Shattering Stereotypes: DEI Blind Spots in Indian Landscape

India’s complex social structure includes a multitude of castes, religions, languages, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds. Thus, we can say that the D&I initiatives are not just limited to creating an environment of acceptance but also about addressing the imbalances and inequalities that exist.

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Shattering Stereotypes DEI Blind Spots in Indian Landscape
In the context of India, the concept of Inclusivity takes a different significance due to the varied demography of the nation. It goes beyond just accommodating various identities and backgrounds.

Addressing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) blind spots in India requires shattering stereotypes entrenched in the societal landscape.

Understanding What D&I/DE&I/DEI&B Mean

  • Diversity is commonly defined as having a workforce that involves people from a range of backgrounds (social and ethnic), genders, sexual preferences, etc.
  • Equity refers to giving fair treatment to the employees keeping in mind their individual/unique circumstances, needs, and demands. This is different from that of equality which refers to treating everyone in the same manner irrespective of their differences.
  • Inclusion refers to the creation of an environment in which each individual has access to all opportunities, enabling them to participate, contribute, and create an impact, and in which they feel that their voices are heard.
  • Belongingness is the outcome of all the efforts in which people not only tolerate others but also embrace them as equals – physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

How the Concept of Inclusion is Different for India

In the context of India, the concept of Inclusivity takes a different significance due to the varied demography of the nation. It goes beyond just accommodating various identities and backgrounds; it is intricately tied to the idea of social justice, equity, and historical disparities.

India’s complex social structure includes a multitude of castes, religions, languages, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds. Thus, we can say that the D&I initiatives are not just limited to creating an environment of acceptance but also about addressing the imbalances and inequalities that exist.

Below is the list of areas that need to be kept in mind while formulating inclusive policies by the corporate sector.

  • Ethnic Diversity
  • Caste diversity
  • Gender Diversity
  • Regional Diversity (Coastal/Border/Island/Hilly/Tribal)
  • Person With Disability (PWD) Diversity
  • Linguistic Diversity
  • Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) Diversity
  • Generational Diversity
  • Regional Diversity

Challenges Related to the Failure of Achieving D&I Success in India

  • Gender Inequality: Includes issues like workplace harassment, unequal pay, and flexible work arrangements to accommodate familial responsibilities. While we have an improvised gender ratio with 1020 females per 1000 males, we still see inequality regarding women being in positions of power.
  • Lack of Societal/Legal Support: The acceptance of alternative sexual identities within the LGBTQIA+ community remains a significant roadblock. From the criminalization of same-gender marriages to the prohibition of adoption by transgender individuals and same-sex couples, and the absence of legal mechanisms to prevent exploitation, it is evident that we have a long way to go.
  • Talent Migration from small companies to MNCs: Candidates who identify themselves as belonging to certain groups and communities are typically in the minority. There is a concerning trend observed where the MNCs attract diverse talent from smaller, less powerful companies which leaves the latter with even fewer diverse candidates to choose from, potentially perpetuating the very problem they aim to solve.
  • Negligible effort is invested at the root level: There is a noticeable lack of commitment to nurturing new individuals from the various sections and seamlessly integrating them into the corporate environment from the very beginning. For example, companies may incorporate skill development and training programs for Trans folks in their CSR initiatives to make them eligible for various jobs.
  • Lack of flexibility in the hiring criteria: By the corporates hiring people from various marginalized communities leads to the exclusion of individuals.
  • Mirroring Foreign DEI policies: It is evident based on past data, how Indian DEI policies are heavily inspired by Western laws. To ensure better effectiveness and implementation, we need to contextualize our policies to our land and identify problems within.
  • Underrepresentation of women on the corporate boards: Despite the intervention made by bodies like MCA and SEBI to promote gender diversity on the company boards, which has triggered the conversation on the same, achieving a significant mass of female directors remains a goal as the representation at the senior management level is disproportional.
  • Low representation in the corporates as compared to the Govt bodies: With the announcement of several policies on reservations, quotas, and various gender-specific legislation, it is observed that the government and political institutes observe a higher level of inclusivity when compared to the corporate sector.
  • Improper Infrastructure: Issues like lack of gender-inclusive restrooms, ergonomic seating, ramps or elevators, etc. may be a roadblock.

Recommendations for Achieving Success in D&I

  • Holistic Approach: a holistic approach recognizes that diversity and inclusion are interconnected with various aspects of an organization, including culture, leadership, policies, and community impact. By addressing these elements collectively, you can create a more inclusive workplace that benefits both employees and the organization as a whole.
  • Redefining the D&I policies as per the local needs: This applies to both the Domestic as well as the Captives, that they don’t just replicate the foreign policies but customize them to the local needs.
  • Realistic Expectations: While the ultimate aim of the D&I efforts is to achieve more and more representation from the various sections of society, we must recognize that such progress will occur gradually with time, as it involves changing mindsets, behaviors, and perceived notions.
  • Social, Regulatory, and Legal Acceptance: The success of the D&I policies relies as much on the support from the organization as on that from the broader societies. The policies within an organization are a subset of the legal and regulatory framework in the nation, thus they need to be progressive and inclusive. For example, it wasn’t until the govt finally recognized the existence of a third gender that companies started focusing on their hiring and inclusivity.
  • Upskill the marginalized communities: Companies may invest in skill development and training programs for the concerned communities via their CSR initiatives, to make them eligible for various jobs available.
  • Moving from hiring to adoption: The true essence of D&I should not just be limited to hiring people from diverse backgrounds but also adopting and accepting them as a part of the group.
  • Long-term approach: D&I initiatives are a long-term endeavor that requires patience, persistence, and willingness to continuously adapt and improve over time. 

Conclusion

To work towards the resolution of any problem, it is important to acknowledge the inadequacies within the system. The concept of Diversity is still wrapped within the shrouds of stigma and shame.

Although we do see these conversations now come to the front to improve the workspace, we still have a long way to go. Conglomerates like the Tata Group have consistently made efforts to shed some light on the local diversity issues. As India continues to evolve, embracing diversity will be a key driver of social progress and economic growth.

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