Gender diversity is more than just a moral obligation or women's issue

Several organisations have taken initiatives to provide equal opportunities to both men and women, and further their career prospects

Updated: Jan 17, 2017 10:42:58 AM UTC

Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit organization accelerating progress for women through workplace inclusion. With operations in the United States, Canada, Europe, India, Australia, and Japan, and more than 800 supporting organizations, Catalyst is the trusted resource for research, information, and advice about women at work.

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Diversity and inclusion matter. Innumerable research reports have proved that gender diversity is more than just a moral obligation or women’s issue. Catalyst’s study found that companies with the most women board directors outperformed those with the least in terms of return on sales (ROS) by 16 percent and return on invested capital (ROIC) by 26 percent.

Despite these numbers, the representation of women in India is dismally low. Catalyst’s First Step: India Overview has shown that nearly 50 percent of Indian women drop out of the corporate employment pipeline between junior and mid-levels, compared to 29 percent across Asia. As per a Credit Suisse report, India ranks second lowest in terms of women in senior management levels.

Nonetheless, there are companies in India Inc that have realised the importance of gender balanced teams and their impact on business. They have implemented initiatives to create an inclusive work culture that provides equal opportunities to women and men. Following are practices observed by a few of the many organisations working in this direction.

Integrating diversity with company processes, goals and objectives: To bring about a positive culture change, organisations should start being intentional in their approach and align diversity with every process, goal and objective. For instance, Genpact’s Gender Diversity Agenda comprises four pillars to increase women, retain them and achieve the company’s gender balance goals. The measures they undertake include creating a supportive ecosystem; driving sensitisation among employees; developing women leaders and attracting diverse talent.

Genpact has created a set of long-term and short-term hiring and promotion goals which enable the company to create a robust pool of women within the organisation. To ensure that the best practices are incorporated for diverse hiring, Genpact mandates their hiring teams to undergo sensitisation training and workshops. Additionally, its flagship initiative, Career 2.0, focuses on recruiting women on a career break (a talent pool which is often overlooked).

Setting up diversity and inclusion teams:
Having a team that is tasked with the responsibility of increasing gender diversity in the organisation through various initiatives and actions proves to be beneficial. Tata Motors is one such company that constantly strives to address the needs of diverse employees, including working women. It has formed a Diversity Council at the apex and unit levels. The team ensures that D&I policies and practices are being implemented and the impact is being measured. The leadership team tracks the results of these activities to evaluate progress and take corrective action.

In addition to this, Tata Motors groups its initiatives under five categories which enable them to attract and retain high potential employees. These include:
- Work facilities like safe transportation, cafeterias, crèche facilities, etc.
- Work-life benefits and policies--flexi time/place, work-from-home, sabbaticals
- Employee engagement activities
- Education and career management initiatives that develop higher education policies for deserving employees
- Reward and recognition programmes for employees who support diversity and inclusion

Implementing sponsorship and mentoring activities:
Women employees should have sponsors and mentors in the top-level management who advocate for them and back them on their journey to the top. Mentors are needed to provide guidance, support, and encouragement to their mentees. On the other hand, sponsors talk about high potential employees, advocate for them among people who are influential in the company; thereby opening doors to higher level opportunities and assignments.

Career Watch is a sponsorship programme undertaken by EY Global Delivery Services, India (EY GDS). Meant for high-potential women in manager and senior manager ranks.

The programme aims to:

1) Monitor the professional development and career progression of this group, with a focus on identifying additional leadership opportunities

2) Ensure that women build relationships needed for personal and professional growth and

3) Provide a clear road map of opportunities in senior leadership. Of the firm’s 29 protégés, six have been promoted so far in the 2015 fiscal year.

To attract, retain and advance women and other diverse employees and create a culture of inclusion, EY GDS also implements initiatives like unconscious bias training and engaging men in D&I programmes across levels.

Develop leadership programmes that are directed to women employees:
Catalyst’s report states that when it comes to programmes targeting the development of women, India headquartered companies were less likely than India subsidiaries to offer specialised programmes for women. It further observed that the existing general leadership programmes do not reach women employees. Organisations should therefore initiate leadership programmes that particularly target women. Genpact has set a 40 percent gender diversity target for all its existing internal global leadership development (GLD) programmes that include features-related to networking, training, and sponsorship.

GE Healthcare’s Accelerated Leadership Programme (XLP) also aims to accelerate the career growth of high potential women and men.

Diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice:
In today’s global village, diversity is a fact that cannot be ignored. Including everyone, irrespective of their gender, caste, sexual orientation, or physical ability is a choice, to see values in differences. Leveraging these differences can transform the culture of a company or the global image of a country. We need intentional leaders who will take action, be at the forefront of change and inspire others. Such leaders should build on lessons learnt and capitalise on key opportunities to drive their company’s D&I agenda. Organisations must understand what makes the difference between stated intentions and achieved impact. They will serve as crucial game changers in the journey toward an India Inc where women and men have equal opportunities to succeed.

- By Shachi Irde, Executive Director, Catalyst India WRC

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