Empowering Women in Leadership: Strategies & Initiatives for Progress

Empowering Women in Leadership: Strategies & Initiatives for Progress

By: Pallavi Shrivastava, Head of Consulting, India, JLL

Pallavi with over 20 years of work experience in the Workplace heads the Consulting business for India at JLL. She has worked in different geographies, including the USA and India. At JLL, Pallavi leads the Consulting practice with a key focus on growth, strategy, and overall direction for the business. She is a published author of a book and  a seasoned writer and a design academician, and a regular contributor on Future of workplace, design, behavioral science and built environment for various professional publications.

In a conversation with Women Entrepreneur Magazine, Pallavi shares her views and thoughts on the primary obstacles that women face in their pursuit of leadership roles, as well as how mentorship and sponsorship programs contribute to the development of women's leadership skills.

What role can education and training play in empowering women and helping them to enhance their leadership skills?

Education and training play a vital role in empowering women and enhancing their leadership capabilities. Education serves as a powerful tool for women to enter and succeed in the formal and semi-formal workforce. It paves the way for progress not only for women themselves but also for society, as they constitute a significant portion of the population. Numerous research studies have demonstrated that when women are included in the workforce and leadership positions, organizations tend to excel in various metrics including revenue, innovation, and softer aspects such as emotional intelligence and inclusivity. By investing in education and providing training opportunities tailored to the needs of women, we can empower them to unlock their full potential as leaders. This, in turn, leads to more diverse and dynamic leadership teams, fostering innovation, resilience, and a more inclusive work environment.

What strategies or initiatives can be implemented to encourage women to take on leadership roles within an organization?

Encouraging women to take on leadership roles within an organization requires the implementation of specific strategies and initiatives. The first step is to normalize the presence of women in the workforce, ensuring that they are not just included but represented at every level of the organization.

Organizations need to equip themselves with tools and programs that help them understand the unique challenges women face while seeking meaningful and impactful work. It is important to acknowledge and address biases, discrimination, racism, and exclusion from decision-making processes.

Providing leadership opportunities and ensuring women have a seat at the decision-making table is a positive step forward. Historically, one of the long-standing challenges in many industries has been the lack of women's involvement in decision-making processes. By actively involving women in decision-making, organizations can harness diverse perspectives, insights, and talents to drive innovation, growth, and better overall outcomes.

In your opinion, what are the primary obstacles that women face in their pursuit of leadership roles?

In the pursuit of leadership roles, women encounter numerous obstacles that hinder their progress. The primary challenges include biases, labels, and discrimination within the workplace. Women often face more stringent evaluations and are required to continuously prove their leadership capabilities, unlike their male counterparts. This constant need to prove themselves creates a disadvantageous position for women in their professional journey.

By addressing biases, challenging labels, and eliminating discrimination, organizations can create equal opportunities for women to pursue and excel in leadership roles. This requires a collective effort to dismantle existing barriers and create an environment where women are valued and supported in their leadership aspirations.

How can a supportive organizational culture contribute to the growth of women in leadership positions?

A supportive organizational culture is not just a nice-to-have, but a necessity for organizations genuinely committed to fostering a more inclusive and diverse workforce. It begins with the fundamental understanding that creating an environment of support is essential. Organizations must provide safe spaces where women can freely articulate the challenges they face and work together to develop frameworks, tools, and techniques that address these challenges effectively.

One key aspect to consider is that organizational psychological safety for women often differs from that of men in the workforce. By fostering a supportive organizational culture, organizations create an environment where women feel empowered, valued, and encouraged to pursue leadership roles. This, in turn, leads to a more diverse and dynamic leadership team, fostering innovation, engagement, and overall organizational success.

For example, JLL has Business Resource Groups and programs specifically tailored for women. These initiatives provide guidance, support, and opportunities for growth, helping women navigate their career paths and progress into leadership positions. We also have a variety of other DEI programs like Women in Real Estate, JLL Women Inspire, and many more which give a platform to recognize emerging women leaders in real estate.

How can mentorship and sponsorship programs contribute to the development of women's leadership skills?

Mentorship and sponsorship programs play a crucial role in developing women's leadership skills, considering the lower levels of self-confidence that women often operate with. It is a fact that self-doubt tends to be a constant companion for many women, putting them at a disadvantage in their pursuit of leadership roles. Understanding the unique mental space that women operate in is essential. Women often aspire for less and settle for smaller goals compared to other genders. Recognizing this disparity, organizations must implement mentorship, allyship, and sponsorship programs to support and uplift women. These programs provide a platform for women to receive guidance, support, and constructive feedback necessary for their professional growth.

These programs need to allow for continuous improvement, providing dynamic feedback to help course correct and support women in their leadership journey. By implementing mentorship and sponsorship programs, organizations can equip women with the tools, support, and confidence needed to develop their leadership skills and break through barriers that may hold them back.