Prerna Puri is a mompreneur and a fashion designer from NIFT. She has worked as a fashion designer/stylist and interior design consultant before her role as a mother and entrepreneur. Driving inspiration, motivation, courage, support and constant strength from her family, Prerna has created a revolutionary product.
There’s a popular old saying that goes, “a business is as good as the people it hires.” It holds especially true for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups, where the staff strength is much less than that of a larger organisation. Hence, in these companies ensuring that a diverse employee base is engaged gains paramount importance. Considering this scenario, the discourse around gender diversity, which had otherwise paled compared to other socio-economic issues, is back in the limelight. Organisations can make better business decisions if there is diversity in thinking – and that necessitates equal gender participation.
In an erstwhile male-dominated world, women are now increasingly acquiring top and mid-level positions of leadership. Businesses tend to succeed and achieve exponential growth with diversity in high-level positions, adding a different and unique thought process to the whole situation.
Back in the day, fields like PR and IT were majorly steered by male business leaders. Despite calls to change the way higher tiers of businesses are run, it’s disheartening to see that while 85% of public relations professionals are women, only 59% of this lot make up the management positions. Merely 30% of global PR agencies are helmed by women.
Evolution of Women’s Position in Business
The right mix of equality and inclusion makes for good business sense. Founders of start-ups know the importance of having a fair representation of women in leadership roles and other significant functions in an organisation and hence strive to create a culture that promotes fair pay and equal treatment for all. The positive impact of gender diversity and inclusion can be seen in how the organisation fares and hence, sends out the right message to the employees.
Diversity is crucial for any organisation as it enables it to adapt to a fast-changing and ever-evolving environment. It also leads to greater employee loyalty, enthusiasm, and transparency in the operations of the company. Besides, it lends a fresh outlook to perspectives, culture, gender, age, and experiences.
In the olden times, women were mainly responsible for nurturing and supporting roles such as teachers, nurses, and caretakers. However, as feminist movements rose to the scene, laws for equal opportunities were enacted, and service industries grew. Now, women could access and enter a much broader range of job opportunities. This is how they forayed into the business world. Consequently, nowadays, more women can be seen occupying roles that men once solely filled. And with the rise of group forums, organisations and collectives which focus on boosting women leadership, it is quite easy to see why more women feel empowered enough to venture into these once male-dominated sectors.
Studies have shown that increasing the strength of women in a company can lead to the growth of a nation’s GDP by nearly as much as 21%. As per more recent statistics, in the year 2019, the number of countries where women held the highest executive power position was at an all-time high.
How Start-Ups are Emerging as Game-Changers
Certain key factors prevent women from reaching decision-making vital positions in the corporate sector. Typical work culture in a start-up that requires an employee to be available “anytime, anywhere” did not ideally suit women, especially those eyeing senior positions. Then there was the issue of “leaky pipeline”, which indicates the tendency of the proportion of females to decline as the management grade in a company rises. The “glass ceiling” also keeps women from cutting leadership positions in fields like HR, Finance, and administration, as these are considered less strategic and much less likely for women to acquire the CEO and boardroom positions.
Recent findings show that fewer than a third of organisations surveyed had achieved the vital mass of one-third of women board members. Out of these, about one in eight reported that even now, they had all-male boardrooms. Start-ups understand that women are gifted with natural abilities and life skills that come in handy while running a successful business. They are also great at networking and possess good negotiating skills. Many women are also mothers – a fact that’s testimony to their multitasking skills, making them good at delegating and budgeting. This presents a strong case for companies to continue championing women in business and help them thrive in this sector.
We are living in an age of automation and artificial intelligence. Tech jobs, especially those in start-ups, offer an advancement of economic opportunities to women. The majority of them have already transitioned into highly skilled roles, as start-ups have fewer employees. Thus, the structure of start-ups and small companies automatically present multiple opportunities for women to be elevated to leadership positions. Being highly mobile – both physically and mentally – along with a tech-savvy edge is the key to placing more women in leadership positions within an organisation.
Most SMEs and start-ups keep parameters like higher education, global exposure, and higher emotional quotient when hiring and women fit the bill completely. The world is witnessing a mushrooming of start-ups where the majority workforce is being absorbed. It is highly anticipated that women hiring in organisations, especially in start-ups, will be the dominant trend in the foreseeable future.
Generally, several reasons would account for the failure of a start-up but overlooking the importance of an HR strategy and adopting one that is not aligned to gender diversity and inclusivity is a major failure of start-ups. In most cases, businesses fail because they falter in selecting the right set of people to work for them. Therefore, a sound HR solution can solve this problem as hiring the right people focusing on the onboarding of a sizable number of females will go a long way in ensuring more successes than failures.
Gender diversity holds immense promise for start-ups and can prove to be a huge asset for their success in general. Unfortunately, the long list of urgent priorities on a new CEO’s list has diverse hiring at the bottom of the pile. Therefore, It is relegated to the dark recesses of an organisation. However, this is changing now with more start-ups rising on the scene that openly welcomes women leaders, thus recognising the right potential and overcoming deep-rooted gender perceptions.