Grace Hoppers have a few tips for women to be effective leaders

India scored 3.3 on a scale of one to seven (one being highest and seven the lowest) on the ability of women to rise to leadership positions, according to the 2015 World Economic Forum report on gender gap


A file photo of an earlier Grace Hopper conference.
A file photo of an earlier Grace Hopper conference.

Bengaluru: Women may be are a century away from gender equality in C-Suite (Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook Inc. rightly put it once), but there are little things that could make that long haul a bit smoother.

That was the main takeaway from some of the sessions that dealt with how women technologists should break the glass ceiling in leadership at the Grace Hopper 2015 conference that celebrated women power in technology in Bengaluru over the last three days.

Some of the buzzwords on gender equality such as “speak-up,” “be confident,” “be assertive,” among others sounded a bit tiring and jaded. Still some panelists offered a few interesting tips for women to navigate the male-dominated leadership ladder in the world of technology.

Globally, many women drop off the race to top leadership, often to spend time to take care of their family. In corporate America, gender diversity and equality in workplace is a hot topic of debate. In the recent past, many Silicon Valley companies have adopted a number of measures—offering flexible work hours, extended leave programs for new parents—to retain and attract talent.

India too has not made substantial progress in retaining top talent and promoting women to leadership roles. India scored 3.3 on a scale of one to seven (one being highest and seven the lowest) on the ability of women to rise to leadership positions, according to the 2015 World Economic Forum report on gender gap.

For those who choose to stay put in the race, Grace Hopper panelists had an advice of two to be effective leaders.

Women in technology roles sometimes miss the larger plot that could hobble their leadership aspirations, said Haresh Patel, an executive coach for senior leaders at Gnosis Enrichment and Management.

“Women are so focused on the work that sometimes they forget the context. They should understand the bigger business and look beyond what you are supposed to do,” he said.

For instance, they need to send the message to senior leaders that they understand the business well and not just know how to write codes, Patel said.

According to Patel, aspiring women leaders should create a network of people—junior managers, mentors and peers—to ensure help in times of need.

Some panelist said, to be effective leaders, women should be consistent with their decision-making and the decisions should reflect their core values.

“Do you have your owns value system that acts as a lynchpin for you to say this is how I will go ahead; these are the decisions which will I feel I will make; these are the alliances I will make,?” asked Uma Rani TM, senior vice president at SAP India. “That is when you will be seen as a credible leader,” she said.

And it is not just enough to be decisive, but a good leader should also understand the style of decision-making of the company.

“Read the pattern and find out how you can align your decision-making style with the organisation,” said Lalitha Indrakanti, director and center leader at Cargill Business Services.

Leadership style also depends on the situation one is in, Indrakanti said. “When you understand the organizational dynamics, you can build your credibility by taking different cues from the situation.”