Case Studies in Diversity and Inclusion – Part 2

In our first part in this series of case studies, we took a sneak peak into Accenture’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy and how it is becoming an integral part of Accenture’s business as well as its organizational culture. Another significant game changer in the D & I space is Cisco, with its unique and hard hitting approach.

Unlike most companies that are diverse at the lower ranks, CISCO stands out in its D and I efforts because it is diverse at the top. Cisco believes that change must begin from the top and has worked towards creating strong yet diverse leadership at the top. However it also recognizes the need to create similar role models at all levels in order to percolate the right efforts and mind-set downward across all functions and ranks of the organization.

All this began with a breakthrough understanding that when diversity and inclusion is made everyone’s responsibility, no one is entirely responsible and no one is assuring results or changes. Hence, Cisco appointed the first ever Chief inclusion officer and instating the office of inclusion and collaboration, and office with the authority and focus to bring change in a tangible and meaningful fashion.

Pay Parity: Shari Slate, VP, Chief inclusion officer at Cisco believes pay parity is nothing but a simple issue of fairness. Cisco knows that its edge in the industry comes from its people and not merely its technology. So it focuses on ensuring that everyone who works for Cisco is paid fairly for the work they do, regardless of gender or ethnicity. When it comes to pay parity Cisco has lead the way by singing the White House Equal Pay Pledge.

To further their cause of pay parity, Cisco no longer asks US job candidates for their last pay slip and how much they made on their last job. Cisco is now basing their salaries on market data, candidate experience and expectations, and the level and location of the role.

Cisco Life Changer Program for inclusion of the differently-abled: Cisco LifeChanger is a ground breaking, award-winning program that was developed by Cisco employees with a passion for inclusion and innovation, and a strong desire to address a critical challenge. To break down barriers to employment and limited access to employers, the passionate volunteers behind Cisco LifeChanger developed novel applications for Cisco’s voice, video, and collaboration technology, and combined them with process improvements, to transcend location, accommodation, and mobility issues.

The result: people with disabilities can seamlessly join teams and contribute value. By overcoming barriers to employment, Cisco is creating new possibilities for how we can change the way the world works, tap into the tremendous untapped potential of people with disabilities, and change lives.

Multiplier Effect: With the boldest idea to date in Diversity and Inclusion yet, Cisco initiated the Multiplier effect pledge, to leverage the power of sponsorship to accelerate the pipeline of diverse talent. The pledge brings in thought leaders and executives within the tech industry to pledge their support and sponsor one diverse candidate and thus multiply the growth. The belief that a candidate can grow immensely and contribute their full potential if they receive dedicated support, sponsorship and guidance form a leader, makes this pledge one that creates a ripple effect and helps the entire industry and landscape reaps the benefits from a diversity and inclusion strategy.

Equally accepting and including everyone with a sense of fairness and respect is simply what should have been a part of everyone’s every day life. Yet, we have come to live in a world where we need to remind ourselves of our uniqueness and that of others and acceptance has sadly become a gift and not a right. However, with concrete efforts such as these from tech behemoths, there is hope that equal opportunity is slowly but steadily becoming a reality.

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Case Studies – Companies that are changing the equation with Diversity and Inclusion

Corporates are beginning to understand the societal and business benefits of creating organizations that have diversity and inclusion at the very heart of their business. While being a proponent of diversity and inclusion in the workplace can be a great talking point and be pivotal in creating a aspirational image of an organization, making D & I an actionable and a working reality is not a simple task. It requires mindsets, policies, awareness and expectations to align not just across leadership but one that also percolates across all levels of the organization.

Let us look at a few organizations that are making diversity and inclusion part of their DNA and creating some best practises along the way –

Accenture: Being ranked number 1 in the Thomson Reuter’s Diversity and inclusion index, Accenture takes it diversity and inclusion seriously. As a business imperative, every person at Accenture has the responsibility to create and sustain an inclusive environment. Their website quotes that Accenture believes “no one should be discriminated against because of their differences, such as age, ability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and expression, religion or sexual orientation. Our rich diversity makes us more innovative and more creative, which helps us better serve our clients and our communities.”

Accenture also believes that by making every one of their 4,00,000 plus workforce feel valuable and included they are able empower employees to bring in their “Best Self” to the workplace.

Some concrete steps embraced by Accenture include striving towards having a gender neutral workforce by 2025, hiring and working extensively with people with disabilities and supporting the LGBTQ community.

Gender Neutrality: With their “50 by 25” goal which announces their effort to be gender neutral by 2025 and employ 50% women in their workforce, Accenture has taken a number of steps to attract, retain, advance and sponsor women on its path to achieving a gender balanced workforce, including:

  • Launching initiatives that provide women employees with skills and puts       high performing women on fast track programs
  • Collaborating across business and government to promote gender equality in the workplace, with commitments and pledge programs that include the White House Equal Pay Pledge, Paradigm for Parity, and Catalyst CEO Champions for Change – each of these promoting collaborative efforts towards a gender balanced workforce.

Enabling persons with Disability: Accenture actively hires and works towards retention and inclusion of people with disabilities across their several offices around the world. They are working towards enabling every employee to fully interact with technology regardless of functional disabilities. They also are empowering persons with disabilities every day through their Global Persons with Disabilities Champions Network which organizes local networking, collaboration, mentoring and awareness-building activities for persons with disabilities—as well as caregivers and colleagues—throughout the year.

Supporting the LGBTQ Community: With the innate belief that diversity makes them more innovative, Accenture provides an inclusive environment for all employees without discriminating on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Some concrete steps taken in this direction include clear cut guidelines for recruitment, and retention and promotion, professional development programs, Equal pay and benefits, including insurance for gender affirmation surgery in certain countries. Accenture also fosters several resource groups across 45 countries and has over 100,000 members in their global ally programs.

Accenture in its efforts and ambitions of being a front-runner in the diversity and inclusion space, is proving that although diversity can add complexity to the workplace, it needs to be nurtured through cultural competence to create an environment of inclusion. Doing this will give an organization a competitive advantage and diversity will become a bottom line contributor.

Look out for our next post for anther D & I Case study.

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Inclusion in India Inc

India is a sum total of several diverse cultures, languages, ethnicity and castes. Differences and similarities coexist and are complexly intertwined into the very grain of India. This makes India a highly complex yet compelling landscape to better understand the role of Diversity and Inclusion in Corporate India.

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of government and well as private corporation led policies and initiatives to bring diversity and inclusion into the main stream lexicon. Some of the noteworthy developments are India’s market regulator mandating listed companies to have at least one woman director on their boards, amendment of the Section 377 extending rights to the LGBTQ communities and Extension of maternity leave to six months. Studies and research has shown that such initiatives that help companies develop a more broader and global mindset, and more importantly help them reap immense benefits including better market positions, greater customer satisfaction and more robust bottom lines.

Yet there lies a vast difference between diversity and inclusion, terms that are used interchangeably quite often. As diversity advocate Verna Mayers quoted, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance” while focus on diversity will ensure your organization has a ‘Mix’, policies and focus on inclusion will ensure that this ‘mix’ works in a way that is meaningful to both the employees as well as the company.

While various hiring and retention manifestoes can help companies achieve diversity, focused policy and mindset changes are required for the purpose of inclusion.

Let us look at the Godrej India Culture Lab who has been working on a project that specifically makes the case for corporate India to embrace the 4.9 lakh documented transgender people in India, 92% of whom are still unable to participate in the formal economy, according to the National Human Rights Commission.

At the culmination of the project, a paper titled, ‘A Manifesto for Trans Inclusion in the Indian Workplace’ was presented by Shahani, head of Godrej India Culture Lab, with support from the Keshav Suri Foundation, Humsafar Trust, Periferry, TWEET Foundation, and Community Business.

This manifesto, apart from highlighting the history of transgender people in India and various other data, also make a case on why hiring and inclusion of LGTBA community into mainstream corporate world can have many financial and other benefits for an organization. While supporting data and research finds can make a compelling case for the hiring of the LGBTQ community, The process of including and integrating them into the workforce is one that can pose many challenges and obstacles. The transgender community of India has been one that has been historically highly marginalized and have borne many social stigmas and discrimination for several hundred years. The latter half of the Manifesto also acted as a ‘How to’ guide for companies to adopt inclusive hiring practices sensitizing current employees, widening the scope of health insurance and medical benefits, rethinking restroom infrastructures, and implementing policies like gender neutral adoption leave and equal opportunity benefits.

It cannot be overlooked that there are some real cost implications in the short term, however in the long term companies which demonstrated a whole-hearted and deep reaching focus on inclusion have reaped many benefits such as coveted employer credibility, more wide spread revenue streams and greater employee engagement and retention.

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