Women remain underrepresented in board rooms around the world and especially in India where just 9.5% of board positions are held by women. Catalyst, a group that advocates for women in business, says research proves that companies with diverse boards attract more talented employees, are more innovative and have greater financial success than companies with male-dominated boards.
“That is why the time to tip the balance in favor of women in leadership is now,” according to Women’s Executive Presence Expert and Mentor Elena Asgar. “Attracting, training, and retaining women in leadership requires an ongoing commitment to bridging the leadership gender gap,” she adds.
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) asked companies listed on the Indian stock markets to appoint at least one woman on their board of directors by April 1, 2015, or face regulatory action. Many missed that deadline. In fact, liveMINT reports that after a year, two deadlines, and a threat of fines, more than 70% of India’s top companies have made only token appointments of women to their boards. This indicates a small pool of talent, an inability to retain women in the workforce, and plain reluctance to induct them.
“Women possess an enormous amount of control over their careers when they give themselves permission to lead,” Asgar said. “Gender bias can make transitions more challenging for women. Transitions must be accompanied by discovering one’s identity as a leader, overcoming limiting beliefs, as well as learning new, ‘next level’ career and leadership skills. That’s why creating a safe and supportive setting – a coaching relationship or a workshop – where women can openly discuss their challenges is critical, she adds.
Asgar suggests five strategies for ambitious, career-minded women.
1. Overcome the gender stereotypes. Feminine power has a place in organizations today, so learn to be comfortable claiming and exercising it. “Strong is the new beautiful,” Asgar says.
2. “Take care of the first impressions and eliminate the non-verbal image-wreckers such as physically ‘shrinking’ or minimizing your size,” Asgar suggests. One of the many ways to nonverbally demonstrate status in a business meeting is to physically expand and ‘claim space’ in the room.
3. Polish presentation skills to gain confidence to sell ideas to decision makers. Asgar says that one of the biggest mistakes women make when presenting is ‘uptalk.’ This is ending a statement on an upward pitch so that it sounds like a question even when it’s not. Doing so makes the speaker seem confused or worse, to be looking for approval.
4. Learn to love politics and master the art of diplomacy and building coalitions.
5. Don’t worry about being liked. Aim to be respected.
About Women’s Top Executive Impact Mentor Elena Asgar
Since 1997, Elena Asgar’s leadership lessons have helped hundreds of senior business leaders in India and in 15 countries around the world welcome greater visibility, recognition, faster promotions and higher pay packages. Asgar helps companies boost the value of their brands by boosting their senior executives’ personal and leadership brands. She is a leading expert on executive impact, committed to helping executive women in India become an enduring force to be reckoned with as influential organizational leaders.
Her work has been featured in Financial Express, Indian Express and Hindustan Times who called her a “Training Guru.” Asgar is a CEO and Founder of Gurgaon-based Context Technologies, a boutique training and coaching company with clients in 15 countries around the world. Her clients include Coca-Cola, Microsoft, American Express, Adidas, Kohler, Glaxo, Panasonic, Reliance, and over 40 others. Asgar is an internationally recognized executive coach, presentation skills and executive presence trainer, and a faculty member of Faculty of Business Communication, Post Graduate Management Programme and Predictive Business Analytics, at Bridge School of Management.
Elena Asgar’s path-breaking and proven 7-Step “Make Your Presence Felt in Boardrooms and Beyond” mentoring program helps companies committed to bridging the gender leadership gap bring more women into the leadership pipeline. Participants in this training enhance their executive presence so they can take their place as leaders who successfully communicate their charismatic, compelling, and consistent executive brands to their teams, shareholders and the media. The ‘Make Your Presence Felt’ training is delivered as a 4 Day Intensive or via a four-month, one-on-one coaching contract. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a private consultation with Asgar to determine the best next step to take to boost someone’s executive power with her support.
Name: Elena Asgar
Organization: Make Your Presence Felt
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