Women Leadership | 5 Min Read

Do we really need women’s development programs at workplaces?

Kalpana Tatavarti

Founder and CEO, Parity Consulting

Initially, I used to be surprised and my internal reaction used to be “why would you even ask that question. Look at the stats and it should be obvious!”. But, over a period of time I have found it important to carefully respond to the question as women development programs have been found to reap benefits for organisations, both in our own experience as well as a significant amount of research. So, here you go.

In an ideal world where there is perfect gender balance in workplaces, no, we don’t really need different programs for women executives and leaders.

But let’s look at the facts.

More Women are leaving workplaces in India. Women workforce participation has fallen in India by 13% – World Bank report

Career growth for women, though optimistic, seems to be still moving at snail’s pace and the pipeline for women continues to shrink. Catalyst Report

The number of women in leadership roles is abysmal. 41% of Indian businesses have NO women in leadership roles – Grant Thornton study

And this, in spite of increasing education statistics among women!

So, something is definitely going on that is contributing to this skew in gender balance in workplaces. We need to wear a different lens to understand this.

The reasons for this skew are multi-faceted: socio-cultural-economic, systemic, workplace structures, unconscious biases.

These reasons need to be addressed through a holistic approach for retaining and developing women talent in organisations. It is important to investigate the context through metrics, zero in on the causes and use them for a larger change management.

And we see many organisations in India who are doing wonderful work to address this skew in gender balance.

The reason organisations are benefiting from including different women development programs in this larger change initiative is therefore an obvious one (or should be an obvious one):

The socio-cultural-economic-systemic influences result in different internal dialogues that women have are manifesting in different mindsets, behaviours, choices and decisions, which impact their careers.

Four key mindsets and behaviors that we address

In our work with clients, we address four key mindsets & behaviours that might be holding women back from fully participating & growing in the workplaces.

We leverage coaching, mentoring and other facilitative learning interventions to reorient and redress these mindsets and behaviours.


#1 Self-Worth

A nagging sense of self-doubt coupled with a louder than normal self-critic. Post our interventions we hear:

  • “I negotiated for a more complex role, by asking for the support I need and conveying the right amount of self-confidence.”
  • “I learned how to deal with my strong inner critic, without letting it over power me.”
  • “I understood that confidence is less about knowing everything, and more about conveying that I can know what is required to get the job done.”


#2 Voice

A tendency to be unobtrusive, accommodating combined with a preference to be the ‘Likable Lisa’, as we call it at Parity. Results of our interventions:

  • “I now focus on making an impact in every space that I occupy.”
  • “I have learned how to take a clear stand and convey it purposefully & persuasively.”
  • “I have developed the skill to deal with conflict easily, without avoiding it.”


#3 Power

An uneasy relationship with power, manifesting in avoiding power altogether or embracing it too loudly. A tendency to view influencing (people, systems) as manipulation. Some comments we hear as a result of our interventions:

  • “By embracing the role of a Mentor to others, I have learned how to give with power, not give submissively.”
  • “I have understood how power can be leveraged for influencing, not dominating.”
  • “Coaching helped me become comfortable with wielding authority, unapologetically.”
  • “I am now an ace networker, exchanging value and power with grace and a sense of fun.”


#4 Career Orientation

I have long believed that the oft-repeated struggle that women face of work-life balance is more about the socialization they receive resulting in lower career orientation. Our mentoring and coaching bring about changes such as these:

  • “I don’t see work and life as dichotomous now. I believe I need both for a full life and with some deft influencing and reorienting my own expectations, I am making that happen.”
  • “Given the low infrastructure support and high social expectations, it is a difficult task to combine both. But I’m hoping that if I stay firm on my aspirations, I will convince my stakeholders and make this work.”


Do men also have these challenges? Of course! But considering they seem to be impacting women’s choices and opportunities in the workplaces more, against the backdrop of a growing need to level the playing field on gender parity, providing these interventions go a long way to redress the skew in the gender balance.

What do you think? Please feel free to reach out to me if you want to discuss this further on kalpana@parityconsulting.in

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