Nepal | July 03, 2020

Women empowerment: Many barriers

Prativa Subedi
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The gender difference and lack of women empowerment has hampered everyone’s life. The time has come to understand that empowering women not only empowers them for well-being but also yields higher competitive advantage to smart companies and society in general

Women rights. Illustration: Ratna Sagar Shrestha/THT

Women empowerment has been an issue of great concern for the whole world for about decades now. Despite women exhibiting progress in sectors from technology to education, workforce and possessing high potentialities, they are still under-represented in the key leadership positions of organizations all over the world.  Even though diverse and inclusive leadership teams have greater advantage, gender parity is still rare at the highest decision making position. The case is even more relevant in case of developing countries like Nepal. So, it is important for us to understand why this paradox persists and what can be done in order to overcome such situation.

Women are mostly engaged as employees in various organizations even if they represent the majority of the employees. Even in such a difficult situation, women aspire to lead, they aspire to make progress independently and they aspire to utilize their ability to the fullest. Regardless of that, there is something which is still holding such women back and they find it difficult to obtain leadership positions. So, women empowerment leading to effective leadership is required for the well-being of women as well as the well-being of the organization as a whole.

There are many barriers for women to overcome before they can get into leadership positions. The roles that individuals, managers, males as well as female colleagues play should be well defined and earnestly implemented to help women to bridge the gender leadership gap and to reap the benefits of diverse leadership team. Women should have support group of peers so as to create safe identity workspaces. Also, men and women should be educated regarding the second generation gender bias so as to help women internalize the leadership identity within themselves. Also, educating women about various barriers to leadership will help them make informal choices in their path of professional achievement. Adding another dimension, people of today should be aware of the fact that today women represent the majority of higher education graduates and hence they cannot be undermined. Most importantly, everyone should be aware of the tremendous potential that they have which can bring out positive results in any organization.

Contrary to this, many managers of today are not aware of the differences between how men and women work. The executives of today have been raised in order to ignore gender differences rather than becoming skilled in managing them. They believe that only competence counts and for that men are the most reliable sources. They are not used to thinking that balance between gender roles itself may contribute to better performance, innovation and sustainable growth. Even though no one is against balancing, many men and women alike are uncomfortable with targeted quotas for women. Men feel that such quotas are deeply unfair whereas women are insulted at the idea of being perceived as getting promotions only because of their gender rather than their qualities. Hence, a proper balance between roles of men and women is required for better motivation.

The external watchdog groups, focused on corporate performance and governance, can be powerful amplifiers for fostering the leadership qualities which enhance women’s participation in the workplace. The focus should be given on measuring and celebrating what best companies and CEOs do and publicising and shaming those who do not deliver their work properly. In the name of empowering women, reward should not be provided just because they are women and special preference should be given to them. Proper performance appraisal system should be followed in each and every organization so that right person gets the reward and recognition of their good work. This encourages all the employees including women, the neglected candidates of many organizations, to perform better so that their knowledge, experiences, expertise and talents are utilized in an effective way.

It is not that women should only handle all the leadership positions in an organization. But there should be a favourable environment for both males and females irrespective of their differences so that the best person reaches the highest position.

The world is living through one of its most historic and peaceful revolutions: the gradual rebalancing of the gender’s social, educational and organizational power. This rise and its consequences in the coming days needs to be better understood and managed by most businesses, managers and concerned authorities. The gender difference and lack of women empowerment has hampered everyone’s life. The time has come to understand that empowering women not only empowers them for well-being but also yields higher competitive advantage to smart companies and society in general. Hence, women empowerment and leadership, as being one of the major concerns for today’s organizations, should be handled effectively for obtaining competitive advantage and for sustainable development of organization, society and nation in the long run.

A version of this article appears in print on July 12, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.

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