An essential part of helping organisations combat the COVID-19 pandemic is human resources.
Chief HR executives anticipate that influence to last, as companies strategise to encapsulate more productive and futuristic plans for their workforce. Arvind Raj B, Vice President, Human Resource, Olam Information Services, an international integrated supplier of both raw and processed agricultural commodities takes us through the firm’s journey of bringing a more inclusive culture.
1. How do you see your gender diversity policies evolve in the near future?
Resilience and innovation drive our gender Diversity policies at OTBS. We have a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation. Having access to a diverse workforce helps us achieve our organizational goals, and it’s incredible what we can achieve through collective performance
Our gender diversity ratio is at 22%, and we look forward to significantly increasing it across the organization in the coming year. We also use data to make informed decisions and continuously track and measure our systems and processes. Our policy has helped us tap into a wider talent pool and, more importantly, have a diverse perspective for problem-solving, enhanced collaboration and aims to reflect a cohesive society. The promotion of DEI initiatives in an organization and the support by managers where employees can bring their authentic selves to work is what truly makes DEI initiatives at work for us. We have the sponsorship of our Senior Leadership and a high employee engagement that makes us want to bring even more practices that support our gender diversity policy!
2. What are the opportunities and challenges for gender diversity in a hybrid environment? What female business leaders, according to you, serve as exemplars for gender diversity?
The pandemic across geographies and industries clearly showed that employees preferred a hybrid model. This allows for more work-life balance and a more significant focus on employee wellbeing. While this also brings challenges for team building and collaboration, which can be more siloed. So, the challenge remains to ensure the collaborative process and cooperation amongst teams is fair and does not involve group-ins/ group-outs. Overall, ensuring virtual etiquettes, mutual respect, and re-evaluation of virtual/in-person meets can improve the hybrid work environment.
Firstly, it is a matter of pride that India is the largest employer of women in tech, with nearly 1.5 million employed in this sector. Many women leaders are inspirational, including Vanitha Narayanan, Roshini Nadar, Anjali Sud, Falguni Nayar, Leela Nair, and Anjali Sud, showing what it means to have a diverse workforce and leadership representation in the sector.
3. How can we enhance gender diversity and Inclusion in the Indian context from the grassroots?
Volunteering in primary schools and encouraging more women to take up a career and normalize having more identities than just one can help in gender diversity and Inclusion. Enhancing diversity must start at an earlier stage where women have exposure to a career discovery programme, internships, mentorship, and networking opportunities.
4. How do you think that India fares with gender diversity vis-a-vis the rest of Asia?
India overall fairs better in Asia for women in executive and non-executive roles. There is gender parity when it comes to a graduate level. However, the challenge remains to ensure women continue into middle management and senior leadership roles. Women who take career breaks and how can they be upskilled to suit the business environment. Recently at OTBS, we had a career fair for women looking to rejoin the workforce and received a good response with over 700 resumes. Such supportive initiatives make the work environment more cohesive.
5. What countries do you think have achieved success with gender diversity, and what can India learn from them?
We can take many lessons from the Nordic countries with high gender diversity and equality ratios. The policy focuses on ensuring equal pay and penalizations, flexibility with working and recognizing women as primary caregivers to offering paternity leaves to both genders. Childcare systems also need to be more developed, subsidized, and standardized in our society. At OTBS, we undertake benchmarking studies and review and strengthen our employee policies to bring D&I perspectives across the organization.