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Make More Positive Efforts to Recognise and Develop Women’s Potential

Rajita Singh, a management graduate by education, has been in IT industry since 2000, and currently heads Human Resources of Broadridge Financial Solutions India Pvt Ltd. She has spearheaded many progressive and diversifi ed roles across HR function. In an interview with People & Management, she talks on gender inclusivity and increasing representation of women in leadership positions.

What are your views on women leadership?

To me leadership is devoid of gender. So I can talk on leadership in general as gender adds personality and style to it. Let me give you an example – every household run by woman has a particular type of food available all through the year and a special/different one on occasion/festival. If one pays attention, the ingredients used across houses are same. However, it becomes obvious that the way it is prepared is different. Not one is perfect or permanent; everyday they have to start afresh for next meal. Each one carries the expression of individual. You can take this as a metaphor to understand the capability and capacity of leaders in an organisation. Capability refers to with how much complexity the food is prepared and Capacity refers to the number of dishes that can be handled and made. The more capable leader is able to work through complexities and stretch capacity as compared to less capable leader.

Reality is that capitalism is no longer the only critical factor in today’s economy. As we move from capitalism to “talentism”, gender equality can no longer be considered as redundant. Women form a vital part of potential human capital available in any economy, and an effi cient use of this talent pool becomes one of the key drivers of competitiveness. At Broadridge, we have been promoting gender equality across all levels as we strongly feel that this is one of the essential factors in ensuring the long term sustainability of any business or organisation.

However, I have observed that women leaders are trapped in an identity confl ict created by stereotypes about how they should perform and conduct themselves. In a quest to prove these stereotypes wrong, they generally waver from their main goals and end up with ineffi cient results or weak performances, thereby confi rming negative views on women leadership. In such cases, I would strongly suggest to these women to have a stronger awareness and acceptance of positive feminine traits they bring to their roles as leaders and stop worrying about stereotypes.

Can leadership be taught or does it come naturally?

It is the chicken and egg story – nature vs nurture. In my opinion, leadership is innate and naturally values refl ect in the style of leadership/day-to-day work/operations. However, for it to grow, it is important to practice and embrace leadership values in personal life, social engagement, volunteerism and professional acts. To some, it comes naturally and to some it can be developed as a skill at any stage of life.

What is your leadership style?

As our economy continues to globalise and as technology continues to change how we work, leadership is evolving into an interpersonal rather than a hierarchical activity. My leadership style is facilitative, collaborative and infl uencing as I work across teams, time zones, cultures and disciplines. I think it is imperative for all leaders to transition from ‘command and control’ to ‘facilitate and collaborate’ with ‘soft skills’ becoming critical to leadership. Being insightful, inspiring and straight is becoming more and more appreciative and the need of industry.

How would you describe differences between women’s leadership style and men’s leadership style?

Men and women excel in different aspects of leadership. Women tend to be stronger in interpersonal aspects and in competencies of planning and organising, while men tend to be stronger in conducts that help an individual to progress in a profession.

Men represent more agentic characteristics while women have more communal characteristics. This means men are usually more assertive, controlling, confi dent, ambitious, forceful, independent and are often more competitive than women. Therefore, men often choose autocratic leadership style where they are goal and punishment oriented. Women, on the other hand seem to be more helpful, kind, empathetic, sensitive, interpersonal and are more focussed on happiness of other people. Both of those characteristics can affect the leadership roles of men and women.

How can organisations recruit, retain and develop women leaders?

With many societal and organisational/structural hurdles, along with a woman’s individual choices and lifestyle aspects coming into play while making a career decision, it becomes a complex issue for an organisation to recruit, retain, and develop women leaders. So it is not just the organisation that needs to be take up this cause but the entire macro environment ie society as a whole. Then we will be able to make any headway at all.

An organisation can provide for soft aspects of it with effective and robust gender inclusivity (GI) practices in place to overcome complex issues with much ease. Make more positive efforts to recognise and develop women’s potential, while hiring as well as during evaluation procedures and also through mentoring programmes to aid in their career advancement. However, this is possible only if supply too is available across industry.

At Broadridge, GI is not just an initiative, but a cause, which we have pursued persistently. Our faith and believe in this cause has succeeded in generating a commitment for GI in our senior leadership team. This passion for GI has also helped us signifi cantly in retaining talent, increasing the number of women associates and in creating an equitable climate at Broadridge and ensuring we have 100 percent women representation across levels in India.

Broadridge India has also been organising various GI programmes and workshops that focus on learning and development, leadership and teambuilding - all directed at instilling self-belief in our women associates and overcome the selfimposed barriers which act as impediment to their growth.

What changes do you forecast for women leaders in the workplace in next fi ve to ten years?

Having a better balance of women in leadership positions can mean a more diverse team of leaders with different perspectives and a greater ability to contribute new ideas.

Organisations that confront the gender gap and make efforts to appeal to and retain female talent will be better prepared to take advantage of a larger pool of emerging leaders in future.

I think by increasing representation of women in leadership positions across all domains will also provide women with a greater capacity to participate in the development and implementation of legislation, policies and services that affect their lives.








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