Tata Projects D&I programmes are founded on the pillars of diversity focused recruitment, gender sensitisation, enabling infrastructure, and mentoring.
I found it interesting to read that Amazon India’s centre in Kadi, Gujarat, has no men. It’s an all-women station. A one-off? Not quite. Last year, Zomato announced it would increase the number of women in its delivery service to 10% as part of the company’s inclusive programme. It’s heartening to find that e-commerce firms are taking initiatives to build a culture of inclusivity, but is it limited to few sectors?
Many industries are eager to address India’s skewed gender balance at workplaces which, in the past, had been a deterrent to the economy. According to an article published in the Education Times, 43% of Indian women are Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) graduates. Unfortunately, only 14% – 28,000 are Research Scientists. All great engineering marvels have two things in common: teamwork and unique problem-solving skills that an individual brings to the project. This is where Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) comes in. It opens a whole new world of opportunities when you are able to onboard fresh perspectives with determination and capabilities.
Be it ideation, original thinking, concept development, creating the same cerebral opportunities for everyone, regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and economic background, brings into focus fresh perspectives that can pose challenge to conventional practices.
D&I initiatives, which have a role in the overarching confidence of companies, are the prerogative of both HR and business leadership. There is only so much that people policies can do. Let’s reflect again on the engineering sector. Even if the overlooked minorities and deserving women progress through the talent pipeline and secure jobs, they’re compelled to work around the bottlenecks and many invisible barriers in the system. On the top of it, three years ago, Business Insider reported that 11% of women engineers coped with unwanted sexual attention at the office. Even worse, 40% of men believed women shouldn’t work after having children.
It’s rightly held that ‘a lack of buy-in’ can be a hindrance to D&I implementation. The onus is on organisations to recognise negative emotions and take pre-emptive measures. This could be achieved through periodic conversations with leadership teams to take the lead in creating an inclusive work culture. They could make teams sensitive to LGBT issues, discourage stereotyping, or initiate conversations around diversity and inclusion challenges within. Going beyond HR guidelines or policies, they could make a significant difference by upholding behavioural norms and values like respect, support, and deep appreciation for one another’s views, all of which help organisations achieve their business goals.
Fine measures, on their part, like eradicating language barriers, training teams to not discriminate between quirky and polished people and respecting dress codes go a long way in creating an inspiring D&I culture. Empathy is the only tool that breaks structural barriers. The scope of D&I is such that people with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be assets to organisations too. Let me share a quote that I found very insightful: “People aren’t disabled by their cognitive divergence. They’re disabled by environments that aren’t adjusted to their differences.”
For sure, any lasting change starts at the top. A survey by Deloitte last year confirmed that D&I, employee mental health and well-being were top priorities for CEOs.
At the macro level, several Indian companies have been leading the way for D&I with measures like reserved parking for expecting mothers, allowing a member of a family other than spouse as health insurance beneficiary, introducing the First Day of Period leave, etc. Related to this, I could highlight the initiatives of Tata Projects whose D&I programmes are founded on the pillars of diversity focused recruitment, gender sensitisation, enabling infrastructure, and mentoring. The TPL’s D&I group focuses on enhancing gender diversity and inclusion through better infrastructure at sites, hiring more women at the senior level, developing, and retaining talent and conducting gender sensitivity training programmes.
Our HR policy framework, including maternity leave policy, crèche facility, work-from-home policy, and flexible timings, helps women employees establish a healthy work-life balance.
We employed 7% permanent women employees as of FY 2021-22 and have made significant changes to our performance assessment process to support returning mothers. Also, we have introduced mentorship programmes for women employees for holistic talent development.
Organisations are realising that D&I is not a choice, but a necessity. Author Juliet Rourke’s research has led to the conclusion that businesses that promote inclusive cultures are twice as likely to match/surpass financial targets, thrice more likely to perform well, six times more likely to be innovative, and eight times more likely to have enhanced business results. Creating avenues and offering fair opportunities to underrepresented groups aren’t acts of charity.
Let’s admit, it’s the only way to bridge the talent gap.
Chief Human Resource Officer,
Tata Projects Limited