For ambitious Indian women, the dream of becoming a successful woman CEO in India is becoming more of a reality. Talented and innovative women are starting to finally take the top jobs at big companies.
Society as a whole is sitting up and taking notice of how women contribute towards industries across the globe. There remains, however, a certain stigma attached to women who wish to progress up the career ladder.
Women are expected to adhere to a certain image of a mother and nurturer rather than someone who can lead a company.
In industries such as sales and consumer finances, female business executives have been compelled to adopt a more aggressive style of management, in keeping with their male counterparts.
While the culture of these industries allows for aggressive, even bullying males, the notion of women CEOs adopting the same attitude can draw all kinds of ire and hostility.
This is because society, hence companies, hold women in leadership roles to a different standard than male leaders. There are, however, other ways of getting to the top without adopting destructive, male-centred attitudes.
How To Become A Successful Female CEO In India
Here are six tips that will show corporate women how to become a CEO so that women in India can get to the top of their profession.
1. Get An Education
Easier said than done, but having a decent education under your belt is likely to get you noticed. Many employers look for executive potential from outside their organization, and often it is a good idea to show the best of your knowledge, front and centre.
Over half of all Fortune 100 CEOs have a degree in business. So if you plan on getting to the top, it’s best to start early and enrol in an MBA, even if it’s an online MBA course.
If you’ve already got a degree or equivalent academic discipline, you might consider taking a course in business and also do courses for women in leadership.
For most shareholders, showing that you have a good, academic grasp of how business is run will put you in the running for the top spot.
However, education is not all about formal education. It also means that you should continue learning even after you graduate, through various alternative methods.
For example, you could take online courses, webinars, seminars, do a women’s leadership program, work with mentors and coaches who can teach you how to become a CEO.
Learning should never stop after school. This is the age of the life-long learner and, as women business leaders, it’s crucial that you continue learning so that you can always stay current on the latest trends and news in your industry.
2. Preparation Is Everything
It can be intimidating for a woman in a conference venue full of men. There’s a sense of otherness that you somehow don’t belong there and, if we allow it, very soon imposter syndrome can settle in.
When that happens, it’s important to remind yourself that women-led companies perform three times better than the S&P 500.
So if you feel sometimes, that you don’t belong, remember that companies with female CEOs make more money and of all the good things you bring to the table just by virtue of being a woman.
Before you even get into the upper echelons of business you should start thinking like a CEO. This means really getting into the nuts and bolts of what makes your industry work.
You should spend time analyzing the business strategy and structure, get to know the jobs of key people and how you can benefit them.
Coming up with realistic suggestions on where the business can be improved will soon have the key members of staff taking notice, and signal your career trajectory.
Understanding the business inside and out also provides reassurance to your colleagues and associates that you know what you’re doing.
Often we forget that CEOs are supported by a large number of people, and getting a team behind you early means you’re likely to have an easier transition as you climb the ladder.
3. Take Ownership Of Your Career
It’s important to remember, that though you may deserve to be CEO, even the very best have to jump through hurdles to get there.
If you’re in a male-dominated sphere, you may find that a few extra hurdles have been laid out for you that wasn’t there for anyone else (the stigma of being a ‘diversity hire’, for instance).
With this in mind, it’s probably a good idea to settle in and expect a long ride. Though we’re working in a generally more tolerant age, there are those who still find it difficult to grasp the idea of a woman carving out a career.
Often these influences might not come from within your organization but in your personal circle, perhaps elderly relatives or friends.
In these instances, it’s tempting to get frustrated, but it’s a better idea instead to focus on why your career matters, and why you feel passionate about the industry you are working in and about your CEO responsibilities.
4. Be Unique
Though being a woman in a male-oriented work environment has some obvious challenges, it can create some refreshing opportunities as well.
Being a woman in a boardroom means there is still a certain expectation that, whatever you bring to the table as a female business leader, will be different from anything that has gone before.
For powerful female leaders seeking the CEO role, it can be difficult to develop a unique leadership style as we have limited resources and female role models for modelling our behaviour.
Of course, we shouldn’t discount seeking male leaders as role models, but we should always be aware that what works for them may not necessarily work for us.
As a woman leader, you cannot engage in the kind of “locker room banter” that male leaders often use to bond. But then again – why would you?
It’s a good idea, then, to think hard about how you would like your company to be led, and work consistently to adopt those values into your leadership style.
Develop your own leadership style, and your own CEO job description, without seeing yourself as different because you’re a woman, but rather because you are you.
You should also take ideas from top women CEOs and female leaders, read books about women’s leadership topics and combine them with your own ideas and experiences to create something new and something that works for you.
Observe and learn about people in your environment, regardless of their gender, and learn how to communicate with them effectively.
5. Ask The Right Questions
Fundamentally, one of the biggest issues that women in leadership roles face is not being heard at work. There are a number of reasons why this happens.
First, when a company is male-focused, there is often an aggressive, competitive culture that requires a ‘louder is better’ attitude to get ahead.
Another reason is that women have a general reluctance to ask for help or assistance, for fear of appearing vulnerable.
But asking the right question, whether it’s for clarification, a signal of something that needs improving, or simply for help, is a clear indication that you are someone who is ready to learn.
It’s important to remember that asking questions takes confidence. It also helps you bond with your colleagues and team members, fostering an aura of trust and confidence around you.
Be involved, listen and then ask when you need to understand something better or when you want to learn more.
This will make you stand out as a great female leader and let your colleagues know that you’re engaged and truly interested in the work that you are doing.
6. Be Kind
It’s true that business management can prize ruthlessness and ambition above all else. It is important to be competitive and driven as a top female executive and CEO.
Without understanding how to exercise a firm hand in order to maximize productivity, you’re not going to remain a top female CEO for very long. But this doesn’t mean you should leave your empathy and compassion at the door.
Studies have shown that successful female CEOs value listening skills above all else. Without the ability to listen empathically you’re likely to overlook key information that can either make or break your business.
Today, employees have increasingly more power to hold unfair employers to account. But that’s not the only reason female CEOs should be kind.
Incorporating kindness into your leadership style is not only the mark of all great women leaders but also contributes to a stress-free and productive business culture.
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About the author:
Content editor Harry Conley is a man of many talents. As well as his work for LuckyAssignments, he is involved in the development of training and workflow activities to enhance the ability of writers, always seeking to unlock potential along the way. Another string to his bow is his interest in the provision of supplementary materials and instructional support for contributors.