A Deloitte analysis says that women in manufacturing are seeing positive changes in the industry’s attitude towards recruiting, retaining, and advancing women over the last five years, but we are not done yet
The mattress industry has been traditionally a male-dominated industry. Of late we have seen women taking key positions in middle management and top management. It is not that women have not been part of the workforce in mattress manufacturing companies. Most of the work that requires design aesthetics, innovation and support roles is dominated by women. While these activities are labour-oriented and had little interaction with the outside world, the industry depended on its male executives to interface with the consumers, vendors and suppliers.
There is undoubted evidence that the buying decisions in both households and institutional buyers are made by women. Realizing this trend manufacturers have started looking at bringing in women into roles that require an external interface. “A woman can empathize and understand another woman more objectively and this will be a great opportunity for mattress manufacturers to put women in key external interfacing roles,” says an industry veteran.
Industry observers point out that women show so much more patience and are far more diligent while showing a greater sense of design aesthetics. When it comes to, say, product development and product presentation women have a natural instinct to convince their target audience. “Let us flip this view and see how a woman goes about buying a mattress in a retail store. It is OK for a man to walk into a store look at the brand, and the price tag and make a decision right away. But women get into after-sales service, the durability of the product texture of the fabric and colour and a whole lot of things that a typical male buyer misses out.” As a corollary, is it not then only apt that we put women in place to ensure that all these factors are taken care of? By the rule of thumb, women can make great Project Leaders, Product Managers and Design leads while also driving innovation labs.
The time is right now for manufacturing companies to look at onboarding female employees in key positions. You can design the job role in such a way that they get to interact with the external world more. Typical rules would be marketing-related roles but there could also be product development which involves understanding the latest trends and motivating the internal team to come up with new designs.
There are a number of reasons why women make good leaders and transform the business. Let’s list them out one by one.
• Empathy: Women possess the amazing capability to empathize and understand a situation. They tend to put themselves in the shoes of the person they are interacting with, understand the problem at hand and offer a solution. They focus on the work and not on the person which is a big advantage in team management. • Motivation: Women are able to motivate teams more effectively than male leaders. Their ability to understand their team members’ capability and specialization and their level of patience helps motivate the team more effectively • Work ethics: Women executives show greater work ethics than their male counterparts which, in turn, reflects back in their team. Their sense of fairness is somehow more rounded than the male executives. For instance, their sense of Time-In and Time-Out at work is impeccable and it is something they will not compromise on. • Soft but firm in managing: Women are naturally warm-hearted and tend to approach people the same way they do with their families. Their ability to look at things more objectively and understand the context helps them be perceived as soft but as we have seen before the sense of fairness and work ethics shows that they are firm.
It is time to bring women to the forefront of the mattress industry. We have already seen that some of the manufacturing companies are now headed by women or have women in top management positions. It is now time for us to bring them from support roles which we discussed at the beginning of this article. It makes great sense, especially in the pandemic and post-pandemic era where work-from-home culture is prevalent to put women at the helm. For one, they can understand the pressures of work and the requirements back home much better. They will be able to bring work-life balance automatically not only to themselves but to the team leading to a better working environment. “If you want a more happy workforce then put a woman in charge,” says a senior industry executive.
We asked a few CxOs in other industries why they chose women to lead some of their teams and here are the results.
• Diligence 40%
• Work Ethics 40%
• Innovation 55%
• Design ability 60%
• Understand Target audience 70%
Does Having more women executives make for better business sense?
It makes good business sense to have more women in your executive mix. Citing a 10-year study on women executives in corporates, a Forbes article claims that companies with the highest gender diversity see a much higher return on equity[ 10%], a higher operating result [48%], and stronger stock price growth, as per the McKinsey study.
Just to be sure that we are talking about good business sense here are a few pointers that assert that women executives are good for business.
• Women are especially proactive in driving for results and championing change are persistent through numerous challenges and typically won’t rest until the job gets done • Women build strategic connections that strengthen organizations. Women are natural at engaging and developing people; identifying their skill sets and motivating them to perform better. They are able to bring teams together and build collaborative environments.
• Women are holistic problem-solvers. Contrary to popular belief, women love to make decisions faster, they are able to organise bits of data into a cohesive pattern and solve a wide array of problems. Moreover, women are natural at soliciting and listening to diverse sets of views.
• Women are quite adept at building relationships and networks. A woman is an expert in social skills and is able to connect with people from diverse backgrounds more easily than their male counterparts. They are able to read emotions and pick up nuances of postures faster than anyone else.
A few things companies can do to encourage women to take leadership roles
Management Training: As women rise up rise of the corporate ladder, they tend to encounter that their male counterparts are most often better trained than they are. Companies should have a program to offer management training to women. Some mattress manufacturers have a program to identify women who can take up leadership roles and put them on air fast track similar to what they do for male executives.
Friendly Atmosphere: Bring a more friendly atmosphere for women to feel safe and secure at work. It is important to take cognizance of the special needs of woman executives and bill policies and work contracts so that their needs are addressed. In today’s world are there in-store Bosch important to ensure safety at work?
Women are carrying Lion’s share at home. And now at offices too. So give them some slack and allow them additional perks and leaves they will require. The more comfortable they feel, the more dedicated they are to their work. If you care for them, they can bring valuable insights to the management table which cannot be replaced by any MBA or Ivy League degree.
Put women in charge of innovation: More often than not, we have seen women playing the supporting role but they have, time and again, proved that they are far superior to their counterparts in driving innovation. The Companies can create special innovation teams led by a woman.
An HBR article gives a succinct gist of why women make for good leaders:
They don’t lean in when you’ve got nothing to lean in about. That is do not try to prove a point but let their work prove it.
They empathize. And often make it a point to expect the same from their teammates. In the process setting the right expectations right from ground zero.
They motivate through transformation. They focus on team engagement, performance and productivity of the entire team rather than focus on individual glory.
They put their people ahead. Like true leaders, they allow their team members to take credit when things go right and take the blame on themselves when it doesn’t.
Also, they focus on elevating others. Rather than make light of their capabilities.
They are practical. Perhaps, the biggest of all reasons why women make for better leaders is this.
They don’t say they are “humbled” ever. But they remain “humble”. There is a corollary to this. Women are “implicitly obedient” to their work principle and thus they remain within their sphere of influence and do not get drawn into external egocentric worlds.
Give the pay parity right
This is perhaps one of the biggest controversial things in modern workplaces. Women are paid less than their male counterparts. Companies that have seen this anomaly and changed their organizational structure to bring parity between male and female workforce have seen tremendous success in productivity. “I’ve seen more and more organizations asking for successful effective women executives that they can hire. This is a big change of heart in corporate India which seems to have suddenly woken up from years of slumber trying to sweep under the carpet the issue of giving women greater parity in position and compensation,” says Ganesh, HR Consultant in Bangalore.
Women have been underemployed and relegated to support roles and hence been overlooked in terms of compensation, forgetting the parity. During the pandemic, the International Labour Organization found out that women have worked through the period consistently and with more effect. While cultivating a culture of passion is important for companies it is more important to look into the pay parity. Unless companies believe that women are their high achievers, one of the reasons they have risen through the corporate ladder, and they do everything it takes to bring women compensation on par with the rest of the company, any amount of other initiatives will be futile.
While researching for this story and talking to companies about women executives in their organization we realised one key factor that could contribute to the success: having a specific recruitment program for women. In India the TATA group is known for running such programs but, of late, every other corporates has launched similar campaigns. It is worthwhile to launch a woman-specific hiring campaign to augment diversity in your executive teams. This can bring fresh ideas, new vigour, and a new sense of purpose to the entire middle-level and senior-level executive teams. If you have not already thought of now is the time to think about it and also act upon it.
As the industry makes a comeback from the Pandemic era, there are newer challenges. Most manufacturers already employ able women. As the ILO (International Labour Organization) says more and more organizations are relying on women executives in middle and senior management roles. World over, there is a mini-revolution underway to bring women to the forefront. People in top management are contributing to breaking the apparent glass ceiling which would be a hindrance for women executives to rise to the top. In the mattress industry, there is an inherent advantage as women have already held key support roles. However, it is now time to bring them into key management roles to take the industry from good to great.