2020 is a year marked by uncertainty and volatility. From a raging global pandemic, a high-pitched call for social justice, and geopolitical uncertainty in the largest economies, the disruption is vividly visible. That said, this is also the time for businesses to introspect, think out-of-the-box, and pivot across their value chain to cement change that is progressive, scalable, and good for business and society. And the push toward embedding diversity and inclusion into the social and business fabric falls dead center.
As businesses look toward becoming more innovative and differentiating themselves in the crowded marketplace, embracing diversity provides a compelling edge. And the math is there to see. A McKinsey report reinforces the directly proportional link between a company’s inclusion scale and its revenue—businesses that are high on the gender diversity scale are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability. Another BCG study reports that companies with more diverse leadership teams had 19% higher innovation revenues.
Entrepreneur Malcolm Forbes famously said: “Diversity is the art of thinking independently together.” And clearly, new outlooks equals new ideas and translates to new business. However, the goal of building a diverse and inclusive organization does not end with hiring people from different gender, race, ethnicity, and backgrounds. It is, in fact, the starting point on the D&I journey. Without building a culture that embraces, celebrates, and learns from differences, the long-term benefits of diversity are lost.
Gender equality remains a major issue in the corporate world
While the scope of building D&I-led organizations is vast and includes several discriminations prevalent in the society today, gender equality (or inequality) remains a poignant reminder of the hard work that still needs to be done. Since the industrial revolution, women have significantly contributed to the workforce, but even today, they continue to be heavily underrepresented in the corporate world. This, despite the vast data available that reiterates that firms with more women at the CXO-level are more profitable. A Pew Research Center report highlights several compelling factors why women should be a significant chunk of the workforce:
- Women are 34% better at arriving at a compromise in tough situations
- They are 31% more likely to be honest and ethical in their work
- They are 25% more likely to stand up for their beliefs and values
- They are 30% more likely to ensure fair pay and benefits for their teams
- They are 25% better mentors
With such phenomenal numbers making a strong case for women in the workforce, it is surprising that gender disparity still exists. Clearly, while the intent is there, the drive to make gender diversity a priority is lacking. From setting targets to holding leaders accountable for results, proactive and constructive action is a business imperative.
As the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court and champion of women’s rights, famously said: "Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn't be that women are the exception.”
Truer words were never spoken.
But how can businesses (like Cyient) change the game?
Becoming a truly inclusive organization is a natural outcome when the organization takes concrete measures. Understanding the current staff dynamics, identifying underrepresented groups, earmarking scope for improvement, and charting groups that must be included to present a diverse organization—these are critical steps to take as we push for a diverse and inclusive organization.
But more than that, examining systems and processes in place, revisiting and restructuring them as needed and when needed, and ensuring an evolutionary approach, will eventually lead to creating an environment where talent thrives and is nurtured.
At Cyient, our D&I charter is driven by the vision “to create a collaborative workplace that supports, attracts, and inspires diverse thinking and talented people to reach their potential.” And I am proud to say that significant effort is being made to achieve this vision. Our Inclusion Ambassador Program leads the way with 100+ inclusion ambassadors globally. Cyient’s Inclusion Ambassadors are focused on empowering teams and increasing authenticity to encourage proactive change, accelerating D&I, and creating a low-risk incubator for testing inclusion ideas or nudges before scaling across the business. The group has been instrumental in completing more than 30 low-cost, high-impact inclusion nudges across areas, including recruitment, leadership, unconscious bias, mental health and well-being, associate experience, connecting people, and transparency.
We also kicked off our global mentoring program, DIEL (Diversity, Inclusivity, and Equity-Driven Leadership) in FY20, in partnership with a leading global HR consulting firm. The inaugural series focused on enabling our women associates to lower barriers, break business and geographical silos, and partner with a diverse set of leaders and mentors as they chart their growth in the organization. The priority was to build an environment that seeks to bridge the gender diversity gap while empowering our associates to create real change.
These are but small steps in the direction of becoming an equitable, inclusive workplace. A lot remains to be done. We need to take a long, hard look at diversity (or the lack of it) in the workplace and implement measures that bring in lasting change.
In the end, I am reminded of what I have often heard Katie Cook, my long-time colleague and sector head at Cyient, quote: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”
The onus is on each one of us to build truly inclusive organizations, communities, societies, and nations. Because without inclusion, progress is incomplete.