Travelling is a key enabler to the work that I do and most often I find myself in and out of airports at the vaguest of hours. But of course, I do end up meeting interesting strangers as we strike a conversation around the future of Jet Airways or the pollution in Delhi and casually ask on our respective professions and the work that we do. It comes as no surprise tome when 90% of the time people do not get it, when I say I do diversity and Inclusion for a living. The percentage does move to 50% when I clarify that some of my work is centred around gender empowerment. Interestingly over the last 6 months, I have felt a change and I do see more openness and change in regular people trying to understand others and their situation. Personally, it is a huge high and I can see it getting reflected in organizations and society and the way we include humanity.
It is a common practice by employers to ask for birth dates, college name or marital status to uncover a job applicant’s demographic information. While such requests aren’t by themselves illegal, they can raise questions about the motive.
“Airbnb’s interviewers who had been previously trained to find commonalities with candidates (e.g., hobbies, educational background, experiences) have changed their recruiting process to explicitly avoid looking for commonalities and using objective scorecards to make sure all candidates are evaluated equally and fairly”
Back home in India the Reserve Bank of India directed banks to include a separate column ‘third gender’ in all their forms and applications to uphold the rights of transgender persons to decide their self- identified gender and to grant legal recognition of their gender identity such as male, female or as third gender. In another instance, fashion retail clothes giant H&M had to withdraw its hoodies from the market. The T-shirts with the slogans ‘unemployed’ and “Nothing to do- Nowhere to go” were taken down immediately, after a backlash for trivialising poverty & hardship, and featuring class struggle for fun, that for many is a reality.
Seemingly innocuous statements or processes like the three cases highlighted above are increasingly coming under the gamut of diversity awareness.
The focus from tokenism to a robust business imperative is the trend that I foresee for 2019.
1. Intent towards Action
The LGBTQ Pride March in Mumbai 2019 was the largest congregation of individuals. An estimated 20K supporters from the community and their allies walked together in ‘Pride’ which included individuals and corporates both MNC and Indian. In 2018, the #MeToo movement increased awareness regarding workplace harassment, but there has also been a lot of confusion regarding what is appropriate workplace behaviour, following the movement. Hence, Organizations are creating spaces where individuals and communities bring themselves to work and are given an equal and balanced footing without discrimination and prejudice. Employees on the other hand are recognising the need for knowledge and awareness generation and ‘what it means to be inclusive and tolerating’.
2. Support to Sponsorship
In a recent interaction with board members of a large MNC, I was guiding leaders to understand the LGBT community. The leaders accepted their low understanding in this matter and,were openly asking for help to drive it in their respective roles and businesses. In my journey as a Diversity Consultant this was a pleasant surprise in comparison to my other interactions with similar management teams who,until now had equated diversity only to gender. Any robust inclusion program doesn’t deliver on its promise if there is no Sponsorship. Sponsors are advocates in positions of authority who use their influence intentionally to help others advance and, at the same time‘walk the talk’to get more traction and visibility. This helps in showcasing change and seriousness on creating an environment that holds promise for everyone.
3. Flexibility to GIG Economy
I was recently perusing some knowledge tech platforms and came across many flexi-job portals, where there were at least 200% more people applying in number terms as compared to what was on offer. Mirroring this trend, organizations are looking beyond flexible work benefits for full time employees. Blue-collar workers like Uber drivers and service providers on Urban Clap make up the bulk of the gig economy currently. But there is an upsurge in roles such as website design, gaming, coaching, coding, artificial intelligence, project management, marketing, content, and even doctor’s prescription in the white-collar space. A gig worker is employed for a specific task or time to achieve the advantages of cost, quality and flexibility and,to move on once the task is complete. As per reports, it is projected that gig workers will comprise as much as 80% by 2030.
4. Include and Impact
A client recently told me that ‘You cannot be an ally from the shadows’ and that is evident in current times. In 2018, Microsoft announced the Xbox Adaptive Controller, which is a specific controller designed for individuals with disabilities to help video games more accessible. Organizations are finally showcasing empathy using CSR Funds to impact societies with sustainable inclusive growth. In the process,multi-faceted talents also are supported for young entrepreneurs, girl child, differently abled, transgenders through skilling and career opportunities.
5. Generational Intelligence
Each of us sometime or the other will have faced abundance of knowledge or advice first thing in the morning from the many chat groups that we are part off. Often, it is the baby boomers or 60+ generation who seem to be more engaged in social media discovering freedom of expression as never experienced before. As most baby boomers start to leave work, also known as“the silver tsunami,” more organizations are likely to lose some of their best talent. Ideally, mature workers will remain productive and engaged in projects that further the organization’s long-term goals. Organizations seem to have figured out that, honouring experience using newer tools of flexibility and gig working demonstrates new age thinking and facilitates knowledge management and transfer. The millennial workforces especially in start-ups with sensibilities of inclusion and purpose are also driving strategies to move towards innovation and agility and helping generations to come together.
Increased sensitivity to people and backgrounds will be the moot point in times to come and will also be a platform towards an equitable world. Diversity & Inclusion is much more than numbers or demographics. It takes extra effort and moving out of comfort zones for the presence of many under-represented groups which vary culturally, spatially and cognitively. Till then, it remains a changing world with promise towards diversity leading to inclusion.