30 Nov Women in Leadership: Breaking the Rice Paper Ceiling
Despite being roughly 50% of the population, women are not accurately represented amongst the number of CEOs and board members of companies around the world. According to a recent Grant Thornton survey, Indonesia has made great strides towards achieving gender equality, with 46% of senior management roles being held by women, however, we have still a ways to go before completely breaking through the ‘rice paper ceiling’, because only 6% of the Indonesian companies surveyed had female CEOs. According to research by McKinsey, if more women in Indonesia take on roles in productive sectors, it has the potential to increase its GDP by $135 billion. Increasing participation by women is not only beneficial to the economy overall but also within companies. A more even gender-split in leadership positions in a corporate setting has shown to result in ‘increased productivity, greater innovation, better products, better decision making, and higher employee retention and satisfaction,’ according to a report by Morgan Stanley. Having more women in leadership roles increases the diversity of thought processes, and a more diverse and comprehensive thought process will lead to a better understanding of what the consumer base needs.
Increasing female participation in the labor force is key to growth, yet in Indonesia, a society that enforces false perceptions such as how pursuing their dreams will disrupt their home life, perpetuates a culture of women underestimating and underselling their skills and potential, and a widely-held mindset that men would make more competent leaders, act as barriers in the way of women pursuing their dreams and aspirations. The lack of female leadership also means that women in the early stages of their career lack support networks, which prevent women from getting proper guidance in climbing up the corporate ladder.
The female leader acts as both a behavior change catalyst as well as a cultural symbol within the company. Having more women in leadership roles indicates to job seeking women that the company considers diversity a priority, that it values diversity in the workplace, and chooses leaders based off merit rather than societal perceptions of gender roles. The female leader will also act as a behavior catalyst, in that the more diverse and comprehensive decision-making process that results from having more women in top management will trickle down the ranks of the company.
Increasing gender equality in top management will take dedication and time, and important steps to take are to ensure that women are not just adequately supported and mentored, but also protected from workplace harassment, i.e creating a safe environment for women to flourish, and encouraged to pursue their entrepreneurial ideas and career aspirations.