Building an Inclusive Workforce



Hillary Clinton ‘Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world’

With all the debate and research in the recent few years, it is now a well-established fact that women are critical contributors to the economy. However, the statistics around same do not seem to be in line.  Only 13 % of Indian working women have a regular salaried job compared to 21% of working men (aged 15–59)*. The pipeline of women in active employment starts low and continue to shrink as low as up to 16% for senior leadership roles.

Women specifically Women leaders are missing across sectors. To gain momentum and drive change, women need to “lean-in”. Top Leadership commitment to diversity and self-impetus on part the women to take up bigger challenges are important aspect’s capitalize on the women talent.

While organizations can have best diversity policies and practices, if you don’t have senior leaders who are ready to walk the talk, it is all a waste of time. While many leaders actively propagate equal opportunity for all, but still seem to be unconsciously gendering roles. It is still common to hear leaders want a smart aggressive sales guy and collegial and friendly PR lady. Having a diverse hiring panel is a great start. Building a supportive eco-system during critical life events is another important aspect. Providing support during and after pregnancy, extended maternity leave, child support facility, exclusive parking which has been received very well. However, getting the women workforce back into the system after pregnancy still stays patchy. Many women tend to float around in the system as their roles are not defined, they are kept away from critical projects with assumption that she will not be able to cope up, given average ratings since she was on leave or sidelined for a deserving promotion. Building a well-planned ‘coming back’ process can  go a long way in building the diverse organization.

While organizations invest on the right things, women themselves need to take charge of their careers. Fear is consistently one of the biggest challenges women say they face in the workplace. These fears, whether it’s about being taken seriously, being inadequate or balancing work and family, often lead to a lack of confidence. Women tend to have a strong need to apologize for who they are and what they bring to the table, else they will seen as pushy or dominating.

Like Sheryl Sandberg says in her book ‘Lean In’ Sit at the table, make you presence felt, because if you are not going to bat for yourself no one else will. It is important to feel confident – or pretend that you feel confident to reach for opportunities.

Building diverse and inclusive culture is a long journey. A lot of work is needed at the junior and middle management levels to increase the number of women workforce.  As that number, increases, they will hopefully in turn, be mentors, leaders, role models to the next set of aspiring women.

  • *Catalyst – Workplaces that work for women

Author- Harpreet Sandhu is a seasoned HR professional, predominantly in the field of Financial Services, having worked in various leadership roles in American Express, GE Consumer Finance and EXL. She has extensive experience working in diverse roles like HR Business partnering, mergers and acquisition, talent acquisition, organization design and effectiveness and change management. Currently she is Vice President – HR at IMGC.

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