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Continued from Practice……

In the third part, we look at another important aspect; women in leadership. And we see the findings of McKinsey Report. There are several issues that have been highlighted. Senior women who are in leadership role are under enormous pressure. Their performance is under more critical review and they are subjected to more scrutiny than counterpart men. In the first place, men are not too happy to give women leadership roles. In Pakistan particularly, women are seen as women only, not as seniors and leaders. If at all they land a senior position, their every move remains under microscope and their slightest misjudgment or misstep invites immediate and unduly harsh criticism.

Some of the issues highlighted in McKinsey report may not resonate well with us. We may think we do not have enough employment for men, why should we worry about women? We may also think that women in the workplace is not our priority. We may believe women in the workplace is a necessity only for the west, not us.

All of the above is partially true. The number of working women may be limited in relatively well-to-do, urbanized families, but it is commonplace among lower social strata. Women are working in almost equal numbers. On merit, girls are beating boys at every subject and every discipline. More than 60% seats in every educational institution of higher education are going to girls. This has been happening for several years now. Most of these qualified women get to workplace, although some do not. In teaching for instance, women have almost outplaced men. More or less, a similar situation is there in medicine. Women are fast getting into digital space, marketing, business development and retail. Human resource management is now almost entirely occupied by women. Women are already holding leadership positions in some disciplines. They have acquired this place on merit and after great effort. The current challenge is the fear of losing these gains.

Senior-level women are under the same pressure to perform right now as senior-level men—and then some. Women are often held to higher performance standards than men, and they may be more likely to take the blame for failure—so when the stakes are high, as they are now, senior-level women could face higher criticism and harsher judgement. Senior-level women are also nearly twice as likely as women overall to be “Onlys”—the only or one of the only women in the room at work. That comes with its own challenges: women who are Onlys are more likely than women who work with other women to feel pressure to work more and to experience microaggressions, including needing to provide additional evidence of their competence.

Not surprisingly, senior-level women are significantly more likely than men at the same level to feel burned out, under pressure to work more, and “as though they have to be ‘always on.’” And they are 1.5 times more likely than senior-level men to think about downshifting their role or leaving the workforce because of COVID-19. Almost three in four cite burnout as a main reason.

The possibility of losing so many senior-level women is alarming for several reasons.

The financial consequences could be significant. Research shows that company profits and share performance can be close to 50 percent higher when women are well represented at the top. Beyond that, senior-level women have a vast and meaningful impact on a company’s culture. They are more likely than senior-level men to embrace employee-friendly policies and programs and to champion racial and gender diversity: more than 50 percent of senior-level women say they consistently take a public stand for gender and racial equity at work, compared with about 40 percent of senior-level men. And they’re more likely to mentor and sponsor other women: 38 percent of senior-level women currently mentor or sponsor one or more women of color, compared with only 23 percent of senior-level men.

If women leaders leave the workforce, women at all levels could lose their most powerful allies and champions.

This is the real challenge. If women are forced to quit, it will reverse the progress which is made till now. It will also slow down further progress for women. As the report says, women shall lose role models and support system.

To be Continued……

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