According to the World Fact Book, the 2014 gender sex ratio is India was 892 females per 1000 males. So she is born, then what?
According to the latest Indian census, literacy rate among Indian women is 65.46%. According to the District Information System for Education (DISE) (2011-12) report, girl’s enrolment at the primary level (Class I-V) stands at 48.35%. At higher education level, 45% of female are enrolled in under graduate and post graduate courses. So she managed to study, then what?
According to ILO (International Labor Organization) 2015 World Economic Social Outlook Report (WESO), the female labor force participation rate in India was 31.2%. Also, India ranks among the bottom 20 countries in a list of 131 in female labour force participation (FLFP). So she got a job, then what? Did she keep the job? How long?
According to 2014 Sheroes India Women At Work report , 5% of women are at senior/ leadership levels. That number speaks a lot
Bottom-line | From birth till the last breath – she struggles to survive, chooses to endure and strives to succeed.
While the numbers look dismal in an absolute sense, every day I come across real stories and narratives of real women at work who are trying and striving to make it all work – with grand dreams, grit, hard-work, passion, confidence, determination, perseverance, ecosystem support and divine grace. So there is hope and inspiration.
With about 15 years of corporate work experience during which I have experienced the highs and lows of a corporate career, and also experienced the 3M madness – Marriage and Motherhood twice – I can confidently say that it has been a mixed bag of experiences. On the positive side, it has been a truly enriching, evolving and exciting journey this far.
And so the topic of women at work is close to my heart. One, I am a woman. Two, I’m a working mother. Three, I honestly believe that gender diversity at the workplace is critical for balanced growth and continued success of an organization, the economy, the society and world at large.
Along the way, I have recognized that for women at work to have a fair chance at a long term career and a possibility to reach the top, some early investments are critical and make all the difference. And sooner they are made, the better for her career.
In this post I’m sharing the 9 investments I believe all women should make at the start of their careers.
We live in the knowledge era. Where knowledge is a source of competitive advantage, where knowledge is critical for you to get a job, keep your job, perform your work and also get paid for it. Education of the girl child is the first step to build a strong foundation of knowledge. But beyond that, a lot of knowledge is critical to stay relevant at the workplace. The good news is that in today’s era, knowledge is easily accessible and free – thanks to technology. In the long run, the knowledge which truly makes a difference is specialist knowledge (depth), applied knowledge (experience) or multi-disciplinary knowledge (combination of two / three knowledge areas).
Many women tend to stop learning consciously once they start their formal careers; and not investing in upgrading one’s knowledge can cost any professional dearly in the long run. Hence, it is important for women to consciously and continuously invest in building, enriching and enhancing their knowledge base.
The number of health-related issues is only increasing by the day, and this impacts woman too. It is common knowledge that a vast majority of women tend to put their health and well-being as the last priority. Consequently, the number of women who give up on their careers simply because health does not permit them to work beyond an age or stage or phase of their life is increasing by the day. Physical heath, emotional heath and intellectual health all play a part in one’s overall good-health; and good health can sometimes be the only key factor which determines a woman’s career longevity.
So if you are a woman at work and serious about a long term career, make it a priority to invest in your overall health and well-being. In the long run, that will hold you in good stead.
Work Performance Capital
There is no substitute for excellence in year-on-year work performance. This is true for everyone, and applies for women too. Hence it is important to ensure you deliver at work what you signed-up for.
Almost all women who had long careers will vouch that if there was one thing that helped them navigate through the lows / fluid-phases of their careers, it was purely good-will of the employers, managers and teams they were a part of.
As a case in point, marriage and motherhood are important milestones in the career journey of any women at work. And both almost always make her vulnerable, and compel her to make tough career choices. In such situations, the only grace which enables women to keep their careers afloat can be good-will.
The thing about good-will is that it has to be earned – With time, with your work performance and with your attitude. Good-will can be earned in many ways – By going the extra mile when a team needs it, or stepping up when there is a crisis, or making a difference when it truly matters. So as women at work, make it count when you can; and earn the good-will capital.
Network / Social Capital
After a point in anyone’s career ‘professional networks’ play a key role in providing career opportunities, growth possibilities and new paradigms of work. This is true for anyone, but more important for women as they are not naturally wired to invest in building their professional networks – both in the real and virtual world. Especially in the context of women, personal networks and support systems also go a long way in providing the elusive work life resonance.
As women at work, it is important to take the time and effort to invest, nurture and build professional and personal networks and relationships beyond your immediate line of work. Agreed it takes time, effort and energy. But what if by that one social connection you invested in, you land your dream job? Or you get the next career break you’d always wanted? So make an effort to build your network / social capital. In the long run, it will see you in good stead.
A long term career is about having the right skills to take and make the next step in the career ladder. There are some skills that you are born with. But in the long run, self-acquired and personality development skills make all the difference.
In the context of women at work, the following skills are key to survive and thrive – Career Planning, Business Communication (Oral / Written), (Salary) Negotiation, Creative Thinking, Political Savviness, Complex problem solving and Decision Making. It is important for women to understand lacunas in their current skill matrix and to consciously find ways to build and enhance these skills over time.
You think it, technology can do it. There is a technology solution for almost everything that needs to be done on a daily basis. There is a mobile app for just about everything you’d want to do. You just need to search for it, install it and make it work in your context.
Especially for women at work, knowing and embracing technology and mobile apps for making everyday life simpler, faster and efficient is critical for long term career sustenance and growth. Be it grocery shopping, meal planning, bill-payouts, child safety, education or whatever your need is, ensure you invest in finding the technology solution relevant to your context and circumstance. And use it. The power of technology is in the application.
This hardly needs any explanation as money does make the world go round. While the highs of financial earning and freedom tend to cloud one’s thoughts, emotions and spending patterns during the initial career years; it is important for women to understand that true long term financial freedom comes from making an effort to understand how personal finances work, to invest money wisely, spend judiciously and review your finances periodically. In the long run, it all adds up to building your financial capital.
Personal Brand Capital
Personal branding is really about you and your work shining through among the crowd. Key to this is to own up your work, speak up when it matters and ‘stand out’ where it counts – so you can positively influence and manage others perceptions of you.
A key pre-requisite for personal branding is to have clarity on what you’d like your personal brand to stand for, and to find compelling ways to make your work and brand stand-out. This is even more important in the context of women at work because very many women are naturally wired to shy away from the spotlight or find comfort, solace and satisfaction to play a supporting role. One effective medium which women can use effectively is the power of social media and (real / virtual) communities to make your views, voice and work sparkle.
“As you sow, so you shall reap” – This is true for money, for careers and for life. What career investments did you make today? What investments do you plan to make tomorrow?
Leave a comment to let us know.
First published on Economic Times
Connect with me on Nischala’s Social World
Columnist / Byline in : Economic Times | Huffingtonpost | Business2Community | WomensWeb | Sheroes India | PeopleMatters | YoWoTo | 12Most.com | Parentous
Blog : Nischala’s Space, Thoughts, Expressions [Featured in Directory of Best Indian Blogs, Alltop]
Twitter : @nimu9 [Featured among Sheroes Must Follow Indian Women on Twitter (2014) , 50 Indian Women to follow on Twitter(2012)]
Interviews and Media Mentions
Newspaper Interview | Twittering Heights (Deccan Chronicle, 2015)
Quoted in “Open Letter to Women looking for job”
Quoted in “The Best Advice you’ll receive as young women starting your careers”
Interview | My blogging journey – How it came to be?
Interview | A wise Blogger
Interview | Secrets to Successful Blogging
Quoted in “Are entrepreneurs born or made?”