In Good Company
Posted on September 12, 2010 | Author: Ishani Duttagupta | View 1220
More Indian companies have started to believe in diversity of workforce and are becoming sensitive to their varied needs
AT WIPRO TECHNOLOGIES,one of Indias top infotech firms,Braille signages,ramps,voice-enabled elevators and wheelchairs stand out in the smorgasbord of smart offices and gadget-carrying IT whizkids.
Sunita Cherian is a member of Wipros corporate diversity council,a body which meets twice every quarter to provide direction to inclusion and diversity initiatives.The scope of diversity in the company includes not just gender but also extends to persons with disabilities,nationality and people from underprivileged backgrounds.
The passion with which Cherian and her colleagues work on the issue of diversity and inclusiveness is palpable,as she enthusiastically explains the need for companies to go beyond the routine.Today diversity includes many marginalised segments of society.These could be people with disabilities,people from diverse nationalities,people from underprivileged backgrounds,different cultures,different generations and so on.And we hear of organisations focusing their attention on many of these segments, says Cherian,whos general manager for human resources at Wipro Eco Energy.
Indeed,what started for many Indian companies a couple of years ago as an initiative to tap a deeper skills pool and get more women into their workforce has today translated into a wider industry wide policy of diversity in keeping with global standards.Way back in 2006,the Indian infotech industry then faced with talent shortage launched initiatives to woo more women into the workforce.Today in terms of gender,the industry is doing very well with about 35% of the BPO industry comprising of women and 22% of the IT industry, says senior director of Nasscom Sucharita Eashwar.And she sees the IT & ITES sector playing a leading role in making the workforce even more inclusive through tapping different segments such as people with physical disabilities and those from economically and socially challenged background.In fact,for the bigger and more mature Indian companies today a more diversified workforce in terms of gender,cross-culture,age profile and different nationalities is becoming increasingly important.Multinationals have been implementing their best practices in India.We have our diversity audit operational in India which is focused on gender issues.However,in Indian organisations there are issues such as sexual preferences which are still taboo and not discussed during the hiring procedure, says Sangeeta Singh,executive director,human resources of financial consultancy KPMG in India.
She,however,finds a change in mindset happening among Indian companies as well which are now gearing up towards putting in place firm diversity policies on issues ranging from gender and disability to those including sexual minorities such as the lesbian,gay,bisexual and transgender (LGBT) categories.The Indian IT industry is definitely ahead on the issue of respecting diversity and goes much beyond lip-service or tokenism.Diversity policies focus not only on granting certain entitlements but also on creating support systems that lead to a level-playing field, says Meenu Bhambhani,head of corporate social responsibility with Mphasis,now a Hewlett-Packard unit.
And though gender diversity still remains the priority for Indian companies,many organisations are turning proactive and going the extra mile in including the other diverse groups including people with disabilities and those from economically and/or socially backward communities.Diversity policies typically commit to providing an inclusive environment.It seeks to provide equal access to growth and opportunities to all employees in the organisation disregarding factors such as gender,age,religion or other personal attributes not related to the job.The infotech sector has definitely been the leader in this space in India.Being a relatively new industry with the most diverse workforce compared to other sectors,this sector has been blazing new trends with creative policies and programmes to support diverse groups of employees at work, says Nirmala Menon who is the founder and CEO of Interweave Consulting,a company that provides diversity and inclusion services for other.
And its not just infotech companies.Other sectors,too,are looking at diversity within the workforce as the demand for skilled workers grows.Indian companies have lately realised that disability is not a disqualification that will determine employability in any organisation.The surge in the service providing companies has ensured that the services of differentlyabled people are also accommodated in industries that utilise the creativity of the individual, says Sminu Jindal,the managing director of Jindal SAW,who is differently-abled herself.This is despite the fact that core operations of Jindal SAWmanufacturers of steel pipesare not entirely conducive for women and reduced mobility workforce.In fact,issues relating to employees with disabilities are now moving to the human resources departments of companies in India rather than being seen as corporate social responsibility issues.Here,too,the Indian IT companies are ahead of the curve with many such as TCS and Wipro creating an inclusive environment through regular policy audits catering to employees with disabilities, says Rama Chari,director of Diversity and Equality Opportunity Centre,which works with companies to build capacity in this area.