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Advancing equity at workplaces requires courage and conviction

Saturday November 27, 2021, By Dr. Divya Kumar

More organizations are intentionally investing in their DEI agenda. Any affirmative action taken at work to remove structural barriers requires a fair amount of courage and conviction. DEI leaders must create a culture, which supports and values Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and not just counts on the training program or HR initiatives. Only through the actions of the leaders, a transformation can take place in the ecosystem.

These were thoughts shared at a panel discussion in the 2021 Best Practices of the 100 Best Conference by Avtar and Working Mother. The CHRO Panel: ‘From Intent to Impact: Advancing Equity at our Workplaces’ echoed that equity can be achieved without comprising meritocracy and tokenism.

Leaders need scalable ways to ensure that their diversity and inclusion initiatives are solid and sustainable. In this journey, the DEI leader needs to know how to allocate resources – equally or equitably. Leaders first need to identify, acknowledge inequities and recognize unconscious biases and create a level-playing field for employees.

Some challenges that organizations may encounter in building a culture of inclusion:

-Inability to attract a diverse interview slate

-Challenge to retain the onboarded diverse workforce

-Lack of collaboration among teams

-Inadequate knowledge DEI

-Strategical DEI partners

Atrayee S Sanyal, Vice President, Human Resource Management, Tata Steel, explained the concept of DEI in a narrative that she often quoted among her shop floor employees.

“Diversity is like the ingredients of a recipe, and inclusion is the mixing of the ingredients. Equity is all about the marination – how much and how well. Mixing and doing the right thing with each ingredient define DEI,” she said. She added that it is very critical not to set an upper target simply because he/she is a diversity candidate.

“At Deloitte, we are hugely invested in equity. Focus on fairness and equity is very important,” said SV Nathan, Partner and Chief Talent Officer, Deloitte India. Beyond all the policies, it is about doing the right things at the right time. For instance, keeping a woman taking a maternity break informed about her appraisal.

Pratibha Priyadarshini, Vice President and Head of HR, Shell Companies in India, seconded his thoughts and added that equity is about fairness. She said, “At Shell, we continue to motivate and engage people to work within the right working environment. It is critical to building inclusive leaders who illustrate the inclusivity.”

While organizations are very diverse, it is also imperative to have a culture of equality, said Lakshmi Chandrasekhar, Managing Director, HR Lead, Accenture, India. She added, “In Accenture, building equality is a business imperative and leaders have to be very intentional as it goes beyond numbers as it is a journey.”

What an intentional leader can do to create an inclusive workplace:

-Set bold goals

-Comprehensive leadership programs

-Demonstrate bold leadership

-Ensure neutral languages during meetings

-Create an environment for open talks discussions

-Rewards and recognitions when the KPI/KRA is achieved

-Continuous training and empowering the work environment

Inclusion is only possible with continuous sensitization and it must become a part of the foundation or business goals for every individual at the workplace. For the intent to translate as an impact, the DEI agenda must be supported and role modeled by strong leaders.

Author Profile

Dr. Divya Kumar
Dr. Divya Kumar
Manager – Research, Avtar

A passionate researcher with an avid interest in social science, Divya is a PhD awardee in Organisational Behaviour from the University of Madras. She has authored and presented papers in both National and International Conferences including IIM-K and IIT Madras on topics related to employees at the workplace. An associate of Avtar’s DEI research team, she has penned newsletters and blog articles on DEI and women professionals career enablement.

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