Today’s business is dynamic and the work force has a diverse background unlike the days of a certain clan/ gender/ ethnicity taking on a particular craftsmanship. Which was then handed with prudence from one generation to the other. Until in the 21 century – a post war era and industrial revolution – a new age was born to see first women joining the workforce and subsequently a radical shift emerged in the way the new generation looked and explored to work.

Apart from making a living as the primary purpose to being a part of the workforce – due to mechanisation and a fresh perspective of working in newer arenas other than was passed down generations clearly began emerging.

People now are working for the passion of it, making a difference, adding value or were simply oust due the lifecycle of the profession becoming redundant like the kabootar baaz of Old Delhi, the letter writers of Bombay, the street dentists of Vadodara, the ittar walas of Hyderabad, Rudaalis of Rajasthan and so on. Truly as the etymology suggests the name and profession dictated the profession as per the caste like Kumhar the potters, Gandhis the fragrance sellers, Ahluwalias were alcohol sellers, Parsis continue with very interesting indication of lineage and profession – Jhunjhunwala, fountainwala, Ginwala, Soda bottle open wala.

And then began the era of world becoming a Global village – different castes, creeds, body type, nationalities, tribes, genders, abilities, acumen, colour, sex, generation, financial standing, appearance, language, state of mind, criminal status, employment status came into play. The workspace transformed into a dynamic one with diversity not to be missed but to stay. The new workforce once that was oblivious of ‘diversity’ being an agenda- now was forced to recognise and embrace it with ‘Inclusion’ which entailed each one of us to cherish each individual in their own unique way.

Most corporates have made it a conscious agenda to appreciate each employee through D&I interventions and awareness programs. Mckinsey studies indicate

  • Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
  • Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

India with its erstwhile joint family structure and state as well as cultural diversity has been tolerant of the diversity. Yet there are biases and stereotypes we all deal with on a day-to-day basis. We all carry an unconscious bias and the perspective is to identify, decode it and manage it in a way that is enabling for a cohesive and healthy work climate.

At a corporate level, most can associate with recruitment biases from whether a lady is ready to take a job seriously as she just got married and subsequently may be planning to extend her family. Or a new father who may need to take on more responsibilities (more so in the western context rather than South East Asian). Or could be a B level and not Ivy league graduate over an Ivy league. As a matter of fact – an Ivy league may have the pressure to perform as per perceptions that people may hold in their mind about passing out from a prestigious institute as such. Or simply a day to day matter of women are better suited for HR/ L&D job profiles over technical. And let the woman decide the cake and the menu for the office birthday party.

The millennials are beginning to question the lack of women at leadership roles and corporates are realigning their strategy to ensure deserving women get their dues.

Presently, it may begin with a quasi-sense of reservation or an agenda to make women assume leadership roles. Which maybe a start. For the world across women are fighting a cause of being under-payed as compared to their male counterpart. Refer to Meryl Streep speech at Golden globe award ceremony speech.

Apart from gender discrimination – many experience the office cliques of sorts that discriminate against another colleague and keep the person confined to the ‘outgroup’ status for this person maybe a performer. And may not share the same interests as the ‘In Group’. The consequence- plum projects and assignments are awarded to the ones who subscribe to the group. They are justified in the name of status and authority. The power play doesn’t just end there. The manipulative approach is to reproach the individual while colouring other’s views.

Ostracising is a form of discrimination and needs to be dealt with.

On one hand the workforce has arrived to the need to recognise and embrace diversity and strengthen its presence with Inclusion. On the other hand, discrimination, biases, stereotypes lead to unconscious bias which impact the interactions and thus opportunities. To think differently is human, but to act with sensitivity is a choice we make in all fairness.

My three takes on decoding D&I at an individual level would be

  • Uncover your unconscious bias
  • Accept it
  • Manage it with an appreciation that each one is unique.

At an organisational level:

  • D&I awareness interventions
  • Top down approach
  • Counselling in case of repeated violation of D&I

Payal Gandhi Hoon is a Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Professional and a Corporate Training Consultant and Coach. Currently, she heads her venture Tamarai.

Also Read: Women on Boards: Unconscious Biases & Gender Stereotypes in India Inc.

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