As #InternationalWomensDay 2021 comes to an end, it is important to remember that empowering and supporting women should not be confined to a single day. This year's global theme was 'Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World'.
So here at wrkflow, we celebrated International Women's Day by inviting 5 inspirational female leaders across different industries around the world. Our team had the privilege of interviewing them and engaging in fascinating conversations revolving around leadership qualities, work ethic and the future of women in the workplace.
Here are the inspirational women we interviewed:
Radha Amalraj, Head of APAC Business Integrity Partnerships at Facebook
Sarah Er, Managing Director at Search Personnel Pte Ltd.
Tanya Rolfe, Managing Director at Her Capital
Irene Langille, Retail Practice Lead at Google
Radha Shreeniwas, VP Global Talent - APJ at ServiceNow
Having these conversations with inspiring women, brought to light:
1. What are the qualities you admire in female leaders?
Radha A: The servant leadership style is something that I am fond of. The philosophy is that a servant leader puts their team at the forefront, it's all about making the team shine. I feel that female leaders do a good job at servant leadership because of the natural strengths that women leaders have such as emotional intelligence, bring people together, an environment of inclusion and foster collaboration.
Sarah: Passionate, knowledgable, committed, decisive, strong, human and lead by example and not just by words.
Tanya: I have focused more on the start-up and investment scene. The founders that I admire the most have been likeable, are women who listen and take their team's thoughts on board, someone who is nice, someone who they want to work with. The ability to attract and retain that talent is super important.
Irene: Having tenacity and a growth mindset. It is important to have the confidence to take risks and not be afraid to fail. Because without a growth mindset and failure, you'll never learn from your mistakes. Leaders should also have a true passion for developing talent and giving back. All great leaders lift others and help others develop and pay forward into the future of other great leaders. Having empathy is also important. Without empathy, you cannot create a team that has psychological safety. Adaptability and grit are also important.
Radha S: Demonstrate a growth mindset. In these days it is important to be agile in your thinking and willing to take feedback. The other is a real can-do attitude. There's a reason why people are leaders, it is to enable and drive change, to help the company and team thrive, to have those courageous conversations and be comfortable doing those, and doing it in a nice way. We're dealing with humans so being kind, firm and thoughtful is an area I appreciate in leadership. Women leaders should really try and lift other women up.
2. How has COVID-19 influenced your work?
Radha A: COVID has been super challenging and a testing time for all of us. It has tested our resilience, adaptability and our ability to deal with challenges. The conflict has shifted and I had to adjust to a new normal. I feel like it is a difficult middle, now it feels like the end is in sight with the vaccine but it is still not that close. I'm optimistic about the way all of us have responded.
Sarah: There's been a lack of personal touch, the employees and employers cannot feel each other's vibes which is important when working together. Sometimes employers do not know if the prospective employee is suitable for the role so there are some cases that are not closed. But now since it is getting better, more offers are getting made. Technology has improved Search Personnel's workflows. It has been a good influence since it made us more productive.
Tanya: We launched in July which I think was in the height of the panic and the unknown. But this was a year or so in the making. The timing was not great. But had we launched the year before, they were in crisis mode because a lot of the portfolio companies were massively affected by COVID. I try to think about it in a positive way. It gave us the time to set back, it was a unique opportunity to think carefully and create our portfolio. In that respect, it has given us a unique lens. On the fundraising side, it is challenging. On a human personal level, I miss people a lot.
Irene: It's been a very difficult time for everyone. It was challenging for me since I'm a working mum. We're lucky none of us got COVID, but adjusting to the new lockdown when your 3 children who are all under the age of 8 are at home while your working from home was trying. Work hours got really long with no breaks. I got even harder on focusing on the only tool that I knew that will achieve my goal which is hard work. What really makes you productive and strong as a person is taking care of yourself, and putting your needs ahead of work. I had to prioritise family time, working out and staying mentally cohesive. Thankfully Google is a big proponent of work-life balance and employee well being. It brought the team together, it humanised everyone through this shared experience.
Radha S: The biggest thing was getting grounded. I did not realise with all my travel how much of a trooper my family was to support my ambition and career goals. For me, COVID-19 was a moment to take a breath. Like many other parents, a lot of the burden landed on me like being a parent for my kid and focus on homework, homeschooling during online school. Keeping my elderly parents focused too. So I had to balance all that. From a work style standpoint, I had to take a pause and think things through. I got really deliberate in differentiating my work at home.
3. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to women who are starting their careers?
Radha A: For women stepping into the corporate world, feel confident in your own skin and look at your natural strengths and USPs. Feel comfortable to let them shine. For women stepping into leadership roles, have the confidence in asking for things. Ask for things that are rightfully due to you.
Tanya: When it comes to starting your own business, it really is the hardest work. One of the big drivers to launch Her Capital was that it enabled me to have more autonomy. I don't think I ever worked harder than I have now. Women starting business received so little venture capital funding, that often is offputting for women. But the good news is that her Capital and other firms exist for diverse female founders. It's about knowing your worth, a solid foundation for starting the business, knowing where it's going and finding the right people for advice.
Irene: It's important to stay hungry and focused. Over prepare, learn as much as you can. Try to have a tool bag full of knowledge and industry know-how so when you get to the interview, you come across as passionate. Walk-in with confidence, play up and amplify your strengths. Research has shown that if you work on your strengths, you're gonna have a lot more successful and rewarding results and will empower you more. There is no I in team. You have to be empathetic, real, kind. Always think about how to lift yourself and others.
Radha S: One is we don't take enough risks with our careers. Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder, the sooner we get our heads around that aspect it becomes a good opportunity. There are multiple steps to whatever looks ideal, it is important to have a plan and take side steps, to also be okay if that idea shifts. The second piece is building your advocate base is important. We underestimate how many people we need to invest in our careers to make it successful. It doesn't have to always be about taking but also about giving. In your network, you can find a way to help people and then let others help you.
Click here if you'd like to watch the full interviews
After listening to these 5 female leaders, it is important to continually support women in the workplace. So here are some things to keep in mind:
Support all women: All women, no exceptions. Not just the ones at the top or the ones with the loudest voices. Be mindful that inequity isn't just a gender issue.
Check your own progress: If you're a people leader, take the time to inspect the data. Are you hiring women? Are you promoting women? Are you supporting women? Sure, it's a painful process but progress starts with reflection and honesty.
Amplify women's voices: Make space for women to be heard. Be aware of the share of voice in the room and the environment you're creating. Promote the work women are doing, promote their achievements, and give them credit for their hard work.
Ask more questions: Hold your organisation accountable and ask questions about the work they're doing to create an inclusive and equitable working environment. If your company publishes gender pay gap data - read it. Ask questions and push for progress.
We at wrkflow love #IWD but we love progress even more. We hope this inspires you to create an action plan to keep the momentum going beyond IWD!