Discuss and analyse the perception of Mitul and her work place beliefs?
Beliefs are result of both perception and experiences and what is presented in the case does point out, conspicuously, that Mitul's workplace beliefs specially about Diversity and Inclusion were not unfounded. In a short span of seven years experiencing at least halfa dozen incidences of being short changed, just because of a biological characteristic-gender-is enough to legitimise and generalise ill-feelings towards work place practices. The first female employee to be hired in the manufacturing department, being paid less compared to lesser competent male colleague, being overlooked for confirmation after probation, getting transferred to a remote location perceived as punishment posting, being given special treatment on special days, being excluded from meetings, and a lesser intelligent male classmate enjoying a fast pace career graph-the problem is writ large on the horizon, only that the calligraphy is more legible to the unfairly treated than those who are unfairly treating. Workplace discrimination is not new. In fact, all those agendas around Diversity and Inclusion (DI) and instituting awards for good practices of DI only amplifies that the problem is so deep rooted that it needs special attention, mission orientation and conscious efforts to mitigate.
Do you also believe that in general there is much hype in corporate about diversity and inclusion and little seems to happen at ground?
In the times of information and data, it is better to look at evidence based information to address these issues. Not going into hardcore numbers and quoting references that can scare some readers, presented here are some aggregated facts found in abundance on the click of button on any search engine.
a) In a country with about (little skewed in favour of men by 2-3%) equal composition of gender in general population, a one third participation of women in workforce is considered EQUAL participation.
b) After the maternity benefit act increased the maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks with very very honest, good and well formed intentions, the participation of women in work force has slipped down.
c) The fortune 500 companies in the world and also in India have the C-Suite occupied by women who can be counted on fingers.
d) There is abysmal gap in pay for equal work by men and women since the advent of civilisation and it continues.
e) The same work (like cooking, cleaning, stitching, caretaking etc.) for which men are paid outside home is not even considered WORK for women at home.
f) In the unorganised sector the discrimination is rampant and not even considered worthy of any attention.
Although the above facts do frame Diversity and Inclusion as a mere rhetoric, it would be unfair to discount or abrade DI in the organised industrial world. DI is not just about gender inclusion. Gender is one part and the most obvious segment of DI canvas. DI encapsulates, race, ethnicity, LGBTQ, ability diversity, opinion diversity, socio economic diversity and much more. Also one cannot ignore the fact that old ways take time and baby steps to unfreeze, change and refreeze (Lewin's model of Change). At macro level we have been able to create measurable and admirable collective consciousness, awareness, intention, advocacy and ecosystem to include the minorities of past. At micro level, the efforts are on to integrate DI in everyday practices. So instead of blatantly discounting the efforts, howsoever big and small, let us all do our bit to create a critical mass of change that is noticeable and crystallisable as new order that serves the good intention of DI.
Was it appropriate for Mitul to change jobs every time on such incidents of past organisations?
Every individual has a coping mechanism for the perceived unfairness and injustice meted out to her/him and Mitul was no exception. Given the experiences of young Mitul and with an assumption that she comes from a family background where equity and equality were the DNA level values, it is natural for her to deduce that there is more hype than real work on the ground on diversity and inclusion in every organisation that she got associated with. Her academic brilliance, above average intellectual abilities and well developed cognitive skills further compounded the problem. Belonging to a generation that believes in constructive confrontation and speaking their minds out uninhibitedly added to the complexity of situation. The family circumstances furthered the helplessness and compelled her to stay in jobs till she gets a better job and subsequent hope for impartial inclusion. With time and experience, she would learn to accept, adjust, adapt and even act on such incidents. The day she will find the DI issues upsetting her equipoise and equilibrium beyond her tolerance, she would take up the cause to be an actor to establish DI in spirit and practice rather than just being the poster face. Having said that, it is mentioned in the case that she wanted to take up a career in academics. Issues like DI and the first hand experiences should be trigger enough for Mitul to switch to her desired career and contribute her bit to this very important agenda.
What piece of advice would you like to give to HR of such organisation in the present environment?
Mitul and the three organisations mentioned in the case are just metaphors of the ground practices of DI. Research and evidence has started surfacing that quantifies returns in terms of revenues, retention, and results when DI is not just on papers but in spirit and practice. The Great Places to Work1 has in fact gone beyond and now call it "For All" signifying high-trust workplace experience for everyone, no matter who they are or what they do for the organisation. Since HR is expected to be in driver's seat for creating, curating, preserving and promoting culture in the organisation, the advice for HR can be at all levels of a) Organisation Culture, Systems and Policies b) Teams and Groups, c) Individuals. At systems and policy level the first step would be to design policies of recruitment, selection, performance management, learning and development, succession planning, compensation systems on objective parameters without discrimination. The work systems should also be facilitative to needs of all and not just the majority. The culture of trust, respect, leveraging diversity and unquestioned inclusion without any exception needs to be fostered. At formal and informal group and team levels, more individual discipline with necessary systems control is called for. Caution in Conduct, Behaviour Modelling and reiterating of DI tenets by the leaders and managers will set the appropriate grounds for right practices. Acts of courage of conviction by the members of "so far" majority to not only point out aberrations but also accepting foregoing/reversal of benefits (like the male colleague getting more stipend than Mitul) to themselves will be a leap of faith for DI practices. Creating a culture of rising over personal interests for greater common good could be a big contribution of HRM Department.
At the individual level; an appreciation of kinds of diversity both present and evolving by the HR, Leading by example and taking corrective/disciplinary action, howsoever petty or prominent the deviation is, will go a long way in sustaining DI practices.
Dr. Tanjul Saxena, Consultant, META AIDE, Jaipur