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Why women are still not considered competent enough to take on leadership roles?

Women in India face a lot of challenges on the road to pursuing an ambitious career, especially as their role and responsibilities get even bigger when it comes to child care. Delivering her keynote address at the 3rd edition of Women Disruptors Summit 2022, Shalini Chakravorty, Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, PhonePe, spoke on ‘Need for Women Leaders in Companies and How Companies Can Become an Employer of Choice for Women’.

At the outset, Chakravorty noted that while we can’t overlook that there has been plenty of pressure that organisations have taken, she said that “we are not there yet”. “We are not even close to where we need to be. Organisations are changing, but they are changing very slowly,” she added.

Citing a recent report that was published by the World Economic Forum, titled ‘Global Gender Gap Report 2021’, Chakravorty said that only 8.9% of Indian firms have women as top managers. “While there are many such other facts like how many women CEOs are there in the Fortune 500 companies and so on, I would like to share one very peculiar, though very embarrassing fact today – a 2019 Australian study found that there were more men named Andrew in the position of CEOs than there were women. In fact, only 5.5% of the CEOs were women on par with those names as Michael.

But why do we need a higher representation of women in leadership? Chakravorty pointed out that there have been multiple surveys and studies that have been conducted on this topic that show that the organisations that have women as part of their leadership, outperform financially against the organisations that don’t.

“There was a Mckinsey Report, which was conducted based on a survey done in the UK, where it was proved that with every 10% increase in the gender diversity, the earnings before interest and taxes rose by almost 3.5%. This is absolutely a key measurable criteria linked to the bottomline of the organisation, but yet we still found today that a lot of people don’t trust women to be, or don’t find women to be competent enough to be taking up these senior leadership roles in the organisations,” she lamented.

Quoting another study that was conducted by Harvard Business Review almost a decade back, Chakravorty said that it compared men versus women in a leadership position on 16 leadership criteria, which included things like performance drivers, supporting people under you, innovation, strategic perspectives, stakeholder management, etc. “You will be surprised and shocked to see that women outperform men on 15 out of these 16 criteria. The only one criteria where they were slightly behind was strategic perspective and the reason was because they didn’t have the exposure and experience to be in that role before and that is clearly showing us that we don’t have enough women at the leadership position. But beyond these financial performance indicators, empathy, collaborative spirit, better conflict resolution and diversity of thought and a host of such other superior soft skills are what women leaders actually bring to the table,” Chakravorty affirmed.

This is an edited excerpt. For the complete keynote address, watch below:

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