#VoicesofWomen: When intent and skill work together, you can create magic, writes Lavanya Ramamurthy, in her winning entry at VOW. Read On!
Skilling is, of course, a crucial element in how careers are built and how they progress irrespective of gender. A key to having a strong and resilient company is how well established and well-defined the routes to climb the ladder are and skilling remains the most definitive way to assess and enhance an individual’s capabilities and leadership qualities.
But the path to climb that ladder is often different when viewed from the lens of gender. Women overall have distinct career patterns, different career locus, wider career contexts and different sets of career beliefs when compared to that men.
The answer to do women need bespoke and a more women-oriented skilling, at least for me, is a resounding yes!
Women require different approaches in skilling than men because they approach their career journeys differently than men.
Traditional models of career development are based predominantly on the career experiences of men. It doesn’t consider that women have a different set of needs and navigate different circumstances and life contexts through the stages of their careers.
From biases starting in childhood that determine women’s approaches towards education; women’s development psychology and their relational approach to career building; the context of family and how women still are primarily responsible for managing the household space; how different genders perceive things like work and their own role in the organization; lack of relatable role models, particularly in the field of tech and other STEM domains; biases of both implicit and explicit variety prevalent in the work-environment and society — All these factors and many more play a crucial role in women’s careers shaping up the way they do. (1,2,3)
Since there is a multitude of factors that affect women’s careers and growth, it is only sensible to approach skilling with methods that are more tailored to women. There is a large difference between the participation rate of men (57.1 percent) and that of women (12.7 percent) in the labor workforce. India’s labor structure and gender disparity mean that 3 out of every 4 women do not take part in any recognized economic activity. To not take these factors into account when it comes to skilling the women workforce is detrimental both for the long-term well-being of the company and women’s career prospects. It is vital to design modules for skilling women that incorporate and acknowledge this.
Having women-specific skills and program components while skilling is vital to take the step towards gender equality within the organization.
If women’s under-representation in the upper echelons of management and a token status must be corrected, it cannot be done without a women-centered skilling program design that is deployed top to bottom at an organizational level. To unleash the full potential of women in an organization, their requirements and demands absolutely have to be at the center of how they’re skilled to take on more advanced roles within the organization.
Bespoke skilling that understands how women adapt to family pressures, how they see their careers shape up vis-à-vis their male counterparts, how they relate to their peers and the general graph of women’s career where they tend to contribute the most towards the later stages of their career must be taken into account to fix gender disparity within an organizational setting.
While obviously, the entire ecosystem at the organizational level needs to give a push and needs to come forward to make bespoke skilling a feature, more immediate ecosystems can perhaps play an even greater role. The technical mentors are the most accessible and impactful in skilling women while keeping their requirements in mind. Since they are the ones actually directly involved in skilling, significant responsibilities lies on their shoulder and the organization should enable them to do so.
Women who hold higher positions within the organization also need to walk the talk and lead by example.
Since they have gone through the struggle, they are in a much better position to understand the nuances of what it is like to be a woman rising through the ranks and therefore can better tailor skilling programs to meet the requirements of women.
Sponsorship programs are again a wonderful way for women to learn skills with their experience comes first. Forming more intimate work relations in a safe environment can then help women navigate the organization and get those high-stakes assignments that can propel them into a leadership position. Several studies have proven the efficacy of sponsorship as a tool make women a pivotal tool in organizational success.
While bespoke skilling as an idea is perhaps still in its infancy, it promises to be a way to close in some of the gender gaps that remain within the organization.
It is an idea that deserves to be deeply explored and utilized for the sake of the organization and the women who work for it. After all, a more equal workforce is a prerequisite for a strong organization. Everybody does well if the women do well.
1 Burke et al, 2002; Hochschild et al 1989 — Impact of family responsibilities on men’s and women’s careers
2 Fletcher et al, 1996; Kram, 1996 — distinctive relational emphasis may pervade women’s career development
3 Gilligan, 1982; Miller, 1976 -findings from women’s developmental psychology
4. https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-skilling-and-employment-of women-a-priority-for-indias-progress/378279
5. https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/skill-schemes-should-focus-on women/article30495858.ece
Author: Lavanya Ramamurthy works at Swiss Re and is the second runner up of VOW(Voices-of-Women), an annual women focused blogging contest presented by We-Ace, powered by IBM