in potential mapping and become more intentional in putting women in first-level management positions. 

Identifying the high-potential women employees, helping potential women-leaders identify the gaps to become better leaders using data-backed assessments, and introducing contextual and tailored coaching programs help in not only breaking the glass ceiling but also in fixing that broken rung that keeps women from moving up the ladder.

This approach also helps organizations develop a healthy pipeline of future leaders who can capably lead the organization to greater success and profitability.

Create clear opportunities for growth

From ensuring that hiring and promotions are fair and transparent, establishing clear evaluation criteria, and creating an environment conducive to growth, organizations need to create clear growth opportunities to develop a strong bench of empathetic and compassionate women leaders.

To move ahead on this path, organizations have to become proactive in helping women employees develop the right networks and the right connections and also coach them to build their network to drive growth. 

They also have to help women employees identify the gaps and coach them to close these gaps while helping them to maximize their strengths to prepare them for leadership success. Additionally, organizations have to help women employees understand themselves as leaders, identify the barriers to their advancement, and help them align their personal values with their work.

Level the playing field

As mentioned earlier, the social context we are raised to promotes certain gender stereotypes. Given that these are outdated ideas, it is high time for organizations to create healthier models of effective leadership – one that is more evolved, balanced, and diverse. 

This shift is fundamental to business success as we move into the future. Stephanie S Mead, author of The Art of Strategic Leadership: How Leaders at All Levels Prepare Themselves, Their Teams, and Organizations for the Future, states, “If you want to be relevant in the future, you have no choice but to change and evolve…the responsibility to build and support a culture where breaking down ingrained habits and old standards are recognized as an important part of rebuilding and creating a stronger, more successful organization.

The venerable Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “I think unconscious bias is one of the hardest things to get at. My favorite example is the symphony orchestra. When I was growing up, there were no women in orchestras. Auditioners thought they could tell the difference between a woman playing and a man. Some intelligent person devised a simple solution: Drop a curtain between the Auditioners and the people trying out. And, lo and behold, women began to get jobs in symphony orchestras.” Maybe, it is time for organizations to drop this veritable curtain that divides men and women and give women the tools they need to develop and hone their leadership prowess. Along with the women, the organizations themselves stand to gain tremendously.

Connect with us to know how you can identify and grow the next generation of women leaders across the enterprise.

By Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder & CEO

Women belong in all places where decisions are being made” – Ruth Bader Ginsberg aka, Notorious RBG.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s crusade for equal rights is known to everyone. Throughout her career, she focused on making those in positions of power become aware of the challenges that were unique to the women workforce. It was her strategy to help men in power see the differences in opportunity and treatment meted out to women, just because they were, well, women.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was an outcome of her fierce dissent amongst many other such path-breaking acts that paved the way for equality for women. It is now the responsibility of corporate organizations to take this movement a step further and provide women the support they need to become prolific leaders like Ginsberg. 

If we look at the leadership gender gap, it shows us that while it still might be a man’s world, forward-thinking organizations now know that we need both men and women to succeed. 

There are several reasons for this gender gap – reasons such as inexperience, family responsibilities, or . But given that we are now in the 21st century, companies need to find a way to deal with these obstacles. 

Without delving into the controversy of the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles, let’s instead look at how to fix this gender imbalance. 

There is enough evidence to show that women not only do well in leadership roles but thrive in them. A report from Associated Press and Equilar, among the 25 highest-paid CEOs, five of them were women. 

Some of the largest and most successful enterprises have had women steering the ship – from IBM’s Virginia Rometty to PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi to Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg to Mary Barra of General Motors, you just have to cast a cursory glance at the Forbes world’s most powerful women list to see that the ‘so-called’ reasons to keep deserving female candidates  away from the C-suite are quite honestly, baseless. 

Now that cracks in the glass ceiling are getting deeper, it is about time for organizations to realize that fixing the gender imbalance is not only the right thing to do, it is also important for organizational success.

The business case for promoting gender diversity

Yes, there is a business case for leaning in towards gender diversity. 

Research from McKinsey discovered that promoting gender diversity leads to better business results and that gender-diverse companies perform better financially. 

Organizations with women in 30% of leadership roles are 12 times more likely to be top-performing companies. 

 

Joanna Barsh, co-chair of the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership’s Leadership Working Group and author of ‘How Remarkable Women Lead’ further shows that it is now becoming important for an organization’s leadership to match its customer base. Given that women make up a substantial chunk of the customer base in almost every industry, having more women representation is just good old common sense.

Barsha goes on to state that gender diverse teams also come up with better solutions especially for “non-linear, complex problems”. Solving these problems need diversity of thought, backgrounds, skillset, and experience.

Business case aside, women leaders can be a huge benefit since they bring a growth mindset, are hugely participative in getting more thoughts and ideas, and in bringing positive emotions to the workplace.

The silver bullet to fix the gender imbalance

It is apparent that gender diversity efforts are not a zero-sum game but end up benefiting all employees. It is about time that we move away from ‘second-generation gender bias’.

While there are many solutions to fix the gender diversity gap, focusing on learning and development initiatives is an important step in the right direction. 

Women leadership development programs have to now become bolder and more tailored to help women navigate the corporate landscape and equip them with the tools, knowledge, and skills they need to create an impact and have greater influence across the organization. 

What should these innovative programs include?

Firstly, women leadership development programs have to be a continuous process. These programs have to be designed to drive a shift in behaviors. 

Hence, coaching becomes a critical tool for enablement.

  • Leadership programs have to now move away from its myopic worldview and understand that just like women bring specific skill sets to the table, they also have certain specific challenges to navigate. The objective of coaching, hence, cannot be to make women leaders more like their male counterparts. Instead, it has to focus on how women can leverage their unique skills such as empathy to develop their own leadership style and implement a personal leadership strategy.
  • Organizations also have to open up networking opportunities for women leaders as this helps them advance their careers. Coaching can help women build this network and develop connections to create opportunities for broader exposure and authentic engagement by eliminating self-imposed restrictions.
  • Organizations have to assume the responsibility of identifying their high-potential women employees and then employ data-backed guidance to help them overcome leadership challenges. Leveraging tests such as Behavioral Assessment tests or 16 Personality Factor self-evaluation to identify strengths and weaknesses can help in closing the skills gap and assist in building authentic leadership.
  • Coaching programs also need the technology push to connect high performing women employees with the right mentors who will help them navigate women-specific challenges. For example, some women might need greater help in managing organizational complexities than their male counterparts owing to the years of social conditioning. This very conditioning might prohibit them from asking questions for the fear of being perceived as weak. A good coach will help such women employees with the right tools to manage perceptions while establishing credibility and their individual leadership styles without sacrificing their inherent femininity.
  • Women leadership development programs have to also become hyper-focused on monitoring and measuring coaching progress and ensure that they have the right tools to provide timely nudges. An AI-enabled coaching platform can come to the rescue and help to deliver personalized, contextual, and relevant nudges to address skill gaps and unique learning abilities.
  • Leadership programs for women also need to become analytics-driven and should employ actionable insights from rich analytics on skills development, performance, engagement, and more. These engagement insights can be used to further fine-tune women leadership programs and make them contextual, relevant, and consequently more impactful for the women workforce. This also helps in building women leaders who are better prepared for their current and future responsibilities.
  • Social conditioning helped men remain unaware of the plight of women in the workforce. It was people like Ruth Bader Ginsberg who helped them see that inequality and discrimination existed. In the same way, social conditioning can also influence many women leaders. It is important to get the guidance and coaching to see which of these influencers are self-serving and which need to go to thrive in the corporate world. Coaching is the most effective way to help women make more intentional choices about their leadership careers. This includes taking the agency to control their careers, building authenticity to discover their leadership styles, strengthening professional connections to grow professional relationships, and increasing self-awareness and clarity. 

Most importantly these programs have to help women leaders develop a sense of wholeness that many women struggle with – the battle to seek roles beyond work or to unite different life roles into a single integrated whole. 

Coaching can help women realize and internalize that it is justified to value multiple roles and accept a broader definition of success – one that helps them let go of the idea that work and success come from equitable distribution of time between work and their other roles. Instead, wholeness helps women set priorities and value all their commitments while letting go of roles, obligations, thoughts, and mindsets that no longer serve them.

While it might be a man’s world as sung by James Brown in 1966, today we concur more and sing along loudly with Beyonce when she says, “Who run the world? Girls”.

Connect with us to see how an AI-enabled coaching platform can help your organization fix gender imbalance and give your women leadership program the makeover it needs.