It is now an open secret that women face a discriminatory scenario when it comes to the question of occupying the leadership position. There is burgeoning literature dealing with various dimensions of the issue. One does not need to be a hardcore feminist to understand how women leaders are still treated as ‘exceptional examples’ in highly modernist organizations which overwhelmingly have patriarchal traces. When it comes to high-tech organizations the problem does not go away, it simply perpetuates, if not it becomes graver. But in recent times we are having a number of credible organizational studies, which show that women in leadership positions have a remarkable ability to encounter crisis situations in organizations and to attain excellence by leveraging the adverse times. This indeed results in not just a perceptual shift about women’s leadership in organizations but also a paradigmatic shift in business organization studies in general.
Crises can assume many forms. They may be internal, in the sense that they may emerge from the imbalance in human and material resources within the organizations. They may well be external in the sense that a war or a natural disaster or a pandemic like COVID-19 can put organizations in very hard times. Let us consider the case of the recent pandemic in the context of our theme here. It is widely known that the pandemic has hit women very hard by robbing them not only of life but also of work. Elimination of women from the workforce has reached an abysmally low level, and women’s participation in the workforce is at the lowest since the late 1970s. It has been widely found that women leaders have shown a great degree of resilience and fortitude in negotiating the great disaster and navigating various organizations through the greatest crisis of the century. In fact, research pieces by analysts in such journals as The Harvard Business Review (HBR) recommend hiring and reinstating women leaders as the best option to tide over the losses caused by the pandemic.
Everyone understands that steering organizations during a crisis of such mammoth proportions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, requires a very fine balance between the ‘physical’ and the ‘emotional’. Such balance is particularly essential for those in the leadership position because they have to persuade and convince the employees about the possibility of better days ahead. Any deficiency on this account is sure to put the crisis-torn organization into disarray. During the pandemic, as various studies find, women who are in a stereotypical manner looked down upon as “highly emotional” have, from their leadership position, made a very impressive display of the fine balance being referred to here.
Emotional intelligence has been the guiding force of women leaders who have simultaneously faced extremely distressing situations not only in the workplace but also at home, confronted heavy turmoil, and yet successfully generated optimism within the organization and the employees. Women leaders have been able to effectively develop suitable crisis communication, not necessarily sticking to the rulebook. They have also been able to develop innovative ways of managing responses with empathy and in general, they have shown a strong inclination towards adopting inclusive policies to negotiate the trying times. In the studies conducted the respondents would vouch for the fact that democratic decision-making, purposive initiatives, calculated risk-taking, and concern for the wellbeing of the employees have also been important markers of successful women leadership, oftentimes surpassing men colleagues. To dispel the still-existing doubts of the skeptics, it is worth noting that women leaders have proved to be successful not only in leading women employees but men as well.
Gender equity has long been regarded as a vital goal in organizational life. But as we all know, it has been a tedious struggle to bring it into organizations amidst prevalent skepticism not just about women as such but especially about women leaders. With such studies vehemently putting across the successful instances of women leading the struggle undoubtedly receives a much-needed boost. The pandemic has been a boon in disguise in proving the worth of women leaders but the momentum has to be sustained.