Since the decriminalisation of section 377 in 2018, corporates in India have made progress in their diversity initiatives, but still have a long way to go. While businesses have realised the importance of having a diverse and inclusive workforce, the onus is on the C-suite to lead by example. In an interview with CXOToday, Sujoy Das, Financial Analyst and Lead, ‘Proud@NetApp’ & ‘NetAbled’, NetApp India reflects on how diversity initiatives should be a business priority throughout the year.
- How have organisations in India become more open towards diversity and inclusion over the last few years?
Ever since the decriminalisation of section 377 in 2018, a significant number of Indian corporates took conscious decisions to include the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, et al.) community in their diversity narratives. They have been vocal and the number of visual optics in support of LGBTQIA+ members is on the rise. Organisations across the country have seen significant changes in recent years, including business models, digital transformations, and hiring priorities. Within the boardroom, diversity, equity, and inclusion have become key topics of discussion today. More and more businesses have realised the importance of having a diverse and inclusive workforce to make employees feel more content and comfortable at work. In addition, organisations have seen the value that diversity brings in via better decision-making processes as a result of diversity in thought.
- Is enough being done to ensure diversity is a business priority? Or does the rainbow fade after pride month?
In addition to the stepping up of diversity in hiring, brands have taken initiative to tap into the purchasing power of the LGBTQIA+ community. Annually, the month of June witnesses social media, entertainment platforms, corporate logos, and events – all signs of solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community. At this time, almost everyone turns into allies and engages in Pride initiatives. While this is heartening to see, the real question remains – does the LGBTQIA+ community continue to thrive in their respective organisations post the June drum roll?
Within the context of a significant number of small and medium corporates, a lot of LGBTQIA+ members continue to struggle to find their place in their organisations. The unfortunate reality, is that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a supportive company, which makes them feel like they cannot bring their true selves to the workplace. We tend to hear stories, rather narratives from the LGBTQIA+ community and seek their suggestions on how to become a better ally. And, then we move on! There should be accountability and only then such efforts will translate into a business priority.
Borrowing from the terminology used in the Six Sigma tools – a lot of companies are aware of the root cause of the problem, and are working towards improvements and controls. We have made progress in this area, but we still have a long way to go before we can say that Indian organisations are truly inclusive.
- What are some steps organisations can take to bring in more diversity?
Hire more people from diverse and marginalised communities. Tokenism will only fetch temporary success relating to the diversity matrix. Organisations need to encourage an ecosystem where the space is shared with marginalised communities. Collectively, we all should come together and be an enabler. Reach out to people to hire them, have sensitisation trainings across the board and communicate this priority.
A few ways in which India Inc. can bring to reality their diversity, equity, and inclusivity mandates include:
Workshops on sensitisation: Constant training and awareness is an important part of building a diverse team. Through periodic workshops, this can help address conscious and unconscious biases, and give everyone the chance to flourish equally.
Focus on mental wellness: An important element to take into account in the workplace is mental health, especially among diverse groups. By providing access to mental health experts and implementing systems to support their wellbeing, employees can benefit from their access, and address concerns to ultimately improve their productivity.
- How important is it to lead by example/from the top when driving such initiatives?
It is undoubtedly important to be a champion in leading all diversity efforts. As the saying goes – lead by example. The C-Suite should ensure that there is a platform to discuss about these topics and even though they are uncomfortable one must have these conversations. The message must come from the executives that they continue to support marginalised communities and that should permeate through all levels. Leverage all communication mediums to broadcast their thoughts and vision on diversity and its implications.
- In your experience, how have you seen companies benefit from having strong diversity policies?
The most productive teams, in our opinion, are those that are united in spirit, diverse in thought, and representative of the clients and communities we serve. Winning businesses are aware of the fact that diverse teams foster higher performance, giving the company a competitive edge.
On a personal note, I do look up to companies who keep diversity policies as their priority. It is not a herculean task to secure information about how an organisation is doing on their diversity KPI. The inference here is people will move towards organisations which have strong diversity policies covering all the marginalised communities.
At NetApp, we are aligned with our HR partners and business leaders to promote inclusivity in hiring, as well as raising awareness on diversity. We have noticed an increase in the percentage of requests to be added to our LGBTQIA+ mailer and distribution lists thanks to awareness sessions we’ve held over the past year, which is a good sign. Additionally, some of our teams have volunteered to lead the Proud@NetApp India chapter.
- What is your vision for the tech industry as a whole, when it comes to diversity and inclusion?
The technology industry works on the principle – change is the only constant. We thrive in an atmosphere where we remain open to new ideas, and new ways of working (post pandemic hybrid model). Hence working with a diverse set of talented people will not be that difficult. There will certainly be friction and only friction can ignite the innovation mindset.