Every woman carries ambition and dedication within, just like her male counterpart. Yet, unseen forces pull her back. Let’s unravel the emotions behind these barriers and pave the way for women to soar.

“I will get judged if I ask questions.”

“I will do it on my own and prove myself.”

“Career can wait. My baby is my priority.”

“I feel guilty for not being able to spend time with my child.”

“I am afraid my colleagues will find out I am not good enough.”

Most working women—juggling their ambitions and motherhood—face tough challenges in the quest for success. They’ve had to pause careers and battle self-doubt, highlighting the struggle to break through invisible barriers. But breaking the glass ceiling is not as easy as it sounds.

A 2023 Women in the Workplace study by McKinsey and Company and LeanIn.Org revealed that nine out of 10 women wanted to move up in their careers. However, a significant hurdle called the ‘broken rung’ made reaching leadership roles challenging. The term refers to the corporate ladder with a missing or damaged rung that slows down women aiming for the top.

The reality check is harsh: only 10.4% of women hold leadership positions in major U.S. companies. The 2023 Fortune 500 list ranking stated that only 52 companies were led by female CEOs. While the statistics show some improvement from previous years, the progress is frustratingly slow.

This requires companies and leaders to step up and create a workplace that supports and encourages women to stay on their career paths. Tearing down barriers, fixing the broken rungs, and ensuring everyone has an equal shot at leadership can help speed up progress and empower women to take their rightful place at the top.

A Handbook for Aspiring Women Leaders

Though the echoes of International Women’s Day have faded, the insightful discussions in Mumbai at the ETCIO Roundtable, sponsored by Newgen, continue to linger in my thoughts.

When I entered the boardroom, I felt an overwhelming sense of inspiration and encouragement. Surrounded by enthusiastic and powerful leaders, the air whispered the story of their resilience and passion. In that room, I could feel the collective strength of leaders working together to ease the burdens holding women from excelling in their careers. It was a moment that left me with five simple yet powerful lessons for any leader or ambitious woman climbing the corporate ladder.

Breaking Free from Constraints

Women have the potential to achieve the career path they have charted out for themselves. Hard work is an inherent trait, yet the greatest hurdle arises when they show reluctance in seeking assistance or are undemanding. Runki Goswami, Global Head of Marketing and CMO of Newgen, said that the power to shape one’s career rests squarely with women. “It’s acceptable to prioritize family and equally acceptable to focus on your work. However, the crucial thing is to persevere,” she emphasized.

Agreeing with Goswami’s perspective, Babitha BP, Vice President – System Audit of Reserve Bank Information Technology (ReBIT), promptly added, “Women limit themselves.” In her assertion, she spoke the hidden truth that women can achieve anything they desire if they cast aside self-imposed limitations.

Saying No to Guilt

Women carry a lot of guilt that can be highly devastating. Responsibilities can lead to the fear of letting their loved ones down. However, Moumita Sarker, Partner Consulting at Deloitte, said women must overcome guilt, whether about being responsible for household chores or caring for children alone. “The amount of guilt a woman carries is immense. We are strong, and we have proved we are stronger. Women need to let go of certain things and focus on their health. Women shouldn’t shy away from asking for help,” she added.

Nurturing a Supportive Environment

When women embark on starting a family, many often find themselves at a crossroads. An accommodating ecosystem at the workplace, complete with daycare facilities and a flexible hybrid work culture, acts as a catalyst, urging them to hold firm to their aspirations. Mehjabeen Taj Aalam, CIO at RPG Group, said that while the representation of women is adequate at junior to middle levels, the funnel becomes narrower as they ascend the corporate ladder. “The social burden of managing a family is heavier on women than men. This burden significantly diminishes time and bandwidth for networking or seizing opportunities that demand time or travel. It has nothing to do with their acumen or aptitude,” she shared. Aalam asserted that women could navigate these challenges with much more ease with the right support.

Radhika Saigal, Partner – Digital & Technology Transformation at EY, said that similar experiences of women leaders can encourage aspiring female leaders to follow their ambitions. “Ensuring the right support and flexibility will help them reach their maximum capacity,” she shared.

The times are changing, and Ritesh Varma, Head of Business Solutions Group at Newgen, said it lies in how we want our children to be seen. “Organizations must welcome new additions as family.”

Championing Sponsorship and Role Modeling for Women

The early stages of a woman’s journey often lack the crucial support she needs. Ashima Seth, Global Head of IT Applications, PMO IT, and Regional IT Head at UPL, said that the change begins with women supporting women. “As leaders, it’s our responsibility to create more leaders. We should guide women into the workforce and provide mentorship,” she said.

In alignment with Seth’s perspective, Toral Doshi, Partner-Financial Services, Consulting at EY, said that the responsibility rests on the shoulders of current leaders who have navigated their way up the corporate ladder. “We must ensure our junior colleagues don’t face the same struggles we did,” she passionately added.

Despite the challenges, Sunil Pandita, Head of Business, India, and South Asia at Newgen, was hopeful about the future of women leaders. “Innovation is taking root at the grassroots level, where women drive banking inclusion and self-help groups. I am confident that the gap will narrow in a few years,” he optimistically declared.

Empowering Through Upskilling

In every evolving business landscape, staying abreast of new developments and technology is the need of the hour. Shweta Singh, Chief Data Officer at Tata AIA Life Insurance, said it’s important to keep learning. “Understanding the female colleagues, mentoring them, and making a conscious effort in their learning journey can make a big difference,” she added.

Adding to this sentiment, Pradnya Manwar, Sr. Director – Cybersecurity and Information Security at Sutherland Global Services, pointed out that some women hesitate to plan their career path or upskill due to the lack of support. “Women should learn to assert themselves, demand opportunities, and let their work resonate louder than words,” she added.

In this journey of personal and professional growth, strong leaders proved that an unstoppable zeal could help move forward despite challenges. Their inspiring stories will help women break down the hidden barriers holding them back in the corporate world.

The message is clear as we explore the importance of mentorship, supportive environments, and continuous learning. It’s time to unite to ensure that every woman’s journey to success symbolizes resilience and inspiration.

You might be interested in

Omnichannel Customer Engagement – A Game Changer for Insurance

Low-code Solutions in Healthcare

Modernize Healthcare Space with the Power of AI and Data Science

5 Use Cases of Intelligent Process Automation in Insurance

Empowering Modern Enterprises with Smart Content Strategies

Dynamic Case Management to Manage Emergent Scenarios and Unique Ad Hoc Cases

You might be interested in
Omni-channel Customer Engagement


Omnichannel Customer Engagement – A Game Changer for Insurance

Low Code Solutions in Healthcare

Low Code

Low-code Solutions in Healthcare


Modernize Healthcare Space with the Power of AI and Data Science

Intelligent Process Automation

Intelligent process automation

5 Use Cases of Intelligent Process Automation in Insurance

icon-angle icon-bars icon-times