13 Mar 2018, 09:02 — 6 min read
In a recent survey to measure the prevalence of women-owned businesses, India ranks 52 out of the 57 countries surveyed, retaining the same ranking it got last year. It is clear that there are certain cultural biases and financial hurdles that prevent women from fulfilling their entrepreneurial dreams.
Building up on my article 'Plugging the Leaking Pipeline', if we were to slice and dice the reasons that prevent women from pursuing the career of their dreams or running a business, we will find that these reasons have more to do with other people’s beliefs about what women should or shouldn’t do. What we see externally, is a manifestation of our inner beliefs. Once the inner world is determined by decisions, the outer world will change.
I can’t speak for other cultures; but in India, a woman’s career decisions are influenced by her family’s concern for her well-being. Security being such a major concern, usually, 'safe' colleges and 'suitable' subjects for women are chosen for women, to align with the primary role of homemaking. Even the CA or MBA students that I have met, have been discouraged by parents from taking jobs in the manufacturing sector or in other cities. This builds a risk-avoiding tendency in women. However, the successful women I interviewed for my book, were the ones who tended to study subjects in which they had a genuine interest.
According to Dr Louann Brizendine in ‘The Female Brain’, “girls arrive already wired as girls…they prefer to avoid conflict because discord puts them at odds with their urge to stay connected, to gain approval and nurture.” This tendency therefore has a biological explanation.
Gender track training starts at a very early age, focusing around behaviour with men as the fulcrum – to serve them, what kind of clothing to wear so as to not tempt them, or answer back to invite their ire and also be respectful, no matter how disrespectful they may be. This inculcates in women a mindset of dependency, affecting their leadership potential.
On the other hand, because men are more used to seeing women as dependents, they adopt a passive-aggressive style as followers. The operating system of society is designed around women as a dependent variable. The higher the woman goes, the more pronounced will be the resistance.
This aspect is so well ingrained in women, that we start believing things like, “Oh, my salary is not important – my husband / father / son / is there to support me and the family." Women tend to be less curious about what men are earning or what increment they get, and tend to benchmark their salary against other women.
You may say that the scenario has changed; but don’t forget that leaders need followers - be it customers, colleagues and stakeholders. Belief systems decide who we follow. This point also came out very clearly in my book 'Have the women left Venus?' - that women doing well in business hold independent and firm views, are clear in their own beliefs, and have experience in managing differences.
A fulcrum emerges from identity – what is my identity? Satya Nadella’s comment in the public domain about a women’s destiny reflects the deep level from which culturally-ingrained beliefs operate. A woman progresses once she knows her identity. Culture is one source of identity. Till she does not understand herself, the remote control of her life will remain in the hands of others, she will never be the mistress of her own destiny. From an identity springs self-esteem, an appreciation of which translates into self-worth and thereon into market worth.
Dr Brizendine writes, “They (baby girls) are BORN interested in emotional expression. They take meaning about themselves from a look, a touch, every reaction from the people they come into contact with.” Their sense of self is inextricably mixed up with emotions that they see reflected on others’ faces. That is the key to her emotional strength, her capacity for compassion, and her ability to connect. This fact, too, has been validated in the interviews I carried out for my book.
All this talk of female empowerment assumes that women need to ‘be freed’, which is counterproductive. That is why women who may be earning are still dependent in their thinking. However, an understanding of self-identity will lead to a woman being able to ‘stand alone’.
‘Stand alone’, as an individual, contributing her uniqueness to a collaborative world.
To uncover your own intuitive source of leadership power, read my book Have the women left Venus?
To explore business opportunities, link with me by clicking on the 'Invite' button on my eBiz Card.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, official policy or position of GlobalLinker.
Posted byGeet Mala Jalota
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