Increasing Gender Diversity At Workplace
By revisiting the existing systems and finding new approaches we can identify and promote gender parity at workplaces
The terms gender parity and women rights are not new to us. For decades equal opportunities are being demanded, requested for and fought for. We have been challenging the stereotypical/patriarchal norms and fortunately, the efforts are yielding great results and the matter has been given the share of attention it deserves.
As a women entrepreneur, I too am devoted to empowerment of women from different walks of life. And I firmly believe that it is only through skill development and financial independence that the desired change can be summoned. A major role in this direction is, however, to be played by employers like us. By revisiting the existing systems and finding new approaches we can identify and promote gender parity at workplaces.
My take on this is summed in these 7 mantras.
Underdogs should not be under-represented
We need to promote gender diversity and eliminate any biases and discrimination that hinder the career growth of any employee. A healthy environment should be enabling i.e., growth must be based on merit and everyone should be treated with respect irrespective of their socio-economic background, skill set, gender, or designation.
Biases can be fatal, particularly in succession planning, promotions, or new hiring. To curb the conscious and unconscious biases, employee's goals should be discussed to help establish their career path and performance should be monitored in such a way that underdogs are not under- represented.
In fact, performance should not only be monitored but acknowledged. We have a culture of employee development and many of the leaders working with us have chosen to be with us since the beginning of their careers. Our home-grown leaders are a matter of pride for us, and we always make sure that talent is identified and adequately nurtured.
Women and management skills are naturally intertwined
Gender diversity brings with it a number of benefits. Managing a house is no less demanding than managing a business. It involves similar principles like resource allocation and their optimum utilization along with strong problem-solving skills. Holding the family together and ensuring every member's well-being without a break can be taxing but women do it all the time and that too with a smile.
I have myself brought up two daughters along with a flourishing and growing business simultaneously. My responsibilities at home are no less than any other woman's. But this art of wearing so many hats is a blessing woman naturally have. Organizations must value and harness this innate strength of women instead of assuming it to be a limitation.
Not only as an advocate of women empowerment, but also as an entrepreneur, I feel that having women in workforce is advantageous to the organization. We have over 35% of women in our workforce and most of them are from rural background who had not stepped out of their sheltered village life earlier. But with right guidance and support, they have overcome the barriers of formal education and won awards at international platforms for presenting their case study in English and answering the questions of jury in English too.
Opportunities must be created
Expansions and innovation are key to any business and it applies to employment opportunities too. With different people comes different perspectives, thus a variety of ideas and approaches. Companies should be open to creating recruitment possibilities with options like part-time, flexible working hours, work from home etc., since the benefits of such options are not restricted to women alone. When we requested the State Government to allow the working on women in night shift, we had a complete plan of action ready. Not only the women workers who were staying within our factory premises were to be benefitted by the decision but with them coming to work at night, more women were required in the form of security officers, supervisors etc. Possibilities and opportunities are everywhere, one just must open his/her mind to them.
Overcoming inhibitions is healthy
Hesitancy in investing in the development and growth of its people is not healthy for an organization. In fact, it is a responsibility of the organization to ensure holistic development of its employees. Women are a greater disadvantage at this front too since their probability of relocation and maternity benefits are seen as a problem. However, investing in human capital is highly advantageous. By inculcating skills and developing potential, you are tapping the large pool of human resource - the most important asset.
Organizations get stronger when they invest in people and must overcome all inhibitions when it comes to development of human resource. We firmly believe that human capital is the harbinger of success and for their development, we have started institutions where selected candidates are sent for higher education to globally recognized Indian and international institutions.
Craving Work-life balance is not to be frowned upon
In the existing model of workplace, at places, it is assumed that women are unfit for profiles that require anytime-anywhere kind of approach owing to their greater share of responsibilities at home. However, if you look at the stats, the picture is completely different - Women constitute single breadwinners in more families than men.
It is to be understood that women can be as ambitious as men and work life balance is not a barrier but an enabler. Family-friendly policies boost employee satisfaction for both men & women. The professional world cannot thrive for long at the cost of personal life and relationships. Moreover, researchers are suggesting that "it's unrealistic to expect humans to work like machines" and extra working hours can sabotage creativity as also productivity.
Reframe policies as also the outlook
Approach or outlook towards a policy is directly linked with its successful implementation. Change is a multi-layered process which requires persistent efforts and right approach. Policies and compliance are just a part of change. Organizations should develop a work culture that is supportive of its goals to reap the benefits of the framed policies.
If we take the example of the ongoing pandemic, at the beginning of it when there was a lot of uncertainty, nobody understood the problem and a lockdown was imposed. At that time, our primary concern was to make sure that our employees were safe and comfortable. Besides making arrangement to provide everyday essentials within the premises to workers, we also remodeled our safety policies which were successfully implemented. The reason we could easily introduce those revised safety policies was that we promote a culture of safety. There always were concepts like Officer on Special Duty (OSD), which helped us manage over 20 manufacturing facilities spread across four states despite the challenging times.
The panacea of "women for women" approach
If a woman is behind a man's success, there certainly should be women creating the possibilities of success for their fellow women. We need to move from Middleton's "Women Beware Women' to a modern and supportive "women–for-women" world.
Women who make it to the top have a major role to play in empowering other women. I recommend not only engaging women at the center of business activities but also imparting necessary skills so they can make the most of opportunities. Organizations too, whether women led or not, must reach out to connect women with the mainstream economy.
To conclude, women leaders must drive the change and lead the chain of empowerment. They must help their sisters to be not limited by other's opinion about their capabilities.