Embracing gender differences is the way to succeed

“Lack of recognition of basic differences men and women have like career cycles, communication styles, or attitudes to power is enough to eliminate one gender and prefer the other” notes Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO of 20-first, one of the world’s leading gender consulting firms, and author of Seven Steps to Leading a Gender-Balanced Business. The author of the article published in the Harvard Business Review argues that “denying the existence of differences between men and women was a useful phase to go through, but now that the reality of gender has changed, so should our approach”. To read the full article click here.

Good Practices Promoting Gender Equality through the Work-Life Balance in Europe

European Institute for Gender Equality has recently published a collection of good practices – interventions that promote gender equality through the family work-life balance. Good practices were drawn from such countries – among others, as Austria, Germany, Denmark, Slovenia. Some of the practices described in the report include “24-hour Service Childcare”, “A Hug from Daddy”, “Parental leave company workshops”. To learn more about good practices, main gaps and challenges read here.

 

 

 

Women’s leadership: How to close the gender gap in Asia

Asian Development Bank had an interview with Dr. Astrid Tuminez to discuss the issue of women’s leadership in Asia and the ways to improve the advancement of women in high-levels of management. Read the interview here.

How important are diversity and inclusion to our society?

How important are diversity and inclusion to our society?

TuminezMany talk about incorporating Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) programs into their organisations, but only few implement it for its value.  Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez in an interview with the Daily FT of Sri Lanka  shared her thoughts in this regard and how issues within that can be addressed from a personal, institutional, and policy level.

By Shabiya Ali Ahlam

Q: What are your views on Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) and why are they important?
A: It is interesting that today when you look at corporations in the Asia Pacific, practically everyone has a D&I program. If you ask corporate executives, the usual answer would be that it is about competition in human talent. So corporations have to survive and thrive and if they don’t have the human talent, then their competitors will blow them out of the waters. It is very much about human talent, who has the cutting edge, who understands the market better, who has the best talent and who can sell.
However, in addition to that, I always argue that it is also a question of values. D&I are important values in a sense that if you want a fairer, equitable and a more just society, it is imperative to look at this area. It is about appreciating all of the people and human capital, gender, ethnicity, points of view, perspective, sexual orientation and other aspects. And inclusion means that you can take that pool of diverse human talent, develop and deploy it to its fullest potential in an organisation or country.

Q: Are more leaders adding D&I into their agenda?
A: In the corporate sector, absolutely. There is no question about that, and then again it is about that search for competitive edge. The fastest uptake in this regard is in the corporate world because everyone understands that you must compete for human talent and the consumers are also 50% or more women. So you need to find a way to connect to that market. In terms of governance as well people are realising that the voice of women is important because they bring a different perspective to the table. That’s the private sector.
When it comes to the public sector, Asia has done well in terms of very visible women leaders as heads of state. Sri Lanka had its first female prime minister and president quite early. The Philippines had two heads of state who are women, so did Pakistan, India, and now South Korea. In that sense, Asia has had female leaders at very high and visible levels. There is diversity in gender. But going down that is not the case in the public sector. There is still a long way to go.
Some leaders have used quotas as a tool in the public sector. In some areas that has worked but it is also noted that these are used to put women in as tokens, rather than giving them real decision making authority. So the bottom line is that there is progress in terms of leaders understanding diversity and inclusion, particularly in the private sector but we still have a long way to go to bring it across the board for leaders to really walk the talk.

“There is progress in terms of leaders understanding diversity and inclusion, particularly in the private sector but we still have a long way to go to bring it across the board for leaders to really walk the talk. Right now D&I is sort of a trend, a fad. Everybody has a program. However, end of the day what gets measured is what gets done
At the end of the day we don’t have to be perfect. We should learn to live with imperfections. There will be times where we do great things, and there will be times where we feel it’s too much. We should not be hard on ourselves. It is a part of our journey”
– Microsoft Corporation Regional Director Legal and Corporate Affairs Southeast Asia Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez

Q: What can be done in the public sector to achieve this?
A: The quota system is a good way of achieving this. Quotas can sometimes be controversial since people feel that it will be use to put in women who are not qualified. That is not necessarily the case. The World Bank has done a study that shows that women who are put in certain positions through quotas are not necessarily unqualified. This can help in the public sector since it is the fastest way to increase the representation of women and how you structure that is really important. The system can be there for few years to forever.
Another trend in the public sector is gender responsive budgeting. What that means is that for every budget that a government puts together, it must ask ‘what is the impact on males versus females?’ and ‘who does it favour more?’
In countries like the Philippines, it ranks fifth in the Global Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum out of 136 countries. So the Philippines to be at the fifth position is a huge and amazing achievement. One of the things that I learn from the Philippines Government is that for all of their agencies, 5% of the budget must be dedicated for gender equal measures in policies. When you think about that it is not very much, but it certainly is a great start.

Q: It is observed that many well-meaning diversity and inclusion fail because organisations behave defensively. What is your view on this?
A: Yes. Well-meaning diversity inclusion programs, what do we mean by that? Right now D&I is sort of a trend, a fad. Everybody has a program. However, at the end of the day what gets measured is what gets done. When you have a D&I program, do you actually change the practice within the corporate culture.
First is that in terms of hiring, do you actually measure leaders where you are hiring men all the time or do you have slates where there are female candidates? Second, do you have reasonable or maybe even generous maternity and paternity leave so that both men and women can mutually support each other at home and at the work place? If the family falls apart, the workplace will fall apart and women will exit. Third is, do you reward managers and leaders who hire, develop, and retain female talents?
To give an example of the company that I work for, which is Microsoft, in Thailand 55% of our managers are women. When you talk to the Country Head of Thailand, he will say that this is a central priority to have that kind of diversity. When leaders walk the talk, when they are graded for it and they are measured on their performance on D&I, the program become a meaningful thing. It doesn’t become an exercise that is for show only, or is a defensive thing where the corporate executive says that it is about meritocracy. You actually have to make it a value that people believe in and not just pay lip service to it.

Q: How can the two elements be added to the goals of an HR leader?
A: HR leaders in my opinion play quite an important role. Although before going to the HR leader you have to go to the CEO. No matter how hard HR leaders try to add diversity and inclusion, if the CEO or the people reporting to the CEO don’t value it, it is not going to work. If the leaders buy into it, what HR leaders can do is add D&I in all the performance management systems. In terms of leave they can support flexibility, which women will really welcome.
When I speak about this topic I usually say it’s not that we have malevolent people, it is often because people don’t think about it. Here is where HR comes in. They can further train women on negotiation, building confidence, mentorship and other similar areas. While these are all really good buzz words in corporates, what is really being done under each of these elements should be questioned. That is where you can grade if HR is doing the things that are advancing D&I or not.

Q: What can be done to bring more women into leadership roles?
A: I would point out three things for this. The first one is personal. I think the women herself has to take responsibility for her ambitions and what she wants to contribute to the society. The personal responsibility comes with choosing a support system within your family, which is where it begins.
Second is in terms of policy. There are two elements that I would emphasise. First is childcare that is dependable, reliable and of high quality. The best example for this is France. It has solved its problem by keeping women in the workforce while also encouraging women to have children. France has the highest fertility rate in Europe and this is primarily because the Government puts in place tremendous support for women in their childbearing years. They spend 2.7% of their GDP on outright cash payments for the mothers, and 1.6% of GDP on child care solutions.
The second area where policy can make a difference is in elder care. This is because in Asia, we are expected to take care of our elderly people. So childcare and eldercare where we can support and alleviate the pressure that women feel so they can be good mothers on one hand and great professionals on the other. That is that constant clash. So if we can give support on those two fronts, we will make a huge headway in encouraging women to make it all the way to the top of their professions.

Q: What is the situation in this regard in South Asia? 
A: It varies. A problem in quite a few Asian countries, especially in the poorer countries, is that they have mandated maternity leave but they are not able to implement or fund it. So there is a disconnect with what is on paper, what is legislated, and what actually gets done. Across the board for maternity and paternity leave, there is more work to be done in Asia.
Sri Lanka for example ranks 55 out of 136 countries in the Gender Gap index, but in terms of leadership it ranks poorly. In terms of senior officials, legislators, and senior managers, Sri Lanka’s index is 0.32.
Other thing for women is safety when going to work. In India it’s not a secret. Six of every 10 qualified women do not go to work, and part of that is due to safety. These are some very real problems and they need to be addressed.

Q: What are the challenges they face when rising to the top?
A: There is what is called the leaking pipeline. In most of the Asian Pacific countries the dropout rate from middle to senior management is as high as 70%. When we ask ourselves why that is happening, a lot of it goes back to the childbearing years where women really need support. In the conference hosted by SLASSCOM which I was addressing earlier today, a successful IT personality said that when she had her first and only child, her boss did not allow her to take three months’ leave. If that is the attitude, then it wears the women down. They are put in front of very tough choices. That is definitely a challenge we need to address.
If we don’t address those childbearing years and enhancing support, that dropout rate will continue and we won’t be able to leverage Asia’s human capital.

Q: What can they do as individuals to tackle this?
A: As individuals I think it is really important that successful women become mentors ourselves. In Singapore I belong to something called Women in Business. This includes organisations such as CISCO, Intel, Oracle and Microsoft. We commit ourselves for so many months of mentoring for a selected group of high potential women. I and most of my fellow colleagues have children and most of us have gone through the struggle of work-life balance and we share that.
The second is that as individuals we need to clarify what our choices are and why we do what we do. The big why in our lives need to be answered.
The third is the importance of cultivating very powerful will, since at the end, to sustain a career in leadership you are talking about a 20-30 year timeframe. Most women do not hit the sweet spot in leadership until their 50s.
Also, at the end of the day, we don’t have to be perfect. We should learn to live with imperfections. There will be times where we do great things, and there will be times where we feel it’s too much. We should not be hard on ourselves. It is a part of our journey.

Q: What is your message to the aspiring working women out there?
A: To the younger girls I would say that at this point in time we are in a globalised world. We are in a world with complex problems. So for them I would say that this is the world you are coming into. You have help in terms of technology, rising GDP, better education, so think about what you want to do and who your role models are going to be.
To the older generation I would say that it is important that we look to this younger generation and give them a better pathway so that the full human potential of girls and boys can be realised in the societies that we are creating.

For the original article, please follow the link:

 http://www.ft.lk/2014/05/28/how-important-are-diversity-and-inclusion-to-our-society/

Women Leadership in the Non-Profit Sector Case Study Series: Lili Kasoem

Aceh’s guardian angel

Lili KasoemLily Kasoem is a mother to five children and a grandmother to 6 grandchildren. At 64 years of age, she discovered a renewed sense of purpose. Having seen the catastrophe in Aceh, Indonesia,  Lily decided to use her leadership experience in the private sector to help Aceh’s needy.

“I did not have any desire to be more than I had become after what I saw in Aceh. I became very humble.”- Lily Kasoem

The Tsunami that devastated Aceh had a huge impact on people all over Indonesia. However, Lily Kasoem was one of those people who did something about it – Lily founded the Titian Foundation to help those affected by the catastrophe.

Tapping on business success with confidence

An entrepreneur with a heart, Lily was known for delivering great results without compromising her integrity and empathy for others. These qualities helped her build strong personal and professional networks, which proved valuable as she set up the Titian Foundation. Lily raised funds through her network to build 4 schools and 5 community learning centres and to train 500 teachers annually. Today, the Titian Foundation sponsors 500 children.

“Anyone can do what I can do – but not everyone has the credibility – I have experience, a good track record upon which I have demonstrated leadership and I am not afraid to talk about my dreams and achievements. People have confidence in me.”

Having worked in the private sector, Lily had an appreciation for the power dynamics between the two genders and applied this understanding to her communication with others. With women, she emphasised successful relationship, helping families, offering emotional stability, among others. However, with men, she focused much more on results, outcomes and processes.

Creating a movement

In Indonesia, there is a need for women to step up. While there are many female leaders, they remain restricted to a small sphere of influence – their families and immediate social circles. Lily’s path to leadership, started with a small sphere of influence, but through her networks, and efforts at raising awareness and publicity, she rallied her networks. Recognising that leadership, particularly in non-profit is never an individual effort, Lily invited people to join her on her journey in whatever way they could.

Lily believed in leading by doing. She was not afraid to work alongside her subordinates because she believed in being a role model to those who worked for her. In Indonesia, people respected their leaders more when they removed hierarchies and worked alongside their employees –it demonstrated a deeper sense of respect for employees. The more she connected with people, the more they seemed to appreciate her values and vision equally.

Personal, Family and Cultural Background

Lily was blessed with great role models herself – her parents. While her father taught her mutual respect and perseverance, her mother taught her how to overcome the fear of failure. Family support is a critical element of Lily’s ability to dream. She has become a role model for her children today. Her decision to leave the family business made simpler by her family circumstances. Her children are married and supporting themselves. This made it easier to expand her resources and attention beyond her family.

In Indonesia, women are often able to pursue other interests because they have the luxury of access to domestic help at affordable costs. Society holds women in high esteem as the carers of the family, and the unwavering pillar of a family’s success and happiness. In this respect, Lily’s vision of setting up a foundation that helped Acehnese children was easier because (a) it was nationalistic, and (b) she was a woman. The same dedication and perseverance that she showed her own children was extended to the children of Aceh.  However, she was prepared to take a leap that not many others were brave enough to take. Both men and women had deep admiration for and were deeply humbled by this.

Why Women As Non-Profit Leaders?

Women are naturally inclined to leadership. On a regular basis, they manage their families and are instrumental in molding future leaders. Borrowing a quote from Mrs. Hillary Clinton, Lily believes,” If you give money to men, it’s for him. If you give money to women, it is for her whole family.”

Indonesian women like to work without acknowledgement – that is why female Indonesia leaders remain unknown. Culturally, Indonesian women will never deliberately outshine their husbands – anything they do, they do quietly. Women leaders in Indonesia tend to perform their leadership roles with a bigger purpose in mind. To them, it is less about the fame and recognition that comes with the position. This is why women are less concerned about feminism in Indonesia. They go about their leadership work in their own way. More women need to stand tall and step into the limelight now. It is merely the next step in their journey.

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The Women Leadership in Non-Profit Case Study Series is led by the Women’s Pathways to Leadership in Asia (WPLA) and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. “Women Leadership in Nonprofit Case Study: Lili Kasoem” authored by Meera Jethmal, an alumni of the Lee Kuan Yew  School of Public Policy. 

 

Women Leadership in the Non-Profit Sector Case Study Series: Rahayu Saraswati

Opportunity Favours The Bold

Rahayu Saraswati was an upcoming actress in Indonesia. She had the privilege of coming from a high-profile family in Indonesia. As her career grew, Rahayu started to realize something was missing.  Her journey of discovery led to her adventure of leadership in championing anti-trafficking in Indonesia. Rahayu formed the ID4F (Indonesia for Freedom) an anti- human trafficking organization, the first of its kind to raise awareness and tackle human trafficking issues at a national level, run by an Indonesian.  ID4F takes a 4-stage approach to protecting victims (and potential victims) of human trafficking – prevention, interception, prosecution and reintegration.

Finding Purpose

Having learnt about realities of human trafficking through media, Rahayu started looking for places to volunteer in Indonesia. Research into the state of affairs in Indonesia led to the realization that there was (i) no real focus on human trafficking issues (migration and refugee reintegration took precedence), and (ii) no organization that was headed by an Indonesian. Meanwhile, she came across some astounding cases of victims. This frustration of not being able to contribute led to the realization that she had to take control. This realization gave her purpose, and the confidence to start her own foundation.

Role Models to Emulate

When Rahayu met Cecelia Flores Oebanda, who led the Visayan Forum Foundation, focused on human trafficking issues in the Philippines, she realized what the missing link was. Cecelia became an important mentor to Rahayu in understanding the challenges, and what it took to champion a cause she felt so passionately about.

Overcoming Obstacles
(i) Her inexperience was a real challenge. She was taking on human trafficking in Indonesia at a national level. She was knocking on doors no one had knocked before.

(ii) Rahayu was a young, single and successful career woman. On the one hand, she used her popularity as an actress to inspire people; on the other she faced critical judgment at every corner.

Rahayu knew she was stepping into dangerous territory with her idea. Her family had political ties, and were often in the public’s view. She feared  putting her family at risk. However, after much thinking, Rahayu realized that not taking the chance was worse than taking it. She decided she had to be bold.

“But I am fearless. I just have to prod through. I have a supportive family, and I just won’t give up.”

The Foundation of Family

Rahayu’s family had great influence in her growth as a leader. Her parents had different backgrounds. While her father was born with a silver spoon, her mother had no spoon at all. Her mother’s was a Cinderella story. She was born in the slums but married into wealth. As a result, she had the strongest beliefs in idealism and faith. Having seen both sides of the picture, Rahayu, was grounded in her views of reality, and was fortunate enough to have the means to do something about it. Both her parents had foundations for causes they cared about. Her father always said that his stature was a privilege and a very heavy responsibility. That was the environment she grew up in.

Overcoming Colonial Mindsets

Indonesians have become used to living a way of life that is more subservient and insular, a mindset that has its roots in the colonial period. Most people are content with their ways of life. They forget that they have the opportunity to do so much more. As a result, there is no real ownership of anything.

“Our country is so rich with resources. If you plant something, it grows. It’s okay to be content with a simple countryside lifestyle, but it does not work in a globalised state.”

Personal Background

Rahayu_PicRahayu found her background worked against her sometimes. In society obsessed with status and competition for publicity, oftentimes, she had to overcome people who misconstrued her dreams as showing off or being selfish about her needs and not caring enough of the impact on her parents. In this case, her personal background was a reason for a lack of trust. However, she turned to corporations, foundations, and organisations that were globally making a positive difference in human trafficking. They were her champions.

Why women as non profit leaders?

Women are natural social entrepreneurs. A mother’s role is about education, women, children. Home is the realm of the women. These things matter in more non-profit. Poverty is present at every corner in Indonesia. We live our lives watching people struggle. Women are more receptive to this, and automatically desire to make a difference. Even corporate women leaders are active socially.

Focusing on human trafficking, it’s even easier. As a women, what helps is the stereotype that women have more of a feel for the human-trafficking challenge because it is often portrayed as a gender challenge, rather than a human challenge to overcome (although this too, needs to change).

Indonesia culture makes it easy for women to be leaders. North Sumatra has a matriarchal culture. Mothers are the head of households. Javanese culture is patriarchal, but women hold a special place because they are wives and mothers. In Java, we believe heaven is at the feet of the mother.

It’s all a matter of whether you want to lead or not.

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The Women Leadership in Non-Profit Case Study Series is led by the Women’s Pathways to Leadership in Asia (WPLA) and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. “Women Leadership in Nonprofit Case Study: Lili Kasoem” authored by Meera Jethmal, an alumni of the Lee Kuan Yew  School of Public Policy.  

 

The Power of Investing in Women

The Women Investing in Women Initiative, or WIN-WIN, launched at the UN Foundation on March 8, 2012 proves it pays off to invest in women. The initiative has surpassed its goals for 2013. The info graphic below highlights their key learnings for individuals and organizations seeking to advance women.

Source: Next Billion.

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 10.01.58 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Female Leaders at Davos: Lower Participation Despite Quotas

Source: The Guardian.

Source: The Guardian.

Two years ago the World Economic  Forum introduced a quota system to encourage female participation, demanding that its 100 most important partners send one woman to the annual meeting for every four men.

Despite this effort, the proportion of women has fallen from 17% in 2011 to 15% in 2014.

To read the full article, click on the link.

Source: The Guardian.