The agenda of diversity and inclusion at workplace is not new to the Indian organisations. Some have been successful in making it a business case while others are still struggling-might be due to deeply entrenched cultural beliefs or their efforts tend to be ad hoc rather than a core part of business strategy. While the tenets of diversity are embracing, respecting and valuing the difference, inclusivity calls for empowering and dignity to all irrespective of gender, caste, race and religion. Diversity cannot stick without inclusion.
Though, more and more organisations look serious about gender diversity by making efforts to develop infrastructure and women friendly policies like maternity and paternity leaves, onsite child care facilities, flexi working, strong anti sexual harassment policies, effective grievance mechanism and behaviour sensitivity while discussing issues with women employees, but enough does not appear happening on ground being fragmented and not systematic. These initiatives are actually regarded as more of hygiene factors. If at one point the manufacturing organisations are embracing gender diversity even at shop floor level which might be quite challenging, others who can easily go for employing more and more women being non manufacturing work climate, do not seem too eager on this front.
The question is why it is not and why it should be? The reasons could be many for not making gender diversity a business case like unconscious bias, legal compliance, mitigating risk and managing reputation and conservative thought process where often male managers are not comfortable about interacting with female managers or subordinates resulting into puncturing the efforts of bringing gender diversity. Expecting women to behave like men and not excelling in networking is no sound reason to deny them the opportunity to demonstrate and prove their worth in business growth. Organisations need to create a psychologically safe work skills to foster gender diversity and inclusion. There should be a demonstrative conscious commitment to work with visible and invisible differences between people.
Diverse workplace helps bringing different ideas, embracing different perspectives and offer opportunity for creativity and innovation. It helps attracting and retaining talent, ensures high level of employee engagement, productivity, performance and business growth. It differentiates employer brand and helps building an excellent place to work. Instead of meeting only basic legal expectations and global requirements, organisations need to build a strong foundation in terms of value system that will facilitate women hiring and promoting to the leadership level.
In this issue, the cover story talks about the various facets of diversity and inclusion in business organisations through those who experience it, practice it, develop it and nurture it.
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