WHILE an increasing number of women are entering previously male-dominated industries in Asia, more has to be done to increase gender diversity in the region, as women have an immense impact on organisational excellence and business transformation.

According to a report by global management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, companies with the highest level of gender diversity in top management outperformed peers in their sector in terms of return on equity (11.4 per cent versus an average of 10.3 per cent), profitability (earnings before interest and taxes of 11.1 per cent versus 5.8 per cent) and share price growth (64 per cent versus 47 per cent) over the period from 2005 to 2007. 

I have been serving as president of a women’s community service group in Asia for the past two decades. As a regional search practitioner and advocate of women issues, I have personally witnessed the phenomenal strides that must be taken by women who choose to continue to embrace leadership positions within any organisation.

Ultimately, it boils down to the choices we make in our lives, especially when we take on the roles of manager and mother.

Women today are well-educated and highly competent. With the emergence of social media as a prominent social networking tool, new growth opportunities have arisen for them to leverage their skills.

As women managers continue the “Great Leap Forward”, we still must be mindful of the factors that will make this possible. Then, it will be a fruitful journey for both the individuals and the corporations they contribute to.

Striking a balance

It is important to have role models who can share practices on how they seemingly “have it all” — being able to reach for their best and yet balance the different priorities of their lives as they go through singlehood, marriage and parenthood.

They have the power to inspire younger women in the workforce to “stay on board” and not leave the workforce before reaching the pinnacle of their career success.

Human resource leaders in the workplace can hold more focus group discussions to think of creative and innovative ways to keep mums at work. Talent retention is key to ensuring a continuous supply of human capital.

A pluralistic approach

Diversity practices that remove gender discrimination when promoting managers in the corporation are important.

An enlightened CEO once said: “We are a customer-facing business and if we are trying to mirror our business, our clients tend to have a much higher percentage of women than we do. So clearly the need is vital to retain and promote women in our industry.”

In our ageing workforce, there are many “Baby Boomer” women leaders and managers who can take on roles as workplace mentors and coaches to train the next generation of women managers and leaders.

Tap into this talent before they head off into the sunset. The edge to success lies in capturing and retaining “institutional knowledge” for knowledge management.

The health-care sector in Singapore is tapping into senior nursing talent to find workplace guides and buddies for new entrants — to show them the ropes and help in their career transition and cultural fit into the organisation. 

There is always synergy in diversity. A great book on diversity called A Peacock In The Land Of Penguins by BJ Gallagher Hateley and Warren H. Schmidt echoes the dilemmas facing businesses across the country — how to manage the increasing diversity of the workforce and how to capture the talent, creativity, energy and commitment of all employees.

A fable about a peacock that struggles to be itself while surrounded by penguins, it asks whether seemingly opposite birds can work productively together.

This bestseller will help managers understand and maximise the potential of their workforce.

Sharing leadership

Promotions that are based on the person’s track record and competencies to lead and manage a team to greater success, as opposed to gender only, are a key factor to consider if organisations wish to tap into different gender strengths to release the human potential in their workplace. 

Lots of organisations are now setting a trend of team leadership, where co-drivers are appointed to drive the business units. This shared leadership between a male and female leader acts like yin and yang. It is also serves as an opportunity to assess talent and potential in real-life situations and also for succession planning and career development. 

Taking charge

Aspiring woman managers must also develop their own career management plans that are unique to their own life situations, hopes and goals, and not settle for less than what life can offer them. 

Lifelong learning both in formal and informal settings is a basis for continuous self-improvement. Networking for greater visibility and accessibility to resources is also vital for career success.

Establish a strong personal brand and remember to help other women on the way up. Each of us can make a difference by being different. Know your “unique selling proposition”. As Oprah Winfrey once said: “Talk the walk, walk the talk and walk the walk”. 

In summary, women have the capacity to be transformational leaders who outperform others in profit, revenue and strategy. They can be relied upon to build solid and committed teams that drive extraordinary performance and support collective concerns.