The last two decades have been nothing short of an economic renaissance for our country, and while India Inc. has been building a reputation for delivering world-class products and services, a silent revolution has also been under way: wherein there is a deep realization of the immense economic potential of half of humanity: women!
Gender diversity today is no longer a corporate responsibility charter but a sound business practice, with independent studies clearly pointing out the direct co-relation between diversity and profitability of companies globally… a fact that no one can ignore. This is especially true for the IT services industry where talent availability is a key factor for growth, with industry continuously looking at ways to increase the talent pool.
It is heartening to note that the subject is a priority for many, as I found out at the recently concluded India Economic Summit held in New Delhi. There is an increasing realization that although there is much to be achieved, we are on the right track. I feel that there are two important elements for fully tapping into this vast talent pool: the first one is creating equal opportunities by widening the talent pool - this approach ensures that women get an opportunity to showcase their potential and competence.
This would mean interviewing more women for jobs. In fact, we can have 50% of all interviewed for any position to be women. This should be especially true for senior positions.
The second element is of enablement through the life stages. As a company's diversity initiative doesn't end at hiring, the tougher task is - how to retain them and make them productive over a longer tenure, juxtaposed with different life stages of women. To put it simply: well-managed diversity.
Generally, women work to great success until marriage and then take breaks through prioritizing their family responsibilities over their career. I say this with conviction, as the number of women we hire is 40%, which drops to 15% at the managerial level, 10% in the senior management level and finally 7% at the executive level. It's a must to have different strategies and programs in place to address this drop in women representation through different life stages.
Let me step back and elaborate on the three life stages; each of these stages requires different enablement. At the first stage - when women enter the workforce and have an array of opportunities - career guidance and group mentoring is facilitated. The second stage is when women decide to start a family.
This is an important phase and providing them 'flexibility' to manage through focused initiatives is a must to enable them to continue in their career. Lastly, we need to understand that gender diversity is not a number game; we should not look at it as a mere metric alone: it has to have a sustainable initiative that stands the test of time. This will only happen if we invest efforts in education, infrastructure and employability.
The long term benefits of gender diversity to the society are known to all. An interesting point to consider is that while an increase in either women's or men's income helps children; the benefits are greater when women are the source of the increase. All of this, we believe, is just the beginning. It is not enough. This can only be accomplished if all of us come together, and pledge our support to make our society an 'equal opportunity society'.
This is especially true in a people intensive industry like IT, wherein gender diversity or bringing in more women into the IT workforce is the key to inclusive and profitable growth.