Women in Leadership: Impact and Challenges

Women in Leadership: Impact and Challenges
    Arun Bala
    Counsellor and Trainer

    The headlines from leading newspapers were all about huge success of women at the recently declared results of the Indian Civil Services exam. 4 top ranked and 34 of the elite IAS & IPS jobs is certainly no mean achievement in an area where male domination was a given not so long ago. It is heartening to note that this is no isolated phenomenon. Success stories of women in professional space abound in the new and growing India where almost every sector be it health, tech, engineering, entrepreneurship, sports or even politics. Every one of these can boast of illustrious performance and participation by the fair sex.

    While some of the great names of women leaders in the Indian context are Indira Gandhi, Indira Nooyi, Kiran Bedi, Tessy Thomas, Sushma Swaraj, Maithili Raj, Sudha Murthy; this is a list that is growing at a frantic pace as new leaders are born everyday. The drive for women empowerment is in high and women are rocking.

    Globally it is being realized that diverse organizations give better outcomes than the monochromatic one and it enhances the future for the overall growth and success of the organization. To understand this, one needs to get a little grounding in leadership styles.

    Literature defines a leader as an individual who has vision, commitment, skills and drive to lead a set of people towards achieving a desired goal. The leadership style is a behavioral pattern that a leader adopts to influence, motivate and give direction to the followers. The style is important since It impacts how plans are implemented, decisions are made and the overall performance of the employees is achieved.

    It has been observed that women and men, instinctively, follow different styles of leadership. Men display ‘Agentic’ qualities incorporating autocratic and directive style typically focusing on system, structure, task and outcomes. Women, on the other hand, display communal qualities incorporating a democratic and participative style typically focusing on inclusiveness, relationships and overall wellbeing of the employees. Men, therefore, display the transactional style while women exhibit the transformational style. The transactional style is primarily based on processes and control while transformational style centers on coordination, collaboration and cooperation.

    Effective Implementation of Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion in Organisations
    With more women assuming leadership positions across workforce a shift is clearly seen by management experts from ‘command and control’ to ‘inclusive and empowering’ leadership pattern. This is a welcome change and is set to transform our workspaces of future.

    Women leaders embody participative and democratic leadership styles. They inspire team members to utilize their skills and experience and encourage them to share their opinions and ideas. They are team oriented, inclusive and collaborative. This leads to high levels of participation, productivity and job satisfaction.

    Research shows women possess unique qualities that make them highly effective leaders.

    Some Of The Qualities Of Great Women Leaders Are:

    Effective Communication Skills: Women leaders maintain an open line of communication. They are good at communicating, discussing and listening. They discuss the situations and issues with their team members and use their inputs to make higher quality of decisions. It is no wonder that they can handle crisis situations in a more calm and effective manner.

    Empathy: Empathy comes naturally to women. Being mothers and caretakers they are naturally patient, aware and considerate to others and self. Women have shown that empathy and decisiveness go together to create a healthy working environment.

    Emotionally Intelligent: Women are better at understanding the emotional makeup of people and thereby they are good at building relationships & trust. Collaborating more effectively, they understand their own strengths and also acknowledge the strengths in others to improve efficiency and performance.

    Resilient: Women are strong & capable. They trust their own abilities to face challenges for fulfilling their aspirations. They are perceptive and can handle themselves in all kinds of situations. They have the ability to bounce back up from adversities.

    Work Life Balance: Women are good at multitasking. They can manage multiple responsibilities by prioritizing tasks and maintaining a sound work life balance.

    Women leaders help improve interpersonal relationships, increase team wellbeing and develop a culture of inclusion in organizations.

    Challenges Faced By Women Leaders

    It is evident that the percentage of women representation across the sectors has gone up considerably, it is still a long way for them to occupy leadership roles in the right ratio. There are only 29% women in senior positions worldwide. According to a report by Forbes India, women currently hold 17% board positions in corporate India but only 11% leadership roles. Women still face a lot of challenges that hinder their growth and progress when it comes to leadership roles. Some of these challenges are enumerated here as under.

    Report By Forbes India That Women Currently Hold Only 11% of Leadership Role
    Gender Bias:
    Stereotype beliefs that power equates to muscle and men are more suitable in situations that demand command, control, and work under pressure conditions. Women in similar domain will be looked at as bossy and unapproachable.

    Also, it is assumed that women are not suitable in work areas that predominantly consists of male work force. It’s taken as being unsafe and undesirable. There is enough evidence to prove that women can work under pressure, have the ability to command and control. This is clearly seen as we see women in Armed forces, Police, civil services and such.

    Lack Of Opportunities: Studies by DDI suggest that men are 13% more likely to be recommended for training programs and have 19% chances of taking up leadership roles as compared to women. Organizations should evaluate the performance and the potential of each candidate without gender bias. This will give women opportunities to step up the ladder and aspire for leadership roles.

    Lack Of Flexibility: The preconceived notion that women are responsible towards managing home and family irrespective of her working profession puts extra burden on women and they get burnt out, thereby compromising on their professional GROWTH. Organizations need to recognize this and give women more flexible working hours and options of work from home.

    Sexual Harressment: women are judged and harassed at wok place by their male counterparts. Casual comments, touch or even inappropriate proximity by male peers can emotionally impact women in a negative way. Organizations should implement POSH TRAINING and strict anti-harassment policies.

    Impostor Syndrome: As a result of all the above mentioned challenges women are constantly under pressure to prove themselves. This often leads to self -doubt and a feeling of inadequacy. Women have to learn to be assertive, acknowledge their strengths and have a voice to put across their thoughts. organizations need to make sure that all the polices are fair and transparent towards all employees irrespective of the gender.


    To promote overall growth and success, organizations should implement effective diversity, equality and inclusion strategies. Women leadership styles are productive, help improve the efficiency and overall wellbeing of the employees. With equal opportunities, women will be in a position to take up more leadership roles and overcome the imposter syndrome. For improved productivity and success, organizations will need to incorporate different styles of leadership and have transparency in its implementation.

    One response to “Women in Leadership: Impact and Challenges”

    1. hari says:

      Excellent Arun Bala ji.. It’s wonderful…. Great article

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