Given the various advantages associated with a diverse workforce, Diversity is not a choice or an option but a must for organizations. However, hiring a diverse workforce is only the beginning. The real challenge is to support this workforce with an inclusive and equitable work environment where employees feel equal, accepted and included without biases.
However, according to an SHRM Report, 41% of managers state they are “too busy” to implement any kind of diversity and inclusion initiatives. Which brings us to the fact that while much gets written, spoken and discussed on this subject statistics have time and again proved that diversity and gender inclusiveness is still a topic that is widely speculated but where a lot of action still needs to be taken globally.
According to the research published in Harvard Business Review gender equality could add $13 trillion to global GDP by 2030 & companies should encourage women to join the workforce. This definitely calls for some serious steps to be adhered to by people in leadership positions. It is time that organizations broadened the definition of diversity & also became more inclusive. The need is not just to open dialogues but also come up with concrete action plans to ensure that women are well represented at all levels in the organization.
To do our bit, Amazing Workplaces, a little ahead of International Women’s Day spoke to various thought leaders and asked them to share their views about how they feel organizations can be made more inclusive with a key focus on Women diversity.
Kavitha Kadari, Senior Director, Product and Technology, CDK Global India believes that “Diversity has no real meaning without inclusion and the gender differences should be appreciated and celebrated to respect one another.”
Unfortunately, COVID has further compounded the gender gaps in most industries leading to an increased focus on I&D at most organizations. The first step typically starts with increased gender ratios at the workplace. However, providing equal opportunities, overcoming preconceived biases, creating an environment where everyone is respected for what they are would significantly improve the inclusivity at any workplace. The gender differences should be appreciated and celebrated to respect one another. In most organizations, there are more male leaders, and they must be the change agents in helping build an inclusive environment.
At CDK India, we ensure that each employee is wholly engaged and has all the means to express oneself openly, feel included and has a sense of belonging by promoting psychological safety at our workplace. The I&D workshops conducted for leaders at CDK Global have hugely helped them understand the unconscious biases and the importance of gender inclusivity. Spectrum – All In, our I&D committee drives recognitions to appreciate the intentional efforts to foster a culture of inclusion. We are committed towards not only just building infrastructure to support women but also creating an empowering workplace for them. The initiatives like establishing an open feedback system for women, ‘SuperMom – Balance for Success’ program for returning mothers, and mentoring programs are just a few of them. As the ‘Top 100 Workplaces for Women’ and ‘Certified as an Inclusive Workplace’ by the Great Place to Work India, we ensure each employee feels belonged here and is enabled to reach his/her highest potential during their career journey with us and beyond.
“To improve gender diversity at the workplace, we must first be gender-neutral” says Pratibha Advani, Chief Business Officer, EnableX.io
She further add, “I feel lucky to have worked for large Indian conglomerates as well as global MNC’s like GE & Barclays, promoter led company like NIIT Technologies & in more recent times with a start-up at vCloudx. But I have been even more fortunate not to have experienced gender bias in any of the above organizations”.
These are all organizations that have championed diversity. However, I came across certain individuals who questioned the ability of women to lead the Finance function and this was more a mindset issue vs an organisation culture.
I have learnt to believe in an open-ended definition of diversity – one that recognizes talent irrespective of their gender, physical abilities/ attributes, background, ethnicity, religion, caste, colour and personal preferences. Diversity for me is being sensitive and humane by providing diverse talent with an equal opportunity to be part of a successful organization. It is about creating the right environment for talent to thrive and grow.
To improve gender diversity at the workplace, we must first be gender-neutral. We ought to remove biases from our job descriptions that differentiate candidates even before anyone in the organization connects with them – this is the only way an organization can get diverse talent based on meritocracy. A word of caution to organizations that are focussing on gender percentage as metrics to improve diversity, they need to develop an open and nurturing culture that attracts talent towards them and the numbers would speak for themselves. The success of any business is dependent on its talent, and one must not compromise or be biased in hiring the best talent.
Last but not the least, it is time that organizations broadened the definition of diversity and also became more inclusive.”
“We should give women the confidence that they can determine their own path by co-creating and enabling environment in the organization and set expectation at home which will enable them to thrive.” Aparna Doshi, Director, Alvarez and Marsal
Developing an inclusive culture is a business imperative as it enables organizations to innovate and solve problems more efficiently thereby achieving organizational peak performance. Furthermore, an inclusive culture attracts and retains best talent which is critical in the war for talent.
Five key steps to create an inclusive culture:
- Demonstrate and communicate deep commitment by the leadership to address the gender gap at every level in the organization;
- Identify and consistently address any biases in the organization’s recruiting, retention, coaching and promotion strategy;
- Give equal opportunities to men and women to lead critical projects and receive equal remuneration based on their performance;
- Create a coaching program or workshops that will help women employees unshackle themselves from patriarchal societal conditioning;
- Organizations need to uphold flexibility that will allow employees to manage their personal commitments (e.g. raising children or taking care of ailing parents) without having to sacrifice their careers.
According to Vachana, Associate Director HR, MedGenome Labs, “One of the few ways to creating gender diversity is to intertwine gender inclusion strategies with hiring strategy along with creating an open and inclusive culture among the workforce. A gender balanced workforce is essential to an organisation’s success.”
“A diverse and gender inclusive workplace is the backbone of any organisation. By promoting gender inclusiveness, an organization can leverage the true potential of its workforce by tapping into various abilities, experiences and the knowledge they have to offer. The best of innovations can only be created if people are allowed to reflect and be their true selves. Fostering a community that is free of all conscious and unconscious bias is very important, as this will help in creating a more transparent environment and contribute to fulfilling customer needs across various sectors”
“Gender inclusiveness is beyond gender equality and much beyond just salary corrections and hiring more female and LGBTQ representatives”, feels Preety Saroj, Head of People, Novo
The approach towards making the secluded workforce feel valued, included and heard are the ground rules towards building an inclusive workplace.
As organizations continue to navigate the pandemic, gender inclusiveness at workplaces is becoming a daunting task especially after the job losses and the subsequent rehiring to fill up roles as organizations move to recovery phase. The focus has definitely shifted to rebuilding the team and less on diversity and inclusion.
Some initiatives that can be helpful in creating gender inclusive workplaces can be, Focussed group initiatives, creating focussed groups beyond the female/male binary and include employees with different gender identities. Giving equal opportunity while hiring for a role, outlining and promoting a role by addressing issues of gender disparity. Spread the word by educating the existing workforce on the importance of gender inclusiveness, providing equal opportunities and removing unconscious biases.
Akshita Bidhiraja, Director, Orika believes in a culture of equality
We at Orika and Paras Spices believe in building a culture that provides equal opportunities to all. We’ve been actively trying to replicate some women friendly policies that are followed domestically and globally, Zomato being a benchmark in the domestic circuit. Even in our marketing initiatives, our kitchen based products never indicate that women are the only ones using the products, the whole idea is to focus on the urban working woman, who doesn’t have to do all the kitchen chores.
Personally, I being an entrepreneur, a wife and a mother, I’m trying my best to create a perfect work-life-fitness balance and inspire women around me to pick their own ventures.
Functional Nutritionist Mugdha Pradhan, CEO and Founder of iThrive states, “It’s time we create workplaces with Equal Opportunities and Freedom of Authentic Expression”.
Talking about gender inclusion Mugdha Pradhan further says, “Gender Inclusiveness isn’t just about salaries or workspace, though that matters a lot. To me, gender inclusiveness is more about allowing the Divine Feminine and Masculine to emerge from both men and women on the team, which means even creating space for men to feel safe with their feelings and emotions or creating the space for women to pursue more aggressive ambitious self-empowering career goals. To me, gender inclusivity means truly creating a space for humans to be their most self-expressed authentic selves.”
Few things that we follow at iThrive are:
- Creating a space where sharing emotional and personal issues are encouraged.
- Designing a workspace to make cross-functioning and collaboration of ideas easier.
- Ensuring that everyone feels heard.
- Working to make job opportunities, benefits, and even facilities gender fluid.
- In-house therapy – a facility at the workplace, which everyone is encouraged to make use of.
- Maternity leaves and parental policies for all genders without any biases.
“We (LBT women) usually undergo a lot of problems with family, friends, and lastly, when we go out to work. Some of us compromise with the situation, some fight and face mental and physical torture. But we need acceptance,” says Minu, a Hiring Specialist at Pride Circle.
In the early stages of the women’s movement, the key concerns were matters like redressal of sexual harassment, better toilet facilities and flexible work hours. And in the last 3 decades, much work has been done to do more and offer women better representation, safer workspaces, and better benefits.
Today the movement has grown, advocating for voices who experience overlapping forms of inequity and oppression. Organisations, therefore, need to evolve, understand, and practice intersectional inclusion. LBT (lesbian, bisexual and trans) women, for example, continue to remain underrepresented at the workplace, from hiring practices to benefits.
The women’s community is diverse and varied. As organisations, it’s important to NOT lose steam and move ahead by focusing on women across the spectrum. For lasting change, D&I efforts will need to focus on intersectional inclusion, creating policies that benefit and address the challenges women of all identities and orientations and address the challenges they face.
Ashwini Jain, Founder, ForeignAdmits quotes “We can achieve gender inclusiveness by ensuring equal compensation, opportunities for advancement as well as opportunities for work-life balance”
Gender inclusiveness requires removing policies that discriminate against either gender, hiring diverse leadership candidates, and actively looking to fill equal roles with men and women.
At ForeignAdmits, we have worked towards gender diversity by increasing the proportion of women leaders, including diversity in hiring people for senior management roles. We use inclusive language and ask both men and women for their opinions, not just the ones perceived to be in charge. We have defined certain senior positions in the company strictly for women so that they feel empowered. We have also taken some measures that discriminate against women at the workplace. It is necessary that you give equal opportunity to all your employees in order to enhance the productivity level of your organization as well as earn a good reputation among the clients.
Shrishti Bhandari, Chief Marketing Officer & Executive Director, Mangalam Information Technologies Pvt. Ltd. “A fair and transparent recruitment policy irrespective of caste, gender, marital status and sexual orientation is a formidable step to ensure gender diversity at the workplace.”
According to the Egon Zehnder Global Diversity Report, women hold only 11 percent of committee chairs in India, as opposed to 27.3 percent globally. India Inc should prioritize hiring more women in leadership roles. India Inc should focus on hiring more women in the top leadership roles and STEM job profiles. Hiring processes should be fair and transparent. Moreover, proactive initiatives such as women leadership training programs, flexible working hours, creche facilities for women with children will go a long way in arresting the dropout rate among women in mid-career roles.
Marienelle Castelino, Managing Director at Redhill strongly believes that “Gender inclusivity leads to better decision making and creates better businesses”. Being a successful entrepreneur herself, she is confident that women have the strength and mettle to advance in life.
She further adds on “It’s been proven time and time again that gender inclusivity leads to better decision-making and creates better businesses. Women must take the first step and stand united, supporting and learning from each other to help women succeed from the ground up. We are more than just daughters, mothers and wives; we can also be effective, capable workers and leaders on our own merit.”
Women aside, everyone must buy into the workplace gender inclusiveness movement for it to achieve true momentum. Organizations need to take a company-wide stance and institute policies that are intolerant of gender discrimination and harassment, as well as providing equal opportunity to all for career advancement. These policies must be stringently enforced to spark a genuine mindset change; failure to do so suggests that gender inclusivity isn’t worth taking seriously, which hinders real progress.
Various researches have supported the case of diversity. Building a diverse workplace has many advantages like improved socio economic equality, better and more creative decision making due to increased diversity in decision makers, more innovative and creative organizations and increased profitability.
However, diversity is incomplete without equity and inclusiveness. Hence a complete and in-depth understanding needs to be developed at all levels.
Change begins from the top down and the leaders of today should understand the importance and benefits of creating gender inclusive workplaces. Owing to the numerous benefits of adopting diversity and inclusion, ignoring this aspect shall cause organizations heavily not just in terms of culture, productivity and reputation, but also profitability.