A few months ago, when I wrote about women and soft power in business, I highlighted the woeful shortage of women leaders in the corporate world and cast my vote in favor of enabling their growth.
I also pointed out that the current environment makes it imperative for organizations to recognize the unique characteristics that female executives possess, and argued that CEOs must encourage women in order to bring about a much-needed transformation in business.
More recently, during a lively panel discussion on the subject at the Rebalancing the Workplace for Sustainability conference in New Delhi in July, I added another dimension to this idea.
No doubt the starting point is the creation of an enabling environment. Yes, we need to encourage, support, enable, educate... But all that is just a starting point. There are two other pre-conditions that I'd like to highlight.
One is a sense of dissatisfaction — an intense unhappiness and a sense of frustration with the existing reality.
The difference between a change and a revolution is a function of the extent of dissatisfaction. Look at any transformative period in history — the Civil Rights movement in the U.S., India's independence struggle, the recent upheaval in Egypt — and in all of them you will see an intense desire for change and a refusal to accept things as they are.
Are women dissatisfied enough to force a corporate revolution that will give them power? I'm not so sure. Despite the fact that the percentage of women exceeding expectations in performance reviews is often equal to, or more, than the percentage of men, the number of women appplying for new jobs or for more senior ones within organizations is far fewer than the number of men who bid for them.
That brings me to the next parameter: The aspiration to grow.
Women need to display tenacity and an uncompromising determination to climb the professional ladder. Opting out cannot be a choice. I learned this lesson when I watched my mother refuse to accept less. Taking one step at a time, she summoned the strength to throw out from her vocabulary all excuses for inability.
While the focus of change so far has been on organizational policies, supporting systems, and infrastructure, none of these will be effective until there is more hunger for change. Organizations must create more awareness among women executives in order to encourage a greater sense of dissatisfaction and stoke a greater level of professional aspiration. These two triggers of change must be in place for the enabling environment to catalyze change
The day women force the pace of change, the world will become a better place to live in, and organizations will become more effective and socially responsible.
So ladies, this journey of change begins within you. When will you leverage your dissatisfaction to force change?