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Building women leadership pipeline

  Jul 26 2022 | admin

What happens when women try to move from entry-level to managerial jobs:

In the financial year 2022, there was no women CFO in India in the list of companies comprising stock index Nifty 50. Also, women held the position of chief financial officer (CFO) in less than 5% of the Nifty 250 companies. 

Multiple studies have concluded that companies with diverse leadership outperform their less inclusive peers. Yet the number of women CEOs and CFOs remain abysmally low.

How do we solve this conundrum?

What is a women leadership pipeline?    

Women leadership pipeline is filled with talented, ambitious women at every stage of the journey. It allows women to excel in the workplace through holistic development from junior to mid-level to managerial to corporate boards. 

Building a pipeline helps identify potential women leaders in the earlier stages of their careers. It promotes a pool of talented women at every level, ready to don the chair in a management role whenever required.

It helps in retaining more and more women in the mid to senior level roles where majority of drop offs take place.

It is about developing women’s holistic ability to be self-confident, skillful, recognising their talents and advocating for them, and actively removing barriers to their growth from professional to personal spaces. 

Why is it important to have more women leaders onboard?

Having more women in leadership roles brings diverse perspectives on the table. It promotes an inclusive work culture and boosts equity in a real sense.

But research shows there’s a more compelling reason. 

A study conducted by McKinsey & Company “Women Matter” (2007),  identifies nine criteria to measure organisational performance. It shows that companies with more than three women in their management had better effectiveness regarding the organisational dimensions than companies with less women in management (refer Figure 1).

Figure 1: The image depicts the positive effects of gender diversity can be seen most prominently in the work environment, values and vision.

The report also mentioned that having more women in management roles is better financially as there is a 3 percent higher return on equity per year.

What issues women face while climbing the ladder?

The factors that hinder women’s career development range from individual to organisational to societal factors. 


  • Not being confident enough– Not raising hands for an opportunity, not advocating oneself and not applying for jobs are factors that are common across workplaces. It is surprising to know that men with 2 years of experience out-perform women with 6 years of experience.
  • Don’t leave before you leave– Women start dropping out much before the maternity break due to societal conditioning. Even before she’s married, or has a partner, she will mentally prepare herself to leave her career for family care or child-rearing.  In her book Lean in , Sheryl Sandberg says “don’t leave before you leave”. 


  • “She is a good woman but bad leader” stereotype– Stereotypes about women on one hand are that they are emotional beings, not as intelligent as men, have soft nature therefore can’t close the deal. Whereas women in leadership positions are considered pushy and aggressive. What makes you a good leader makes you an unlikable woman. 
  • Double-burden syndrome”– Working women also have to take primary responsibility for domestic duties. It becomes a barrier to their success. Indian women spent 243 minutes a day on domestic chores and household work, almost 10 times the 25 minutes that the average Indian man did in 2019.


Women in leadership roles
Figure 2: Global Gender Gap Report 2022: The gap in the infrastructure industry shows in practical life where finding clean toilets for women in India is largely an unaddressed issue.
  • Women are thought of as avoiding risk– Research shows that women are seen as less competent, vision imparied and not wanting to take up that challenging role. However, more often than not, this is a gender bias. If that was true, we would not be witnessing the increasing use of the terminology “mompreneur” – which is more risky than entrepreneurship. 
  • Unconscious bias– Organisations have performance evaluation bias, for example, while men are promoted based on potential, women get a leg up based on past accomplishments.

Here are 5 ways to promote women in the leadership pipeline- 

  • Have clear targets to achieve- Go beyond vocal commitment by cascading a clear business case for change. Set inclusion targets, track them consistently, share results, and hold leaders/managers accountable for identifying high potential women. 
  • Create formal sponsorship networks- To help women navigate promotions at their organisations. Allow for mentorship but actively promoting sponsorships at all-levels is inevitable.
  • Create work culture that suits the modern times- Incorporate flexibility programs with promotions. Supporting women in reintegration after leaves of absence through formal internship and returnee programs. As Melinda Gates recently said, we must stop sending our daughters to workplaces designed for our dads. 
  • Conduct workshops on unconscious bias– Increase awareness on the bias with formal training programs for both men and women. Implement systems to de-bias recruitment, evaluation (giving credit to women for their skill) and promotion decisions.
  • Ask women to meet the corporates at the crossroad- Imbibe confidence in women to have credibility and conviction to make their ideas and opinions heard and trusted.  Just like a teacher’s influence, ideas, and expectations affect her student academic achievements. A woman’s career growth depends on the workplace environment.

Do you remember how the world wasn’t ready to provide flexible working hours in pre-covid era? Today, we are thriving on the hybrid model of working.

It’s the same with women in leadership positions. Once you reap its benefit, once you see the power of inclusiveness, diversity and equity, there is no going back.

– Written by Krati Gupta

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