International Women’s Day: Female leaders can do much to bring changes in the workplace

By Sayujya S, Desk Reporter
  • Follow author on
Working Woman Image
Representational Image

Thanks to the pandemic, life has changed dramatically for us in more ways than one.

A lot has been said about how life became difficult due to the lack of boundaries between home and office tasks, isolation and rising mental health issues this past year. But as the world celebrates yet another International Women’s Day, there are also positive impacts of the pandemic, especially on gender equality, to be discussed.

The ‘new normal’

With the pandemic-induced lockdown forcing companies to shift to a work-from-home model, there was additional responsibility to ensure the health and safety of employees and their families and ensuring access to technology to enable seamless remote working.

The primary challenge was to keep employees motivated, deliver and perform while being “stuck” at home. The ‘new world’ showed us that remote working was possible, and flexibility was easy to implement. To organizations firmly rooted in a ‘punch in, punch out’ culture, it proved that remote working and delivering is possible with no impact either on productivity or the final work product.

We all learnt that personal meetings and long distance travel need not be the norm for all official meetings, as digital tools enabled connectivity through webinars and conferences across teams and with clients. This once in a lifetime crisis, however, also presented opportunities for organizations to increase the participation of women in the workforce.

With location becoming flexible for jobs employees could work from anywhere, anytime, it was all about reevaluating age-old policies to see whether flexibility and remote working can become a norm. These organization-wide changes presented a silver lining of opportunities, especially in terms of gender equality and diversity.

Moreover, when the lockdown was lifted, several employees, many of them women, returned to working from the office. There was perhaps a need for offering more structures around childcare support, and crèche facilities on premises. This would encourage women employees to return to work and put them at ease if they don’t have a support system at home.

Women leaders should take the lead

Women in Workplace Image

As companies turns to enabling a more diverse and inclusive environment at the workplace, the flexibility brought in by technology makes it easier for women to work and grow professionally.

The onus to keep the momentum alive is even bigger on women leaders, to push for change and keep the discussion going beyond Women’s day. This is a good time to challenge themselves, leaders, policies and processes to increase gender equality, diversity and create this culture of change.

Women leaders, therefore, must lead from the front to motivate female employees and hire more women in their teams irrespective of geography given the new world and connectivity.

They can work with companies and employees in dispelling deep-rooted gender biases, relook policies on consciously hiring women, who may have taken a break for childcare or for any personal reasons. At the same time, encouraging women to ask and seek help when they need it are some of the basic steps to build a gender equal or diverse organization.

Furthermore, demonstrating the use of digital tools, discussing rights of women at home and in the workplace including on issues such as domestic violence, mental abuse and therein supporting conversations on mental health of women can go a long way in bringing about a real change.

Every obstacle in life can be seen and utilized as a stepping stone and so should this pandemic. The time is ripe to challenge notions, biases, structures and norms as leaders, especially the female members of the executive level, while also choosing to challenge organizations, teams, leadership and prescribed cultures.

This challenge, however, should be an everyday feature, and not just designed for International Women’s Day. A good start would also be to challenge ourselves first and be that voice of change that we want to see in our boardrooms.