Will Diversity, Inclusion and Equity drive the future of work?

DI/verse: Shaping the Workforce of Tomorrow

Advocate Vernā Myers puts diversity as “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Inclusion is also choosing the music…

Inclusion is also being a member of the party-planning committee…

When leaders and employers talk about diversity, they often mean one thing: how to hire the right people. “Diversity” is in the eye of the beholder, and everyone has their definition of what it means. Dextrus brings to you its second series of DI/verse, which brings together experts, crusaders, and changemakers to understand how to bring about systemic change to create a more inclusive, equal, and diverse workplace.

The second conversation in this series was with a bunch of supremely talented and motivated women on the panel: 

1) Anushka Shah, Founder, Civic Studios, Researcher MIT Media Lab. 

2) Anu Aggarwal, President & Business head- Conglomerates, Large Corporates & Multinationals, Kotak Mahindra Bank Limited. 

3) Shilpi Kapoor, Founder, BarrierBreak, 247 Accessible Documents & Newz Hook. 

4) Sujatha Shivsankar, Associate Partner, KPMG India. 

5) Rakhee Lalvani, Consultant with IHCL – D&I Founder RLA. 

Captured below are the excerpts from this insightful conversation: 

Q1. Anushka Shah, founder, of Civic Studios and moderator of the session, kickstarted the conversation by asking the esteemed panel, “What do diversity and inclusion mean at the very core and why is it important?”

Rakhee Lalvani, Consultant with IHCL – D&I Founder RLA says, “Organizations that practice D&I are 20% more profitable than the others. Bringing in diversity of all sorts- sexual orientation, race, gender, age, etc is the thought process. The innovation and creativity that they bring to the table is the problem resolution that they contribute to.”

On the other hand, Sujatha Shivsankar, Associate Partner, KPMG India describes Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity as heads, hearts, and hands of the human body respectively. Diversity is the head as it is all about numbers, Inclusion is the heart and therefore, it is emotional and difficult to understand, it requires patience and perseverance. Equity is referred to as the hands of the human body because it’s required to make an effort and do something about a particular situation.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity

Q2. With respect to hiring, we usually hire people for a defined role. How does one be inclusive in such a situation and prioritize a particular gender or sexuality at the time of hiring?

Rakhee mentions how skilling, development, and competency go hand in hand with the hiring process to reach a certain goal or percentage for diverse representation in an organization.

Anu Aggarwal, President & Business head- Conglomerates, Large Corporates & Multinationals, Kotak Mahindra Bank Limited mentions how organizations that are diverse and inclusive perform better.

“It is no more just a box that needs to be ticked. If we want to perform better financially, for our shareholder value, and overall better performance, companies need to enforce D&I policies. The boardroom and senior management are seeing benefits but what here is what is not happening- it is not trickling down to the other members of the enterprise. Therefore, everyone needs to realize the benefits and importance of representation.”

Sujatha says, “There is a fundamental issue in the way we look at diversity hiring. The issue is we look at positions and people who do not make a reasonable accommodation at all. We need to look at people and then create positions that accommodate the skillsets they bring to the table. There is a cultural angle to it, it takes an entire village, city, country, and an organization to make this happen.”

Q3. What is the value of tokenism? Where is it important and where is it limited?

“There is a huge issue of representation at all levels, junior, middle, and senior when it comes to hospitality and tourism. Concerning the global workforce and diversity data, it’s 40% globally and 12% in India and when you further break it down, it’s only about 2% at the senior management level. Therefore, we need tokenism to make the right moves, say the right things and get the right people on board but it is also important to then have an impactful retention strategy in place. You have to make sure there is engagement and you’re giving them the voice that helps them grow alongside the organization,” says Rakhee

Q4. How does one re-imagine the definition of strengths and weaknesses when they are hiring with a D&I purpose in mind?

Shilpi Kapoor, Founder, BarrierBreak, 247 Accessible Documents & Newz Hook says, “We need to change what we are looking for in a candidate- At BarrierBreak, we don’t only hire candidates who are graduates but also those who have a diploma degree or a masters. We work with everyone from scratch and teach them everything from level zero up. We realized one way of building inclusion was to take away some of the barriers we have put in from a hiring perspective. It’s important to shift the conversation and the biases and to just look at candidates for who they are.”

We hope this compilation has given you an overview of how Diversity & Inclusion policies are applied in the corridors of organizations and businesses. Diversity & Inclusion is a continuous process that requires one main ingredient: commitment. And commitment is something that we should all have, regardless of where we work, what status we have, what gender we are, or to which age group we belong. While it may be daunting to establish or maintain a good policy, it’s well worth the effort because, at the end of the day, this is something we owe each other as a humane society.

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