Compiled By: Raksha Agarwal Gupta, Head Talent Management, Rewards and Culture.
About Raksha: She has 13+ years of experience in all facets of HR with core strength in Total Rewards, HR Shared Services, and Business Partnering. Prior to Ecom Express , she has worked with Max Life Insurance, Religare Enterprises, and HSBC Securities Services, in her previous assignments. She has worked extensively on designing and implementation of Performance Management, Career Path, Succession Planning, and Sales Incentive plans for large retail workforce.
Having been in the HR function for a number of years now, I’ve had the chance to work alongside great colleagues on a variety of challenging assignments. One challenge, however, that has consistently left room for delivering better, has been the issue of workplace gender diversity. India still lags significantly behind the global average for women’s participation in the workforce. At around 23%, we only have 9 other countries in the world to look back on.
The numbers are not too different in upper management roles either. A global study by Deloitte indicated that Indian women held a little more than 12.4% of board seats, and only 3.2% cent of board chairs in 2017. With 48.5% of our population being female, these numbers are unimpressive, to say the least.
It is true that historically, Indian culture and tradition have not been the most supportive factor in driving gender diversity at workplaces. But beyond admiring and appreciating women who broke these shackles to build strong careers for themselves, perhaps the question that deserves more attention is what we, and Corporate India, are doing to address diversity challenges.
Diversity is easier but Inclusion can only be achieved when instead of raising eyebrows on the differences, the differences are embraced.
Women are and will be in most cases the primary caregiver for home, children and the elderly. Due to this at times, they have to opt for a break from career to attend to the special needs of the family. Unless these breaks are not looked at negatively or in a way that the company is doing a favor to them, their profiles will never be shortlisted for bigger roles. The salary offered will never be at par with the male counterparts as they will be lagging behind in salary increases due to maternity breaks/ career breaks.
There is a handful of females in the top management or as board chairs compared to males. Because only a handful of females has been able to manage both personal and professional demands effectively. Their profile is impeccable thanks to their will power and support from family, friends, and colleagues. Not all women get the perfectly synced ecosystem to succeed and grow up the ladder. So what needs to change – Embracing the differences.
As hiring managers, career breaks should not be looked as lack of experience or ability. The role and salary offered should be comparable to a male counterpart or atleast the intention should be to neutralize the difference post a defined appraisal period to understand the capability/intention to do the role.
For companies that have gender pay imbalance, it is important to open communication channels so that employees can give their feelings and opinions. Additionally, present to them with clarity, the strategy the company is or will be using to address the gap. That way, they will feel safe knowing that the company is committed to taking action to bridge the gender pay gap.
Hiring is just a number which companies achieve for Diversity but what matters is that are the hired employees feel inclusive in the culture without any fear of being judged by biases or preferences. Inclusivity is the key to actually maintaining diversity in the workplace. Each person is not only recruited but also counted and recognized for their efforts in growing the company.
As the team manager, eyebrows should not be raised when a female colleague as to rush home to fulfill unplanned primary caregiver responsibilities. At performance appraisals, they should be evaluated against the male counterparts who burned the midnight oil to do stretch targets or were able to attend all after hour office meetings. Females are also burning the midnight oil but for different reasons.
I think, instead of drafting our policies on flexible working hours, employee benefits, career progression as gender-neutral policies, it should be more towards a gender-sensitive policy. A gender-sensitive policy premise will be that women do play a dual role and are irreplaceable in the family ecosystem.
Introduce diversity and inclusion in the employee’s cycle. From the onboarding process to the exit process, each part of the employee life cycle can be more inclusive. For example Lack of flexibility makes the lives of some employees unnecessarily difficult and just by giving work from home or flexibility in working hours to new mothers/ fathers results in healthy work-life balance and happy employees. Also, it is important to note that ensuring gender balance is not just the ethically right approach, it also translates into tangible business outcomes.
Even this year’s theme for International Women Day is #EachforEqual. “The race is on for the gender-equal boardroom, a gender-equal government, gender-equal media coverage, gender-equal workplaces, gender-equal sports coverage, more gender equality in health and wealth … so let’s make it happen. Let’s be #EachforEqual” – International Women Days 2020