Workplace diversity is becoming a business necessity because a diverse and inclusive group of employees reflects the world around you and makes your company more creative, flexible, innovative and better develop products that meet the needs of the marketplace.
Additionally, diversity is key for Indian companies in addressing the increasingly competitive talent shortage. By expanding the pool of eligible candidates, Indian companies gain access to a vast under used potential. Recognizing and then acting on this connection between business goals and diversity goals is the first step for leadership when choosing to advance women or other underrepresented groups into leadership positions.
But is anyone making headway on recruiting and retaining more women?
Talking Cranes talks to women leaders in India to reflect on the diversity needs, challenges and successes in their industries. We posed two questions and here is what they have to say.
- Can you identify at least two things that have helped increase diversity in your industry? and how is it working?
- What could companies offer to empower women in the workplace? (maternity leave- flex timing- job sharing- working from home- other benefits etc)?
Sobhana Jaya Madhavan - Associate Vice President - Organizational Excellence, Head HR at Newgen, Chennai
1. Senior leadership @ Newgen cares about and is concerned about diversity and gender issues.
2. Having clear goals definitely helps. For 2016/17 - we want to increase women's participation in our workforce to 50%.
3. It is working very well. In the 6 months we have had a partnership with TC, we have increased participation of women in the workforce by about 5% (@43% now from 38%), have diversity and gender issues sprinkled all over our corporate menu!
At Newgen there has always been a lot of support for flexible working models and remote working/working from home has been strongly encouraged for many positions. We do have maternity leave. We have many clubs and now the TC/Newgen platform to support women at Newgen. We have a strong Prevention of Sexual Harassment committee and a code of conduct that strictly prohibits any form of discrimination. Overall, I think we have a gender friendly work place and lots of opportunities for women to grow, learn and lead.
Anitha George – Senior Practice Director at Oracle Consulting, Bangalore
1) First is really to feel the need for diversity. I have been working in the IT industry for over 23 years and have always been part of a minority. Over the years we have seen the number of women in the field go up, but this has been considerably higher in the lower levels and they don't last long enough on their jobs to make it to the top. Again engineering per say has traditionally been a favorite with the boys; girls usually land up with life sciences or humanities as a choice for higher education. A focus on increasing the number of girls studying Engineering and Mathematics at a college level has increased the inflow of women into the tech work force.
2) Diversity target for hiring at all levels. Organizations now have a target to hire a certain percentage of women into the workforce. Lateral hiring at Senior levels is also important. Unless you fill in the vacuum at the top, the atmosphere is not really welcoming to women in the workforce. Few women survive because they think and behave like men.
3) Teach girls the need for Financial Independence. This is what will ensure they work and stay in the workforce.
What could companies offer to empower women in the workplace?
1) Maternity leave of minimum 6 months to ensure that the babies are breast fed for as long as they physically need it. This ensures the mothers as well as child’s health. Rushing back to work after 2 weeks or even 6 weeks does not give the women ample time to recoup her health.
2) Back to work programs that offer extra skill up and training so that a woman does not miss out because of the 6 months off work. All her peers move up, get better opportunities and she is left being feeling depressed. The performance appraisal system should be geared to handle this. A lot of time women naturally tend to take a back seat at work because of motherhood and they opt out of responsible positions because they feel they cannot cope. They sometimes take up jobs way below their skill set. This requires coaching and counseling. A good mentoring program will help here.
3) Having more senior women in the workplace help because they have been there and can help. 6 months in a 30-40 year career is not much but the lack of confidence because of being away 6 months is what does you in.
4) Any program that keeps women away from getting back in a normal work cycle is detrimental to growth. If you want to ensure that you give women a chance to keep working and balancing things are home and work, then part time working etc help. But the more women rely on this, the more they are not able to get back into a normal working pattern that they require to progress their career. Rather give time time off to ensure their kids get the attention they need and then once they are done with that, get them to a regular working cycle.