Breaking glass ceilings & crimson ghettos stylebook: Some control classes for India Inc from Danish collection ‘Borgen’

Within the acclaimed Danish dramaBorgen’ (2010-2013), Birgitte Nyborg, the fictitious Top Minister, is depicted as a “collaborator” who controlled to wreck the glass ceiling. She sought reviews, and used to be democratic, empathetic, and unique – conforming to the numerous stereotypes of feminine management. Even if the issues confronted in her private {and professional} trajectory had been structural, the target audience discovered it relatable and approved them as par for the path. In the end, girls are anticipated to seek out the street to management mired with hindrances.

And that’s exactly the problem.

The well-known glass ceiling has been “normalised” such a lot that we ceaselessly see social media posts that cheer high-achieving girls – whilst celebrating the breaking of this omnipresent barrier. However as we cheer the accomplishments of those girls, there’s a higher structural query that we will have to ask of ourselves: Why has the onus of breaking the glass ceiling fallen on those girls, relatively than at the organisation or on society? What are the interventions that we want throughout organisations that may make this time period redundant?

Converting The Management Pipeline

In April 2022, a key UK monetary regulator (the Monetary Behavior Authority) set range and ethnicity goals for all publicly-listed corporations in the United Kingdom, and said that a minimum of 40 in line with cent of the board will have to be girls. Extra importantly, the goals state that a minimum of 1 of the next 4 positions – CEO, CFO, Chairperson, and Lead Unbiased Director- will have to be a girl. Whilst those laws are strictly no longer necessary, the United Kingdom authority has taken a “comply or give an explanation for” way, and calls for that businesses give an explanation for why they may no longer team of workers any of those positions with a girl.

This adjustments the management pipeline and turns it on its head. The sector is used to seeing girls leaders in perceived “female” roles akin to Human Assets, and Advertising and marketing and Communications. As a cursory have a look at any listing of company leaders will ascertain, there don’t seem to be sufficient girls leaders in conventional male bastions of Gross sales or Operations or as CEOs. The brand new UK Regulations are a gamechanger, as they squarely put the onus at the corporate to search for, establish, and appoint girls into key positions.

This will likely result in a Board-driven wondering of the range of the “subsequent era” of senior control, those that are being groomed to fill key positions. Firms shall be requested concerning the processes they undertake to spot and groom girls into senior positions- and if the ones processes don’t seem to be in position, or don’t seem to be “efficient sufficient”, questions shall be requested of senior control.

Nearer house, one handiest has to take a look at girls leaders throughout India’s main corporations. Now not handiest are their numbers low (frequently a solitary presence within the C-Suite) however maximum of them are in “softer” roles akin to Human Assets, Advertising and marketing, Communications, and CSR. Is that this pattern because of self-selection or is that this as a result of structural causes? If that is self-selection, the place does it have roots? Are girls getting caught within the “crimson ghetto” and dropping out on key management positions?

The conundrum is that ladies persistently outperform males in analysis findings on management competencies – for example, analysis displays that ladies power for effects, construct relationships, practise self-development, and show off resilience. But, there’s a massive hole between those competencies, and precise management alternatives and positions for girls.

We’ve got heard for years that there’s passion and eagerness in getting extra girls into govt management positions. Going past those excellent intentions, listed below are some interventions that businesses can take.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

The invisible limitations that ladies face to succeed in elite positions can also be because of self-limiting components – in any case, there’s that well-known anecdote that ladies observe for positions handiest once they meet maximum (learn 100%) of the standards whilst males observe for a similar task even if they meet handiest 60% of the task necessities.

The asymmetric senior control intercourse ratio may additionally have roots in early life the place women are rewarded for “enjoying by way of the principles” and boys for “breaking the principles”.

Chance-aversion or risk-taking is deeply entrenched in gender stereotypes and the social psyche. It affects the selection of topics in highschool, the selection of occupation at college and to “elevating the hand” and soliciting for what’s truthful at paintings. The e-book ‘The Glass Ceiling within the twenty first Century: Figuring out Limitations to Gender’, explains how “stereotype risk” can affect the entirety from efficiency in a faculty Maths check to occupation aspirations of ladies.


Organisations can get started with how they name for packages, how they write Activity Descriptions (JDs), and the way interview panels may also be skilled to be cognizant of subconscious bias and to “rent on attainable”. A well-drafted JD that distinguishes between “necessities”, and “nice-to-haves” can faucet right into a pool that may differently gloss over such recruitment commercials – just because they suspect they’re “no longer excellent sufficient” or “no longer in a position but”.

This isn’t only a pattern amongst more youthful girls. A 2020 KPMG learn about printed that 75% of govt girls had skilled imposter syndrome someday of their careers, particularly once they had been promoted or modified occupation tracks.

Developing fast-track pathways

It is not uncommon observe for a CEO to have had P&L duties – and firms can get started by way of having a look at whether or not there are sufficient girls who get started on that occupation music. Do companies ship their girls control trainees to core Trade/ Gross sales purposes early on, or do they transfer them to Advertising and marketing and HR?

After all, it isn’t important to place them in those roles initially. Speedy-track attainable leaders can come from all purposes of an organization. There are a number of other folks throughout various purposes, who carry key “transferable talents” with them. For example, probably the most greatest talents inside applicants carry is their skill to straight away know the way to navigate inside hierarchies, execute massive initiatives, and easily and briefly get paintings executed. Firms can get started by way of proactively asking all their senior girls leaders above a undeniable degree if they’re open to transferring to core trade roles.

In 2021, Leena Nair made headlines when she moved from being the CHRO at Unilever to the CEO at Chanel. Her appointment emphasised that transferable talents trumped area revel in – and that at sure ranges, basic control talents mattered greater than domain-specific talents.

Alternative prices

Organisations wish to take a difficult have a look at their promotion selections, and take a look at if there are limitations that save you robust feminine applicants taking over senior management roles. Is there an unofficial “boys membership” working within the corporate? Is the interviewing panel a manel? Are promotion selections according to efficiency, or are they advert hoc? Is the HR crew empowered sufficient to query the selections of the interview panel or the executive? How does an organisation equip its long run leaders? Are there alternatives for training and mentoring more youthful girls? Does the organisation tradition draw in robust girls applicants? Are girls getting typecast as sure varieties of leaders and are they looked as if it would be extra appropriate for standard “female” roles?

When ‘Borgen’ returned previous this 12 months, Birgette Nyborg had in some ways learnt from the previous. Her transformation from a consultative (learn” female”) chief in her 40s to a extra unilateral (learn “masculine”) Overseas Minister in her 50s is stark however welcome. She takes dangers, adjustments her techniques, strikes with the days and is unapologetic about her ambitions. Management has many complexities and it’s refreshing to peer popular culture difficult the gender stereotypes related to it. Depicting management with its brickbats and bouquets and in all its sunglasses of gray, Nyborg offers a brand new measurement to #TheFutureisFemale.

(The author is Other folks and Tradition Officer at Nationwide Regulation Faculty of India College, Bangalore. Perspectives are private.)

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