Challenges Women Encounter on the Path to Leadership

By: Prema Vibhute, Director, Comviva

Prema Vibhute is a seasoned professional. With a background in technical communication and project management, she has cultivated a career focused on ensuring clarity and precision in the documentation realm and user experience.

In a conversation with Women Entrepreneur Magazine, Prema Vibhute, Director at Comviva, shared her views and thoughts on how mentorship programs can contribute to breaking down barriers for women aspiring to leadership positions, as well as the key challenges women face when pursuing leadership roles in the industry.

What initiatives or programs have to be implemented to create a more inclusive and supportive work culture for all employees, regardless of gender?

Creating a more inclusive and supportive work culture for all employees, regardless of gender, requires a comprehensive approach. Implementing these initiatives and programs requires commitment from leadership and continuous effort to create a workplace where all employees feel valued and supported, regardless of their gender or background.

Some of the effective initiatives and programs that organizations can implement to foster inclusivity:

Inclusive Communication: Train employees and leaders on the importance of inclusive communication. Foster an environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions. Conduct regular training sessions for employees and leadership to raise awareness about unconscious biases, diversity, and inclusion. Include modules on gender sensitivity, communication styles, and the importance of diverse perspectives.

Leadership Development: Implement programs that focus on developing diverse leadership pipelines. Provide mentoring and sponsorship programs for underrepresented groups to help them advance in their careers.

Promote Work-Life Balance: Encourage a healthy work-life balance by discouraging long working hours and promoting time off. Provide parental leave and support programs for both men and women.

In your view, what role do education and awareness play in mitigating gender-related challenges in the workplace?

Education and awareness play a crucial role in mitigating gender-related challenges in the workplace. Education and awareness are integral components of a strategy to mitigate gender-related challenges in the workplace. By fostering understanding, empathy, and a commitment to inclusivity, organizations can create an environment where all employees feel valued and supported, contributing to improved morale, productivity, and overall success.

Reducing Unconscious Bias: Education helps employees and leaders become aware of unconscious biases they may hold. Awareness training can lead to a more conscious effort to treat all individuals fairly, regardless of gender. Education fosters a better understanding of gender diversity and promotes inclusive mindsets. Awareness programs challenge stereotypes and help individuals appreciate the value of diverse perspectives. Education helps dispel gender stereotypes and myths that contribute to bias and discrimination.

Building Empathy: Education programs can include real-life stories and case studies that build empathy among employees. Understanding the experiences of others fosters a supportive environment and encourages collaboration. Education ensures that employees understand the values and policies related to gender diversity within the organization. When employees are educated about their rights and the organization's commitment to inclusivity, they are more likely to speak up against discrimination.

Continuous Learning and Adaptation:  Regular education and awareness programs keep employees updated on evolving concepts and best practices in gender inclusivity. Continuous learning ensures that the organization adapts to changing societal norms and expectations.

In your opinion, what are the key challenges women face when pursuing leadership roles in the industry?

Women face various challenges when pursuing leadership roles in the industry. While progress has been made in recent years, gender disparities persist. Addressing these challenges requires a multi-faceted approach involving organizational commitment, cultural change, policy adjustments, and continuous efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in leadership roles. Encouraging a more equitable workplace benefits not only women but also contributes to overall organizational success and innovation.

Some of the key challenges that women often encounter:

Gender Bias and Stereotypes: Preconceived notions and stereotypes about leadership qualities can lead to bias against women in leadership positions. Women may face resistance or skepticism based on outdated beliefs about gender roles. Women may face double standards regarding behavior, where assertive or ambitious women are perceived differently than their male counterparts. The same traits that are often praised in men can be criticized in women.

Lack of Representation: Limited visibility of women in leadership roles can contribute to a lack of role models for aspiring female leaders. The absence of representation can also perpetuate the perception that leadership is a male-dominated domain. Organizational structures and biases can impede women from reaching the highest echelons of leadership.

Having advocates who actively support women in their career advancement is crucial. Expectations about leadership style may favor stereotypically masculine traits, making it challenging for women who lead with different styles to be accepted.

Discrimination during Pregnancy and Parenthood: Women may face discrimination or bias related to pregnancy and parenthood, such as being passed over for promotions or opportunities. The perception of decreased commitment to work during these life stages can be a barrier. Inflexible work environments and the absence of policies supporting work-life balance can disproportionately affect women. Companies with limited family-friendly policies may struggle to retain and advance female talent.

In what ways can mentorship programs contribute to breaking down barriers for women aspiring to leadership positions?

Mentorship programs can play a crucial role in breaking down barriers for women aspiring to leadership positions in several ways. Mentorship programs contribute significantly to breaking down barriers for women aspiring to leadership positions by offering tailored support, guidance, and opportunities for professional development. These programs are instrumental in fostering a culture of mentorship and empowerment within organizations. Mentors can share insights into navigating the challenges of leadership, helping mentees make informed decisions.

Building Confidence: Having a mentor can boost a woman's confidence by providing encouragement and reassurance. Mentors can help mentees recognize their strengths, talents, and potential, instilling the confidence needed to pursue leadership roles. Mentors can introduce mentees to their professional networks, creating valuable opportunities for networking and relationship-building. Access to a mentor's contacts can enhance a woman's visibility within the organization and industry.

Career Planning and Goal Setting: Mentorship programs facilitate discussions around career goals and aspirations. Mentors can assist in developing strategic career plans, identifying key milestones, and providing support in achieving those goals. Mentors can identify areas for skill development and guide on acquiring the necessary skills for leadership roles. This may include training, education, or hands-on experiences that contribute to professional growth.