With over 17 years of experience across various geographies and industries, Katyayani (Katy) heads HR for South Asia at Maersk. She has been working with Maersk for the past 6 years leading various HR verticals in the Shared services before joining her current role 3 years back. She is enthusiastic about her mindfulness journey and likes to spend time with her family. Katy has been passionately driving D&I @ Maersk India. Maersk is contributing significantly to change the diversity ratio in the Shipping and logistics industry in South Asia.
Gender diversity is vital to any workplace and having clear gender diversity goals can help achieve some key milestones early on. With a strong commitment from the top leadership and by reinventing the workplace policies, organisations can unlock the potential of gender diversity.
Diversity at the workplace is a top strategic priority today for most of the multinationals across the world. And rightly so, because of the obvious benefits a diverse workplace brings along with it in terms of diverse thoughts, ideas, and a more inclusive workplace, which ultimately leads to better business results.
Within diversity space, Gender Diversity has been gaining a lot of focus and more and more companies have been striving towards driving parity on this front.
According to a 2018 World Bank report, the labour force participation rate among females in India was 26.97 percent, while the world average stood at 48.47 percent. Pre-conceived notions and biases have led to women either choosing to stay at home, or dropping out of the workplace after a while. Many industries like aviation, construction, shipping, and logistics have been traditionally seen as male-dominated and have made tremendous efforts towards improving the gender representation figures. A decade ago, the average ratio of men in the domestic logistics industry was at 96%, and an abysmal 4% were women. This picture, however, is slowly and steadily changing.
While keeping score is an important first step and having clear gender diversity goals can help achieve some key milestones early on, this is only half the battle won.
So, let’s look at some of the things that companies can do to make the workplace more gender-diverse.
Embrace Diversity in Every Aspect
Talent is naturally diverse and a solid diversity strategy should be a fundamental component in any of the approaches to manage talent.
A strong commitment from the top leadership to greater gender diversity by role modelling inclusive behaviours can help organisations reinvent the way they work, and the way they attract, retain, and grow talent.
It can help in creating a great workplace that values entrepreneurship, independent thinking and where everyone can reach their full potential.
In the local organisation at Maersk in India, for instance, we make constant efforts with a focused long-term plan, which helps us induct more women into critical roles and leadership levels and build a culture to nurture and sustain diversity. I remember discussing diversity agenda with Steve Felder, Managing Director at Maersk in South East Asia, once and here’s what he had to say, “In the words of Stephen Covey, strength lies in differences, not in similarities. Focus on gender diversity has become a cornerstone of the people strategy. We have been fortunate to recruit and develop talented female leaders into top roles, and we have highly benefited from this. Of course, it is
a journey, and we still have a way to go, however, we are committed to staying the course.”
Creating a Supportive Ecosystem
Female employees’ requirements and personal situations are different from each other, and, therefore, organisations need to work across these differences to put a strong support mechanism in place especially for critical life events like marriage and motherhood.
Bringing in, retaining, and developing women is an excellent way to increase gender diversity. But it is equally important to create an environment where they are inspired to reach their potential and deliver their best.
I took up my current role through an internal movement at Maersk when I was expecting my second child. This was an encouragement from the company which inspired me to make the courageous decision of taking up the challenging role.
While supportive policies and flexible-work practices are great to have to retain talent, these become effective only when they are internalized by every employee. Policies like “Return to Work” at Maersk have worked beautifully for women resuming work after their maternity break. It allows a phased return with an option to work 80% of their weekly hours on full pay for up to 26 weeks after they return. Similarly, “Travel policy for new mothers” provides them with the flexibility to take their newborn and a caretaker along if they need to travel for work outside their home location.
Women on a Career Break: A Great Talent Pool to Tap
Many women take a break at some point in their career due to different personal situations like taking care of a newborn or a medical exigency back at home. During these situations, they are unable to commit to full-time responsibilities at work, however, also do not want to completely lose touch with corporate life. In some cases, re-joining workforce after a break becomes very difficult for women and oftentimes they have to settle for a lesser paying job or a junior role compared to their last stint before taking a break.
A returnee program can be a good opportunity for the organisations to tap into such a talent pool and for the women to stay active on the work front while managing responsibilities back at home. At Maersk India, we have a ‘Back2Work’ program that allows women on a career break to work as consultants on short term assignments for 6 months with flexible work hours arrangement and get assessed for full-time opportunities at the project completion. This program has worked well for us since its inception in 2015 with over 50% of Back2Work consultants joining the organisation into full-time roles across sales, customer service, trade, and operations.
Building Inclusion Capabilities
Every employee wants a safe, flexible and bias-free environment to work in which enables them to excel and propel their career aspirations.
Hence, it is imperative for the organisation to train its leaders and employees to build their knowledge and capabilities in becoming more inclusive.
In-house pieces of training like ‘Unconscious Bias’ that Maersk runs for all its employees across the globe educate participants on how lack of awareness of these biases could potentially be a big challenge towards creating an inclusive culture and how to stop being judgmental and start being an enabler.
Workshops like ‘Strategies for Success’ have helped women at Maersk discover their own personal work and leadership style as well as reflect on the impact on their career success. Participants draw inspiration from senior women leaders and their personal journeys.
Every year on International Women’s Day, organisations and communities engage in discussions on a variety of topics related to career, health, hobbies, etc. However, celebrating diversity must be embedded in the organisational culture and not only limited to one day or one week.
Forums that enable internal networking groups where women support and guide each other in their career and personal dilemmas can be of great assistance.
Breaking biases and challenging conventional mindsets can be done through candid leader talks, forums and discussions where colleagues come together, learn and be inspired.
Inclusion of male colleagues should be the norm when organisations get to celebrating diversity. Further, the immense support provided by families to women employees in sustaining a great career needs to be acknowledged and lauded.
Staying On Course
Becoming a workplace that is gender-balanced and inclusive in every aspect is a journey. The impact of any diversity initiative takes time and persistence to effect tangible and sustainable results. There will be new challenges and learnings every day.