Female Voices In Leadership Needed
Leaders, especially female leaders, play a massive role in creating the narrative and making sure all of their workforce members are heard at the top. “What the COVID19 crisis has given us, is to see that working from home and accommodating different working styles can be done and for everyone – men and women. “If you have a culture that is prized on presenteeism, it is not a fair setting for all individuals because it doesn’t support all career stages and it doesn’t support the individual on their personal life stages either.” So says Niamh Dunbar of NUI Galway. Niamh spent three and a half years working in the Technology sector before returning to academia in 2019 and she has just finished a piece of research where she interviewed ten senior female leaders in the Irish private sector on their experience of rising through the ranks – often navigating through largely male oriented work pattern, where presenteeism is sometimes prized over productivity.
Productivity Better than Presenteeism
The sudden need for people to be working from home has thrown up a new way of thinking about work as part of an individual’s life Niamh believes.
One of her survey participant’s journey through leadership, became challenging when she wanted to start a family. She was working in a setting where presenteeism was highly valued and rewarded, a culture where people stayed after the boss had left. “She came to a point where she realised ‘I can’t win this one for the sake of my children’s and my own happiness.’ “This structure was really challenging her, so she moved to another company where there was a more open attitude to flexibility and more importantly, that was looking at productivity rather than whether she was sitting in an office or not.”
“What the COVID crisis has given us is an opportunity to see that business and operations can still be done in an online setting and more importantly, businesses have had to change out of necessity. Up to now they have been quite reactive but now since we have been in this setting hopefully organisations can be a bit more proactive in the way that they are working and to get the best out of their workforce.
Pearls of Wisdom
- Be Authentic. It can be hard to be yourself but you have to try to break that mould yourself and think ‘I have to be unapologetically myself’. Really having confidence and self belief.
- Drive the Narrative If you are thinking about leadership to make sure you have a purposeful narrative looking at the culture, to say we really need to promote a work-life integrated work culture. You are responsible and you have to purposefully drive that narrative.
- Be Compassionate Having that duty of care and compassion. Especially in the world we are living in, it has been challenging and it has been very hard on businesses and on individuals. There’s a lot going on, so be compassionate and be aware and be supportive of your workforce.
- Look at Your Legacy Stepping back from oneself and asking yourself am I best version of myself. What do I want to leave behind. So when I am speaking with potential leaders am I leaving behind a better way for them to establish their career as a leader, so that they can look at you and say that I really aspire to be that person.
- Embrace Change. It is encapsulated in the #Balanceforbetterbusiness initiative of the Irish Government. Some organisations are more stubborn than others and they are less likely to change but the more people that take change by the horns it is better for everyone. Small things can really improve diversity’s position in our society . We are going to be more resilient after this COVID situation and hopefully more compassionate for people. We have completely changed the way we do things and organisations need to do this as well.
You need compassion and you need empathy in business. People are there to work within the business, but if you can portray yourself and have that level of empathy for yourself and others that’s where true authenticity arises.
Money advice Niamh says…
Don’t be afraid to seek advice. You might need help setting a budget. MABS have branches across the county. Finances are going to be different after COVID.
Look at your own human capital. Invest in yourself. You can do part time or Springboard courses. Ask yourself will I be able to achieve a better lifestyle if I do.
Niamh Dunbar can be contacted for further information on her research on Linked In.
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