Saturday, November 28, 2009

Differentiating Styles of Women in Corporate India

Forum for Women in Leadership

"Creating Women Business Leaders:
Differentiating Styles of Women Executives"

A Case Study of Women in Corporate India
November 2009

We are most fortunate to be living through times of high transition in business and society, and those who will embrace the challenges and winds of change -- will also be the authentic leaders who will be well rewarded with high distinction, stature, and profits of innovative thinking.

The increasing commitment of women executives to become a part of this changing business format, and the differentiating styles of leadership that women are bringing to their roles across organizations -- is forever changing the way companies are responding to future markets, ethical leadership, and defining talent for the fast-growing economies.

At the same time, there continues to be some resistance among companies and CEOs in recognizing this strong, active, nurturing, and collaborative style that women are bringing to company boards and top-management -- and it will be the endeavor of this survey report to place on record the reality of what the women leadership styles are conveying to building business, intellectual, and social capital for companies.

Although the survey has been conducted in corporate India only, we believe that the conclusions and indicators are universal in their application to companies and women executives worldwide.

We hope that this report will provide a realistic tool for mentoring the minds of top-management and enabling women to understand their potentials and strength -- and take us all one more step forward in the mission for building women in leadership.

We invite you to continue your contributions and thought-leadership on this mission and mandate.

Poonam Barua
Founder Convener
Forum for Women in Leadership

Sunday, October 25, 2009

WILL Forum@Wharton

Why Wharton Shines!

Participating at The Wharton School Advanced Management Program – we come to understand why Wharton is a “living laboratory” of the finest minds of key executives from global industry and the distinction and rigour that academia brings to business and innovative thinking.

It also brings home the reality that the Wharton School has the deepest commitment to building a better society – that will nourish future business leaders for future markets, who will find ways to be “cooperatively competitive” and take responsibility for the common good and bring high performance to their business goals.

Clearly, Wharton is not engaging its advanced management program participants in a series of traditional workshops and management principles – but it is it pushing the limits of their minds to leverage their deepest energies and potentials to visualize the forces that will shape the future leadership-- and that each of us should be able and willing to make a substantive contribution to it.

At the same time, Wharton tends to build and encourage a critical process of reflective listening, an understanding that there is no linear-line -- but that each culture, each country, each company, and each organization will define the future business scenarios differently -– and that it important to bring a collective thinking to the mission for best rewards to business and society.

In fine analogy to the discourse in the classrooms, Wharton takes us on a “river-boat-experience” that reminds us that unless the high momentum and energy created by those who are leading in front-positions of the boat is well balanced by the last person on the “bow” of the boat – the boat will continue to rock on unsteady waters. The “High Performance” team will always be the one that will “get its rhythm right” and not just have the high energy and skills.

So, when did we last hear the terms “en-noble” , “collaborative competition”, “vicious cycle to virtuous cycle”, “active learning”, “intelligent failure” , “discovery driven planning”, “creativity not hyperactivity”, “network based thinking,” “Law of Requisite Variety,” “peripheral vision”, “social glue for structural holes,” and “meta-thinking” ? These will be the “jewels” that we will take back with us – if we know how to treasure them.

And, when did you last feel that you are truly a part of an on-going “larger story” – that is larger than yourself and your current goals – which if recognized well on time, will make you the authentic leader you want to be?

This is what spending time at the Wharton School can help to redefine-- for your life and thought-leadership.

Poonam Barua

Founder Convener

Forum for Women in Leadership

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Work-Life Balance: What do Women Executives put on the "back-burner"?

During an important session on defining the leadership context for women -- it came to pass that most of the senior women executives fully recognize that they have put some aspect of their life on the “back-burner” in their pursuit of careers in the office and managing the home “at the same time.” Some continue to nourish a “sense of regret” – while others are hopeful that they will return to it sometime in life, when all other responsibilities are completed.

One wonders if companies and fellow colleagues understand this aspect of the women’s sensibilities, when they work with them and share the same office-space for several years. And, if recognizing and understanding this more deeply will help the management create an eco-system for providing women space to grow, retain, and contribute more effectively to the organization.

Topping some of the things that women in corporate India have put on the “back-burner” are the following – which may come as a surprise to many of us:

· Planning a late- first-child, and no time for “second” child and extending the family
· Gave-up main-track career, in order to be at the same location as the husband during transfers
· Household chores and cooking -- due to lack of time
· Socializing with peers and the community
· Declining global work opportunities –in order to hold the “home” together
· Passion for Classical Music/badminton and other cultural pursuits, for family responsibilities
· Put my “husband” on the back burner! —this response comes from a women who is well-married and has 2 excellent grown-up children
· Personal fitness, sufficient sleep
· Put children in the hostel
· Gave up plans for advanced studies

Just putting these aspirations of the women executives in corporate India “on record” – reminds us of the “deep personal price” that women continue to pay to keep their companies and homes together.

How will society measure this goodwill and nurturing effort ? There is still time for us to reflect on this as partner human-beings.

Poonam Barua
Founder Convener
Forum for Women in Leadership

Monday, June 8, 2009

Who will mentor the HR Leaders?

At the 7th WILL Forum meeting held last month in New Delhi – one of the hottest-topics for discussion among the senior women executives at the Open Panel Session with HR leaders – was the fact that corporate HR was often the most significant “barrier” to enhancement of women in leadership positions and creating the appropriate environment for their progress in the organization.

This come as no surprise to many of us – who have been discussing with over 250 senior women executives over the past few years – on sharing best practices for women in the workplace, building an eco-system for nurturing women leaders and creating a level-playing field, and identifying barriers to their career advancement so as to provide them with the mentoring that they may require.

Many women have been able to use the experience-sharing and insights from the WILL Forum meetings to support their case with the corporate HR leader – although not many of them have met with success. Our informal assessments indicate that while corporate HR provides all the correct company policy statements for “gender, diversity, and inclusivity” to the CEOs, customers, and global clients – there is little support forthcoming for the women within the organization.

Upon sharing these insights with senior women colleagues from the U.S. and Europe – it is interesting to find that their experiences with corporate HR is quite similar as well.

There is a unique opportunity for the HR leaders to share the perspectives of the executive women – in a spirit of joint partnership for improving business and society – and we would like to welcome all those who would be interested in attending our meetings and join us in this mission.

Poonam Barua
Founder Convener
Forum for Women in Leadership

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Diversity: Takes Low Priority

June 6, 2009

Dear Colleagues:

Lately, we have been receiving calls from a number of senior women executives in corporate India --primarily from well-known IT and consulting firms -- who have been leading the company's "diversity, gender, and inclusivity" intiative for the past few years, informing us that their jobs are either being deleted from the company roster or relegated to a lower position in the organization as a result of the economic slowdown and cost-cutting measures by the company.

These women are going to be without a job -- after having initiated some of the finest diversity practices in the organization -- with high passion, commitment, and a deep understanding of the importance of creating an eco-system within the company that retains, grows, and nurtures women and allows them to work with best practices and high respect in the workplace. Those who are allowed to stay back -- see their functions as the "Diversity Officer" considerably downgraded to a lower position in the corporate heirarchy that is quite de-motivating for these senior women.

This is clearly a disturbing trend for corporate India --primarily because it highlights the lack of recognition by India's leading companies about the high correlation between best business performance and diversity and innovative-thinking that is required for global leadership, and also because it challenges the mission statements and branding exercises of many companies who claim to have a deep commitment to "gender, diveristy, and inclusivity" in their boardrooms and for their customers and markets.

We do hope that CEOs and HR leaders will be able to find some way to lessen the burden on their Diversity Officers --and find some way to keep them going until the economy returns to a fast growth momentum, where women and innovative-thinking will be a key component of future market leadership.

Poonam Barua
Founder Convener
Forum for Women in Leadership