Dr Sujaya Banerjee

Dr Sujaya Banerjee is the Chief Talent Officer - Essar Group, Founder of L&OD Roundtable and Women Leadership Forum of Asia (wlfa.in).

Women and Leadership in a Patriarchal Society

Dr Sujaya Banerjee

Woman Leadership_Cover

Presence of Women in the Workforce.

Women are at the center of a paradigm shift in the workforce as globalisation, the economic crisis and talent demand converge to create new and powerful biases for more women at work. There are however, several changes on the horizon, some of which are influenced through regulations that can permanently change the experiences women have at work.

Increasingly, the participation of women on corporate boards has inspired heated debates around the world. However, it is amply clear that the initial push for representation of women on boards has to come through regulation with the belief that their contribution and the impact of their performance would eventually become apparent.

In the following two info-graphics lays the evidence why women on boards and within organisations make sense for any organisation.

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And yet, the percentage of women represented in the workforce is lowest in India as compared to other South East Asian countries like China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore.

The traditional mental models and ethos emanating from patriarchal mindsets is seen as the chief reason for challenges of educated women ramping off from jobs. India has the lowest national female labour force, and the largest leak in the pipeline takes place early on in a woman’s career; mostly between junior and middle management levels, which is when the filial demands on women employees are the greatest. To understand the phenomenon, it is important to understand women’s roles in a patriarchal Society.

Women in Patriarchal Societies

Most agricultural civilizations downgraded the status and potential of women, at least according to modern Western standards, and to the implicit standards of hunting and gathering societies. Agricultural civilizations were characteristically patriarchal, that is, they were run by men, based on the assumption that men directed political economic and cultural life. Furthermore, as agricultural civilizations developed over time and became more prosperous and elaborately organised, the status of women deteriorated. Individual families were normally setup on a patriarchal basis, with the husbands and father determining fundamental conditions and making key decisions that were received with humble obedience from women who bowed to this male authority. Patriarchal family structures rested on men’s control of most or all property, starting with land itself. Marriage was based on property relationships, and it was assumed that marriage, and therefore subordination to men, was the normal condition for a vast majority of women.

Patriarchies raise important questions about women themselves. Many women internalised that culture, believing that it was their job to obey and serve men; accepting arguments that their aptitude was inferior to that of men.

Patriarchal societies reward and validate women for submitting their power, thereby making it difficult for young women to choose a career over their primary roles as homemakers and caregivers. The leakage in the woman talent pipeline is largely owing to filial responsibilities and expectations where a woman is expected to care for family, children and elders instead of pursuing her aspirations for an identity and economic independence.

In fact, an ambition deficit is a common feature among women from societies who do not aspire for identity or use their potential to contribute through careers. It is, therefore, not uncommon to see educated, professionally qualified, urban, English speaking women, still seeking social approval through the institution of marriage.

For those who do stay in the workforce, it is a tough challenge to assert and handle power and control in a meaningful manner. Considering that many young women do not lead in their personal space, it is invariably difficult to handle the complexities of power, assertion, networking and develop the ability to lead teams of men and women in primarily male dominated workplaces.

Having said that, we have several instances of success where women juggle multiple roles and emerge winners to take on leadership roles, and now have opportunities to make their presence felt on boards. The numbers are still too few to warrant celebration.

Organisations must focus on enhancing their inclusion quotient to enable women empowerment and leadership. We need more men and women to harness leadership potential among women executives.

Women themselves are sitting on the biggest opportunities to strive, rise to leverage their communal behaviours and strengths — those of empathy, kindness and fairness to create better organisations, workplaces of the future that have the courage to conduct business fairly, and demonstrate leadership of purpose – only like women can.

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