Unlocking the Potential of Women Leadership is something I am super passionate about.
In this extract of a Radio Lotus, Walk the Talk Interview with the legendary Alan Khan, I talk about a lack of confidence, buy-in and support being part of the reason for not seeing a balance of women in leadership and what employers can do to start unlocking the potential of women leadership.
It’s time to balance the scales of leadership, empower women to succeed and create an environment that enables women leadership.
Unlocking the potential of women leadership makes business sense, isn’t it time for business to make sense of it?
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Listen to the full Lotus FM, Walk the Talk Interview 👇
In saying all of this, Usha, I know that you are naturally innovative, you're intuitive and despite the odds you are in your work and the stuff you're writing you're driving concepts, projects and activity forward. I know you're also passionate about unlocking women's potential. Tell me more about that, especially in this day and age, why do we have to be making a concerted effort to drive the potential of women in our country?
Alan, you know something, it hasn't always been that way. If I look at my own journey I entered the corporate workplace straight out of university and I worked really hard, I mean I was at the grind and I took promotion after promotion and I was at the firm for 16 years and in that 16 years I became a director, one of a handful of directors in our region, the first non-white, female director in the region. So I mean really big leaps and along that journey I never once felt that I was struggling as a woman in the workplace. I just ran at full pace and took up every opportunity that came and I was very headstrong in terms of what I wanted to achieve. And when I left corporate, a lot of people said, "Are you going to work in the women empowerment space?" And I said but women don't need empowerment in that way, women can do it for themselves.
I mean we own the space we can do it for ourselves. In the last five years I have worked a lot with women and I found that, yes, I still believe women have potential beyond that which we're seeing in the workplace, but there's a lack of confidence, there's a lack of buy-in and support, there's a lack of the structures that they need to unleash their own potential.
All of that contributes to you seeing large pools of women just holding themselves back. They're not comfortable with re-entering the workplace after having children, they're not comfortable with the issue of how do I balance my family life and my work life and the employers are not fully understanding of what women need for them to deliver their fullest, their absolute best in the workplace and so I work a lot with women now just to help them and I talk about changing your mindset, shifting the context, allowing women to shift the context, helping them to do so and as soon as you flip that switch, women are running toward promotions and increases and adding value and contribution in the workplace and then doing the same at home as well because they realise that they can.
Now if employers understood how to unlock that same value from the pool of women that are in the workplace as they unlock their value and push them to get into the boardroom you'll find so many more positive, balanced decisions being made in the boardrooms. And when we're taking balanced decisions in boardrooms, it's going to create massive impact and value to all of the stakeholders for every company and that's why I work actively with women, just to help them to shift the context and take up those opportunities.
So I was reading an article that was published I think just over a year ago and a wise woman who was quoted in the article said, "Most women find it harder than men to appreciate the value they bring to the table and even harder to tell others about this value. And one thing is for certain, in this busy world if you don't shine a light on your true worth, it is nearly impossible for others to see it. One of my goals is to help women have the courage to turn on that spotlight."
It's Usha Maharaj's words. It's your words, right which I think is brilliant. So, you said most women find it harder than men to appreciate the value they bring to the table, why do you think that's the case?
I think that's because men and women are cut from a different fabric. Women, most women, in the workplace experience the same thing. When you're confident in the workplace and you're shining a light on your achievements, it looks like arrogance. And when it looks like arrogance, it's a complete turn off and then you don't do it anymore.
So how do we enable women to shine that spotlight on themselves to build up that level of confidence, to create the language that they should be using in the workplace. And then to give them that sense of I'm bold enough to do this, to say this and to shine the light on myself because if I don't, nobody else will. And because women are not doing that enough, you're finding that they're not making it into the boardroom, they're not taking up the promotions, they're not getting the salary increases they deserve, that are on par with the men in the workplace.
In your experience you think men are threatened by successful women in the workplace?
I think men are threatened by a lot of things, I don't think that necessarily they're threatened by successful women in the workplace. I just think that they haven't experienced it enough to know how to create the space for it to belong in the workplace, and to enable it. So I really don't think that it's a matter of them being threatened by it. I just think that they haven't seen it enough and they haven't enabled it enough.
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