United in differences - SAP India

By Shraddhanjali Rao, Head HR

'Inclusion', 'authenticity' and 'belonging' are some of the many words we are so well acquainted with when it comes to Diversity in organization. But going back over a decade, although diversity wasn't necessarily a new concept, it's focus in most organizations was only limited to the gender balance. When I first started my journey towards building a diverse workforce at SAP in India, our programs and initiatives only focused on women - having the right balance of women in the workforce, setting KPI's for women in leadership and pay parity.

Over the years, along with setting targets to hire more women into the organization, we invested in understanding their unique needs and challenges and designed programs and initiatives to support them and to create an environment where they can thrive. We introduced women friendly policies like work from home, part-time work, sabbatical and, above all, the onsite childcare center that helped dramatically decrease our post maternity attrition. But that was not enough - we also needed to invest in the acceleration of their professional growth, to help them develop themselves to have successful careers. We realized that the aspirations and needs of women employees are different at different stages in their career and focused on developing programs for our women colleagues at each grade level. As an organization, we understood early on that gender diversity needs both men and women to stand together for creating an inclusive culture. We therefore actively encouraged men as allies in driving the diversity agenda to achieve gender balance.

In creating experiences and programs for the women in our workforce, was a very narrow view on diversity. We needed to broaden our view from just diversity to inclusion to understand the strength diversity bring not just with gender but also with culture, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, physical or mental ability, and so much more. Our diversity and inclusion strategy focus expanded to four key areas - Gender intelligence, Cross Generational diversity, Culture and Identity and Differently Abled people.

We know that everyone is different and so are their needs, so we invested in not just creating programs and initiatives that match the offerings in the industry. We focused on creating meaningful experiences that truly mattered. From programs to enable leaders on managing young talent in the workforce to addressing biases regarding Generational diversity - we designed offerings to strengthen collaborative learning among the 5 generations in our organization, bring them together and share experiences. We believe that it's not about being different but making a difference. Our groundbreaking SAP Autism at Work program initiated in 2011 has help integrate a number of colleagues from the autism spectrum with SAP.

In India, we introduced our culture and identity pillar for LGBT+ inclusion in 2014, but our efforts were met with lukewarm response. We tried to activate a group for allies who support LGBT+ inclusion but our larger cultural context and lack of awareness made it complex and posed various challenges. We revived our efforts in 2016 with visible and active leadership support helping us in the journey of overcoming this resistance. While we have strengthened our LGBT+ initiatives, this is one area where we are continually investing and learning along the way to create true inclusion for a community where there are many myths and misconceptions, in the larger Indian cultural context.

Our journey with diversity and inclusion was not to create lot of initiatives; it has always been about doing more with less for more. From a siloed approach - consisting of blocks of gender, generational, culture & identity and people with disability, we have evolved to look at diversity as a spectrum. In my experience, I've learnt to accept that it is okay to not have all the right answers or solutions to the challenges in working on this topic, but it is unacceptable to do nothing about it.

Inclusion beings with a simple act of awareness but its true power lies in our mindset. It amplifies with awareness and grows exponentially with acceptance. We are living in a time where words of not more than 280 characters combined, posted from within the four walls of a room can provoke thoughts and inspire change across the world. Think about how much more we can achieve when we come together to build a future which belongs equally to everyone.

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