Article: Cultural shift doesn’t happen overnight: Axis AMC's Head HR on overcoming gender disparity


Cultural shift doesn’t happen overnight: Axis AMC's Head HR on overcoming gender disparity

Women in corporate often lack mentorship and guidance, seeking someone to navigate career challenges and provide reassurance, emphasised Himanshu Misra while highlighting the need for support and encouragement.
Cultural shift doesn’t happen overnight: Axis AMC's Head HR on overcoming gender disparity

In the Gender Inequality Index (GII) for 2021, India held the 122nd position out of 191 countries, scoring 0.490. There was a slight improvement in India's ranking in the GII 2022, with the country ascending 14 places compared to the previous year. This shift underscores a growing commitment to addressing gender disparities and advancing equality. 

Consequently, addressing gender disparity in attrition rates becomes imperative for fostering a more inclusive and equitable workplace environment. Gender disparity refers to unequal representation or treatment based on gender, while attrition rates specifically measure the rate at which employees leave an organisation within a defined period. Significant disparities in attrition rates between genders often point to underlying issues related to workplace culture, policies, and opportunities.

Addressing gender disparity in attrition rates is important for several reasons. Firstly, it promotes diversity and inclusion within the workforce, which has been shown to enhance organisational performance and innovation. When employees feel valued and supported regardless of their gender, they are more likely to contribute their unique perspectives and talents to the organisation's goals. 

Secondly, reducing gender disparity in attrition rates helps organisations retain top talent, thereby reducing the costs associated with recruiting, hiring, and training new employees. High turnover rates, especially among women, can lead to a loss of institutional knowledge and disrupt team dynamics, hindering overall productivity and morale. 

Moreover, overcoming gender disparity in attrition rates is essential for upholding principles of fairness and equality in the workplace, stated Himanshu Misra, Head – Human Resources, Axis AMC during an exclusive interview with People Matters.  

Excerpts from the interview: 

What specific strategies or interventions did Axis AMC implement to mitigate gender disparity in attrition rates?

At Axis AMC, the attrition rate for women is ~30% lower than that of men. This is the outcome of a carefully crafted philosophy and its structured implementation. To establish a systematic and holistic approach, we introduced the SENSE framework (after detailed focused group discussions with 40%+ of our women employees), incorporating the following elements: Sensitisation, Empowerment, Nurture, Success, and Empathy. This framework serves as a guiding principle for fostering gender inclusion across various facets of the organisation. 

In tandem with this philosophy, a dedicated Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council was formed, convening quarterly to facilitate ongoing discussions and strategic planning. This council plays a pivotal role in sustaining the focus on diversity and inclusion initiatives, ensuring that the organisation remains proactive in addressing gender disparities. Regular sensitisation sessions with new joinees, people managers and business heads have also helped. We have also consciously appointed women in certain critical senior and mid-management level roles. We also proactively ensure that there are no systemic biases when it comes to performance ratings, or promotions or salary increases for women by conducting careful scrutiny centrally.

Policy-level changes were implemented to promote gender neutrality across all forms of content be it ads, policies, website, marketing material etc, aiming to eliminate biases and cultivate an inclusive environment. The organisation proactively addressed identified pay disparities in specific cohorts, emphasising a commitment to equity within the workforce. 

Further contributing to an inclusive culture, Axis AMC instituted specific training programs for managers. These programs equip managers with the skills needed to conduct developmental and inclusive conversations with their team members, fostering a supportive and equitable work environment. Furthermore, detailed manuals were shared with line managers to ensure interview selections remain fair and free from pre-existing biases.

What were the most significant challenges encountered during the process of tackling gender disparity in attrition rates?

In the journey to address gender disparity in attrition rates, the predominant challenges revolved around deeply ingrained unconscious biases influencing decision-making processes. Overcoming these biases demanded a dedicated effort to reshape the mindset and perceptions of individuals at all organisational levels. The initiatives within our DEI framework required meticulous planning to drive the diversity agenda forward. Recognising the persistent nature of this challenge, Axis AMC acknowledges that achieving a cultural shift and altering mindsets is a gradual process that won't happen overnight. 

The other challenge is the extremely scarce talent pool of women in asset management. While significant strides have been made, there's a keen awareness that much remains to be done in the pursuit of a more inclusive and equitable workplace. The organisation remains steadfast in its commitment to an ongoing process of improvement, understanding that cultural shifts require time, persistence, and a collective commitment from everyone involved.

How significant is the issue of gender disparity in attrition rates within the asset management industry? Can you share any industry-wide trends or observations regarding gender diversity and retention?

Gender disparity in attrition rates in the asset management industry, though not very concerning, mirrors supply side challenges such as the underrepresentation of women, particularly in leadership, Sales & Information Technology roles. Despite these industry-wide challenges, there is an increasing recognition of the importance of addressing gender diversity and retention. 

In the specific context of Axis AMC, notable progress has been made in advancing gender diversity, with an overall diversity ratio of 30% vs 21% some three years back. Moreover, as on date, the organisation has achieved a representation of women in leadership roles at 17%, and 50% of independent directors on the board are women. At Axis AMC, we are actively striving to address gender disparity in attrition rates through comprehensive diversity and inclusion initiatives.

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In your analysis, what were the primary drivers contributing to higher attrition rates among women at Axis AMC?

The good part is the attrition rate among women employees at Axis AMC is significantly lower than that of men in the current financial year. We recently won ‘Great Places to Work’, an accreditation that focuses extensively on the practices that an organisation adopts to ensure gender equality and equal opportunity. Our win is a testament to the efforts that we have undertaken, and we intend on continually improving on them. The primary drivers influencing attrition rates, though, include pursuing career growth options, considerations related to work-life balance, and relocation, esp in case of young women, either for higher education or marriage or spouse transfer. 

We recognise that career advancement and opportunities for growth significantly impact employee decisions. To address these drivers and further enhance the work experience for women at Axis AMC, we are actively driving initiatives under the SENSE framework. Our focus includes strengthening internal career paths, establishing robust mentorship programs, and providing extensive professional development opportunities. We have recently launched a program “lead-HER-ship” wherein accomplished women leaders, from outside our company, share their life and career journeys and how they navigated career crossroads. 

Most of the times, women in corporate miss having a role model who can guide them, mentor them, answer their career dilemmas or even just tell them to be soft on themselves and that everything’s going to be fine. Which is what we are trying to achieve through this initiative.

Looking ahead, what are your projections for the trajectory of gender diversity and retention efforts within the asset management industry?

In the near future, the asset management industry is set to intensify efforts in addressing gender disparities, fostering inclusivity, and improving women's retention as well as overall gender diversity in the workforce. As India continues on its journey of becoming a developed country resulting in higher disposable incomes and more affluence for both men and women, a big wave of women investors is emerging. 

We can already see competition heating up to hire women wealth managers to cater to this emerging segment. Another notable trend is the increasing presence of women decision-makers on boards, highlighting a broader commitment to diversity and inclusive leadership structures. With growing societal awareness and a recognition of diversity as a business imperative, the industry is on a trajectory of sustained commitment to creating equitable workplaces that promote the advancement and retention of women.

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Topics: Culture, Diversity, #HRTech, #HRCommunity

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