Putting women on board: Technology companies show the way

Companies across India are struggling to put women on the boards. Many have reportedly appointed family members to comply with a SEBI deadline that expired on March 31, 2015. But was there a need for this last-minute scramble to bring gender diversity at the top?

Companies caught in a rush should take a cue from technology companies. They have been aggressively pushing to maintain gender diversity, not only in the board, but across all levels.

Technology organisations are focusing on multi-pronged hiring strategies for building their pipeline from the bottom by hiring graduate engineer trainees and also concentrating on lateral hires to ensure women take leadership positions.

However, in this case the aggression is not by order but by choice, Rachna Mukherjee, chief human resource officer, Schneider Electric India, an electricity distribution company, told TimesJobs.com.

“A diverse workforce will give us a competitive advantage. Our apex committee is a testimony of this, having a good representation of women leaders in critical roles,” said Mukherjee.

“To promote more women in leadership positions, we have focused leadership programmes, supportive policies and an open and inclusive culture. To uphold our commitment towards gender diversity, we have integrated our people practices with diversity principles and have signed the UN’s Women Empowerment principles. We plan to continue our efforts for the inclusion of more women across levels, emphasizing our agenda as an equal-opportunity employer,” added Mukherjee.

Kameshwari Rao, director-people strategy lead, SapientNitro India, the integrated IT marketing division of Sapient, said that since majority of the company’s employees were men, it was important to address gender biases that could “unconsciously create roadblocks for growth of women”.

“Focus group discussions where mixed groups discussed gender bias, theatre workshops and gender bias trainings are other initiatives towards addressing these issues,” said Rao.
At Sapient, men sponsor and mentor women individually as well as in groups so there is higher accountability across the organisation for women’s success. In parallel, women need to believe in themselves and not get bogged down by stereotype roles, she further added.

Bhuvaneshwar Naik, VP-HR, IT company SAP India, told TimesJobs.com that gender diversity was a business issue and not a women’s issue.

“We view gender diversity not merely as a concept, but an important cog that drives the wheel of culture in our organisation. Be it our development programmes, our return to work programme called Run Mummier or even SAPlings – the child day care centre, our main intention has always been to build a supportive, encouraging and engaging environment for our women colleagues. Our policies and initiatives such as enhanced maternity leave from 12 to 20 weeks have seen a drop in maternity attrition from 30 per cent in 2010 to 6 per cent in 2014,” Naik said.


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