By Pinky N. D. Kansara:
Amidst economic volatility and global political crisis, the conversations around how diversity and inclusion could be an answer to innovative business practices have been gaining popularity.
But we are still far from understanding how this could help build agile and innovative companies that are not only well prepared to tackle unexpected crises but also that can survive and possibly thrive through it all.
Today, we are at a crossroads when it comes to Gender Inclusivity and Neutrality, in the corporate workplace.
Every year, women’s Day celebrations raise the issues like unequal representation of women in leadership roles, lack of equal share of voice, equal pay, and equal opportunities, which continue to be real hurdles in building gender-inclusive and functionally effective diverse workplaces.
As per the Egon Zehnder Global Diversity Report 2020, women in India currently comprise 17% of board positions in corporate India, an increase of 8.6% since 2012.
However, they lag behind when it comes to leadership posts, and only 11% of committee chairs are held by women, compared to 27.3% globally.
While there have been several efforts being made, India Inc. has a long way to go, considering the need to focus on the basics like an inclusive and diversified hiring process, and encouraging a safe work environment to voice biases and concerns around workplace harassment, etc., before moving forward to effective grooming and mentorship program for their women employees.
And the first step to achieving this is visionary leadership and a robust team of diverse people, at its core.
But before we proceed, let’s understand how organizations can benefit from diversity. In order to thrive in the face of increasing complexity and disruption, in an increasingly global work environment, companies need to unlock the power and potential of all the talent, including women, people of different races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic status, and those with different physical and cognitive abilities. In other words, they need inclusion.
Here are key factors that highlight the positive impact of diversity and inclusion:
- Stronger core capabilities: Diversity helps build a pool of people with a diverse set of talents, thought process, and approach to problems – all of which are important qualities to have in a team if an organization has to survive
- Creative problem-solving capabilities: Diversity leads to more creative ideas and problem-solving capabilities as teams with people from various backgrounds, gender, and age groups, bring different perspectives and experiences to the table. As a result, team members can build off each other’s ideas in a more creative way than if everyone approaches a problem or an idea from the same perspective.
- Attract better talent: Diversity attracts better talent as top candidates today are attracted to companies with an inclusive workplace culture. Thus organizations that encourage diversity and inclusion have a much greater chance of attracting and hiring high-quality candidates.
- Access to newer businesses: Organisations with diverse teams of workers have an advantage over ones with a less diverse workforce as they can communicate more efficiently with customers from specific communities. They also have an edge with a better understanding of customers from specific business sectors or markets and are thus more likely to be able to expand their business portfolio and clientele
And while the above business objectives are lucrative, organizations also gain consumer credibility, and social respect for their commitment to building diverse workplaces.
But how does one go about doing it? Just recruiting more women or other members from social, ethnic, or cultural minorities is not the solution. Here are some quick pointers on how to build a truly diverse workplace:
1. Cross-sectional diversity: The first step towards inclusivity for any organization is to balance the gender representation across the so-called ‘female-dominated’ and ‘male-dominated’ sections. For example, having ‘all women’ or ‘majority women’ employees in the HR section, Vs. a male-dominated sales and marketing/ tech support section, should be consciously re-looked at.
2. Creating safer work environments: An inclusive workplace is also one which offers a safe and respectful work environment. The need to create an unbiased, and safe platform for all employees – men, and women, to come forward and raise concerns or report gender-based discriminatory behavior, is vital to preserve
3. Training programs: Another important aspect is equal access to regular training and mentoring programs. A lot of companies create training schedules and modules that may not be suitable for or be difficult for women, automatically depriving them of an important career opportunity to gain knowledge and training.
For example, off-site training and workshops that often stretch over 2-3 days, may be difficult for women employees who have just delivered babies or have additional personal responsibilities.
Access to effective training and mentoring, be it online or in person, is a right of every employee and the duty of every company to provide the same to everyone willing to grow and learn, to further their career.
4. Equal growth opportunities: Last but not least, an equal share of voice and equal opportunity for all deserving professionals, irrespective of their gender. It is important to nurture talent, mentor, groom, and lead it to realize its true potential, in a gender-neutral ranking and promotion system.
Lastly, it is important to observe that, in the backdrop of COVID and the rise of digitization, there has been a renewed focus on intangible skills, including interpersonal and innovative problem-solving skills.
Qualities like emotional intelligence, effective communication, empathy, and self-regulation, are set to see tremendous growth, along with qualities of critical, creative, and collaborative thinking skills, that can go beyond what machines are capable of.
And this makes it even more important for companies to focus on not only the functional aspect of employee productivity but also the emotional and creative aspect, which can come only in a truly diverse work environment.
About Pinky N. D. Kansara:
Pinky N. D. Kansara is a Certified REBT practitioner (Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy), counsellor, motivational speaker and coach, specialising in the field of employee emotional well-being (EEW).
In her erstwhile role, Ms Kansara has been a seasoned HR professional, and has a total of 27 years of work experience, including 20 years in a leadership role with a corporate, where she was an integral part of the company’s growth, participating in HR and Business strategy decisions, that helped the brand grow from 450 to 4000+ employees, and with an annual turnover of 6000 + cr.
In her current role as a counsellor and therapist, Ms Kansara brings her deep domain understanding of Indian corporate workplaces and employee management insights, to curate impactful EEW initiatives.
Through her initiative, ‘Belong to yourself’, Ms Kansara conducts a series of motivational talks and conversations that are aimed at helping in their emotional wellbeing.
Her core philosophy revolves around embracing individuality and allowing people to be their authentic selves in personal and professional relationships. She firmly believes that Responsibility, Respect, and Reflection within oneself form the foundation of any healthy connection and her mission statement, empower, inspire and uplift, is in line with the work she aims to do, through the ‘Belong to yourself’ series of talks.
As a strong advocate for women’s empowerment, Ms Kansara is also sensitive towards issues of gender bias and inclusivity in workplace, and has been very vocal about the need to handle sexual harassment at work place in a fair and sensitive manner.
She is also passionate about helping corporate foster positive work environment for their employees and also to help individuals, especially GenZ, women and Millennials, to navigate difficult professional setbacks and grow to the best of their professional.
Her aim as an REBT practitioner and promoter of EEW is to be able bring about an awareness in the way corporate structures are currently working, and help create balanced work environment so as to construct overall healthy work culture for all.
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