Sourav Patro is a senior HR professional with 16 years of diverse and progressive experience in Talent Management, Performance Management, Talent Acquisition and Recruiting. He currently is the Head of Human Resources at PPG Asian Paints. In the past, Sourav has worked for organisations like Bharti Airtel Ltd, Colgate Palmolive and Vodafone.
Ensuring gender diversity in the workplace is not just about shifting norms for women, we need a shift in the aligned standards of mindset about gender. Since diversity isn’t just about race or gender, it’s also about diversity of background and mindsets.
Culture of the society we live in is depictive of the culture inside an organisation, more so when it comes to specific locations, regions & traditions in India. Go towards eastern regions of India you will find a completely different work culture than the western region of India. The only common thing you will see is very little women folks as (Full Time Equivalent) FTE. This is despite the fact that as a country we have a fairly balanced population.
A lot has been said and done to get this equilibrium back. Reasons cited for the change range from bringing diversity just for the heck of it to established business cases. Progressive Organisations have gone ahead in creating the right ecosystems to get the same done, few examples of the great work are building women-friendly policies, giving higher hiring margins to head hunters, mentoring programs for women, freezing positions for women to be hired, driving woman-specific leadership programs, senior leaders being the flag bearers of increasing diversity, creating verticals that are exclusively dedicated to woman & so on. While all of this is creating the desired change, what still remains unchanged are aligned standards of mindset.
Left to the judgment of people quality standards differ from person to person, so what has happened is there is a defined norm and a standard interpretation. Just imagine not having QMS tools, systems, ISO certifications and written standards of doing work and we look forward to leaders laying benchmarks. Quality over the years is a differentiator in getting more business and sustainability. It did take time to evolve and now is a basic for any learning organisation in decision making, acquiring new customers, employer brand and market capitalization.
To move the needle on gender diversity, we need to establish such common standards.
Studying 800,000 job advertisements in India, a World Bank report found that 60% of all gender-targeted ads preferred men over women.
Even though organisations are heavily investing in diversity efforts and they claim to highly committed to gender diversity, yet this commitment has not translated into meaningful progress. The full opportunity of diversity has still not been realized.
Businesses need to be honest with questions like – is your company a good place to work, regardless of gender?; Why aren’t there enough women in leadership roles?; Are the measures taken to improve gender diversity working?
Companies need to include initiatives like- mentoring, networking and sponsorship programs, ensuring women are represented equally at the workplace. Companies also need to ensure that women have access to leadership training. In short, companies now need to take more decisive actions. This starts with treating gender diversity as part of the organisational strategy, from setting targets to holding leaders accountable for results.
Gender diversity can be used as a lever for operational excellence, global growth, and innovation. For this, we have to move our efforts towards disrupting the status quo to close gender gaps in hiring and promotions, especially early in the pipeline when women are most often overlooked.
It is not that difficult to achieve gender diversity; it only requires the will to do so. In order to move the needle on diversity and inclusion requires uncomfortable conversations.
These conversations, albeit often difficult, need to happen face-to-face, so that business leaders who are directly involved in developing a diverse talent pipeline are able to have in-depth discussions and treat diversity as a business imperative. Companies need to double down on their efforts and foster an inclusive and respectful culture where hiring and promotions are fair and employees irrespective of gender are equally represented at work.
The appetite for each organisation will differ as it is still getting established as a concept, the sooner we start laying global/national standards, sooner it shall start giving results. Like they say “What gets measured gets done”, so let’s not leave this to leaders and make it measurable to move ahead. It’s not a wishlist but a conscious change, else societal change will anyways bring in diversity into full prominence. This is to all Decision Makers – we have seen progression already, so rather than waiting take the 1st mover advantage.