Findings from our recent survey of more than 80 female professionals highlight the top career hurdles faced during Covid-19.
As countries across the globe begin to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic growth playing a key factor in enabling a return to “normal life”, companies and workplaces are under time pressure to help define what this looks like exactly.
How do we foster a happy, engaged, and hopeful workforce with so many shifting parameters to achieve commercial success, growth, and evolution? This question throws a spotlight on leadership, on our global leaders as they continue to grapple with vaccines, borders and trade agreements and on the leaders of commerce and industry. We’re collectively looking to them to navigate us towards a new way of working – potentially with flexible home and office arrangements – and forward into a better future.
As we enter the second half of 2021, BEAM engages in conversations about ‘Conscious Leadership’. The findings of this survey underpin some crucial discussions in this series, pulling sharply into focus the opinions and thought processes of key stakeholders in Asia Pacific. Given the exponential, global impact of the pandemic on everyone, yet disproportionately on the female population, the first step was to survey 87 professional women in senior leadership and mid-management roles across Asia Pacific – 80 per cent Asia-based, 20 per cent Australia & New Zealand. With the majority spread across generations X and Y, participants collectively considered three key components as significant hurdles faced by women today:
- Work-Life balance
- The Workplace
Some findings are challenging to dissect in terms of what is simply “the norm” and how much is coloured by current circumstance, but much of it remains reflective of topics that have been discussed for more than a decade. Ultimately, it seems like not much has changed, and women still notably feel the impact of gender inequality in their careers.
Within Work-Life balance, over 42 per cent identified juggling their careers with family and social expectations as significant hurdles, with the impact of more of the parenting load falling their way adding to this. With home-schooling and kids becoming our surrogate colleagues as the kitchen table becomes our work-station, the lines between work and home sometimes seem close to being erased altogether. So how will companies foster a sense of a better future when an exhausted and Zoom-fatigued workforce emerges from their pyjama bottoms to re-enter the building?
Exploring the workplace itself highlighted that some permeating issues retain a stronghold, reported equally across generations. For example, 71 per cent of women surveyed have experienced exclusion, gender, race and age-based discrimination and stereotyping. In addition, almost 45 per cent cited a lack of opportunities for development and organisational limitations in advancing their careers.
So what is it we need to do differently moving forward? When will we stop asking for this to change?
Turning our attention to the area of self-development, it became clear that the onus does not solely lay with organisations and leaders to help us find our way to a more equal reality. Twenty-nine per cent of respondents acknowledged that a lack of ambition, drive and confidence was a major factor in limiting their success. How much of this is attributable to the pandemic is impossible to quantify, but the identified link between a lack of women’s networks and the experience of stagnated development is undeniable. So, how can the leaders of tomorrow realise a different reality?
When asked what it would take to be an impactful leader who can affect necessary change, respondents overwhelmingly cited empathy, compassion and authenticity as highly desirable, followed closely by being agile, flexible and adaptable. The more classic attributes of being driven, determined, motivational and empowering were also identified as vital, reinforcing that being a good leader is quite simply a complex equation.
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister, New Zealand
The big question is how do we hire leaders who have a strong sense of empathy and compassion, are also ambitious and will doubtlessly need to make tough decisions? Can we teach someone to have all of those things? Are these innate capabilities, or are they able to be learned?
BEAM’s “Conscious Leadership” conversations are intended to unpack and uncover the key issues and ingredients needed for robust and effective leadership not only coming out of the pandemic but also for a future where we no longer need to focus on gender equality or a lack thereof. The key attributes needed to move our industries and economies forward have not only evolved to skills that require development, serious thought and a great deal of comfort with vulnerability.
What will our careers look like? What do we want? What is possible? What makes good business sense?
Redefining the parameters of success has never been such an open-ended and necessary conversation and what is clear is that there is still much work to do. But, as women know only too well, perhaps the only way to tackle this is to keep on talking about it.
See further discussions from the ‘Women in Association: Leaders of Tomorrow’ hybrid workshop jointly organised by Marina Bay Sands, PCMA Asia Pacific and BEAM. In addition, stay tuned for more of the solutions from our Conscious Leadership Conversations series throughout 2021.
Access the complete “Insights into the Future of Women in Leadership in APAC” findings.