Written by Dr Saundarya Rajesh
It has been a dramatically eventful year – a global pandemic called COVID-19, operational new in almost all lines of businesses and a universal acceptance of a niche format of flexible work called remote work. Closer observations on some of India’s most successful organizations reveal that there is indeed a ball that they refrained from dropping, amidst all the chaos that ensued, their intent on diversity and inclusion. Their pursuit for business continuity and resurrection is a goal that has been strongly coupled with attracting, developing and retaining a diverse workforce.
Let us look into a 3-year trend that emerges from corporate India’s most comprehensive diversity analytics exercise – the Working Mother & Avtar Best Companies for Women in India. The data tells us that gender diversity in hiring is on a rise – the percentage of women amongst new hires has moved up from 34% in 2018 to 37% in 2020. Going by the projections, getting to 50-50 could only be a few years, away. At the entry level, 38% of all hires are women – a figure that does equitable justice to the proportion of women graduates in India- 49% (as per AISHE report in 2019). At the managerial level, the percentage of women hires has moved up from 20% to 24%. And the needle is moving, when it comes to women in leadership.
It was in the mid-2000s, that Avtar, as India’s first organised voice on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion started talking about the need to invest in diversity talent pools. One of the first talent pools that Avtar drew attention to was that of women on career breaks, what we termed as the second career women talent pool. In 2006, under the aegis of Avtar was the first ever recorded instance of second career women recruitment drive in India. For the first ever time in India, 400 women made their come-backs en masse. Fifteen years hence, there are at least 65 organizations in India which have formal second career women recruitment programs. They together have hosted the career come-backs of several thousand women professionals. An average of 7% of women hires at the 100 Best companies for women in India in 2020 were women on career breaks.
So, what are some of the gears that these progressive organizations have in place to leverage the diversity talent mine? To begin with, there is leadership conviction, diversity is not a nice-to-have workforce frill, it is a must-have talent prerogative. 88% of the companies on the 2020 Working Mother & Avtar Most Inclusive Companies Index train their hiring managers on being diversity sensitive. They also mandate diversity interview slates in the process of closing positions. Another 88% utilise their Employee Resource Groups to drive referral led diversity talent recruitment. 84% of these companies conduct exclusive recruitment drives to reach out to diversity talent. They ensure all their job postings and recruitment communications are inclusively positioned.
National level stats show that COVID-induced retrenchment has led to disproportionate job losses for men and women, with women bearing the brunt – 13% more women than men lost jobs. The pre-pandemic figure showed that the employable talent pool of second career women in India stood at 70 lakhs. In the present scenario, these numbers are likely to have swollen. This means a direct upsurge in the availability of one of the biggest diversity talent pools – that of women, to meet the resurgent talent needs of the market.
We are in the middle of an interesting time; I would like to call it the cusp of change! Even as we manage living through the most engulfing pandemic of our lifetimes, there are opportunities that silver line this gloomy cloud. As organizational leaders steering recovery and growth, one of the biggest opportunity is that of the potential to engage with a diverse talent pool. Taking a leaf out of the diversity intent of India’s most inclusive organizations, leaders should look at a diverse talent pool to manage their talent requirements. This can prove critical to managing the road ahead – the mine is indeed deep and vast!
About the Author
Dr Saundarya Rajesh‘s social enterprise, Avtar, is India’s only organization that provides both strategy and implementation solutions in Diversity & Inclusion. Dr Saundarya’ s work in the space of gender diversity & inclusion in the workplace, is unparalleled in India. Not only is she among the earliest and most impactful voices on gender inclusion, but Avtar has also helped hundreds of companies hire thousands of women professionals. An inspiring speaker, an author, and a very sought-after D&I strategist, Dr Saundarya’s vision is to see young girls from underprivileged families create empowering white-collar careers for themselves. This she influences through Project Puthri. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.