CEO Insight magazine talks to Kristin Engvig, founder of Women’s International Networking, about how things are changing for women in the global landscape, how gender diversity impacts business and how we can combat an ongoing patriarchal bias through collaboration and feminine ways of being.
CEO Insight: Women’s International Networking (WIN) was founded in 1997 and has been instrumental in addressing the issue of gender in a new way; encouraging debates and promoting change. In 2017, gender diversity is a matter central to most businesses. What do you think about this and why do you think gender typecasts in the workplace have become so integrally relevant?
Kristin Engvig: Gender typecasts have become relevant because we need to have a diversity of thinking to find innovative solutions in business, and this has never been more important. Diversity of thinking is linked to innovation, and is a great way to overcome traditional and modern workplace challenges. Statistics in education show that women are covering more ground, and now more than ever, businesses call for the feminine way of being, and sharing and caring are increasingly needed in the corporations. These are not weak qualities – to care for something calls for you to defend it - which requires strength and commitment. It is vital then to include this growing feminine pool of talent into business, gaining qualities like intuition, that are significant in contemporary times. While women may not necessarily have the monopoly of these qualities, modern business challenges like robotics and global warming for example, call for collaborative ways of thinking to address and tackle them.
"I think it is vital no one gets more emphasis, and I think it’s important to give everyone the same amount of time, giving space to all the voices to be heard."
CEO Insight: India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, but it is quite far down the gender gap with catastrophic loopholes regarding the empowerment of women and safety and security. What can organisations like WIN, with its egalitarian ethos do to try and comprehend and combat this prevailing patriarchal bias?
Kristin Engvig: Firstly, we can all ‘show by doing’ in the workshops WIN offers, and this role modelling will inspire. Secondly, by putting different people on the stage and mixing with different cultures and countries we can get to hear everyone’s voice. I have received positive feedback about the WINConferences concerning everyone getting the same amount of time on stage to speak about what is important to them. I think it is vital no one gets more emphasis, and I think it’s important to give everyone the same amount of time, giving space to all the voices to be heard. This egalitarian way of doing can help shift cultures and ignite that inner person, highlighting possibilities and capabilities. Our conferences and meetings provide new ways of networking, offering skills by helping each other and learning from each other. It is an exciting time to work in India, we are very optimistic about the great energy that the country offers and motivated by the change that is occurring.
CEO Insight: Some well-known women achievers have spoken at, or attended, the India WINConference including Naina Lal Kidwai, Rekha Mody and Selja Kumari emphasising that there is a need to create an environment where women inspire and are inspired on the global stage. Coming into 2018, how close are we to achieving this goal?
Kristin Engvig: There has been some acceleration and we are getting there, but there is still some work to do. While we have seen steady growth and witnessed an increase in sharing resources and helping women, there is still opposition. We need to maintain the confidence to fight for what we believe in and stay strong in ourselves. There is such dynamism and growth in India. It is infectious and it’s imperative that we bring it back to Europe and share this positive energy. This global way of being will help us inspire and feel inspired, prepare us for the possibilities that lie ahead and help us to continue to fight for what we believe in. While India may be in many ways still a challenging place for women, change is afoot, and I see a diverse and inclusive workplace in the future.
CEO Insight: Internationally women face similar workplace challenges, but socio-cultural norms specific to India affect women as they strive for leadership roles in business in this country. Various studies have indicated a comparatively larger gender gap in India, with 72% of women feeling that gender discrimination is still prevalent in the workplace. Is it still an uphill battle in India against dominant groups or has society overcome this hurdle?
Kristin Engvig: Contrary to popular belief, I have witnessed that Indian women coming from a privileged level have even more support than women in Europe. However, those placed in the middle level, with obligations in the house and family etc feel a lot of normative pressure. In India, boys are privileged over girls from birth, with more value placed on a male baby, and we still need to fight for a change. Things are shifting, but women still feel the burden to balance home, family and work life. But you can get this everywhere; it is not specific to India. To combat this it is extremely important to create companies that are agents of change in society, and promote businesses to take on social causes.
CEO Insight: WIN is a leading global women’s network, with a presence in over a dozen countries offering communities, companies and individual leaders the possibility to grow and contribute to the world, championing a more inclusive business environment for all. What is coming up for the WIN in 2018?
Kristin Engvig:There are many exciting things ahead, with WIN looking to bring in some new countries in the future, accelerating our work. We are exploring Russia where we have not been before and we will continue to do more work in Europe and Asia. There is a continuous request for more in-depth learning so we will carry on with our current programmes with this in mind. We will be working in partnership with men –paving the way - tuning that fine balance of no domination, more collaboration.
More information visit: www.winconference.net