Article: Inspire inclusion every day, in every interaction: LTIMindtree’s Paneesh Rao on building an equitable workplace


Inspire inclusion every day, in every interaction: LTIMindtree’s Paneesh Rao on building an equitable workplace

Dive into an exclusive conversation with Paneesh Rao of LTIMindtree who envisions a future where every interaction fuels an inclusive and innovative tech culture.
Inspire inclusion every day, in every interaction: LTIMindtree’s Paneesh Rao on building an equitable workplace

Paneesh Rao is the Global Head - Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, at LTIMindtree, a global technology consulting and digital solutions company committed to driving innovation and empowering its workforce. With a focus on fostering diversity, inclusion, and women’s empowerment, Paneesh plays a pivotal role in shaping LTIMindree’s DEI strategies to create a culture of equality and opportunity. In this exclusive interview to celebrate  International Women’s Day, we aim to gain insights into how the company is championing diversity, fostering inclusion, and empowering women within the tech industry.

Here are some excerpts from the conversation.

How does LTIMindree encourage and support women's participation and advancement in the field of technology, and what specific initiatives or programs are in place to promote an inclusive work culture?

At LTIMindtree, we believe that diversity is a key driver for success.

Advancement and well-being of women is a key focus area of our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) charter which also focuses on Ethnicity/Nationality, Persons with Disability, LGBTQ+ Inclusion, and Veterans.

 We are committed to creating a psychologically safe environment where diverse employees can achieve their full potential and feel valued for who they are. We have a strong set of DEI training, both virtual and workshops which run through the year. DEI training has a dedicated page on our virtual learning platform. In addition to structured courses, we also have a set of curated content from TedX videos and other sources as we believe that exposure to multiple perspectives helps sensitise our employees.

 For women, we have multiple programmes from entry-level to senior leadership such as: 

  • Women Tech-Trailblazer has a focus on technical skills coupled with life-skills training and coaching on areas such as prioritisation, building support networks etc. 
  • Aspiring Architects is for women at mid-management levels who are technically inclined
  • EmpowHer is for senior women leaders
  • Womb-To-World for expecting mothers and more

We also have several women employee resource groups. Athena is our overall community for all women at LTIMindtree. We also have domain, tech or geo-focused women groups such as DIWA (Women in Data and Analytics), Women in Tech, Champion’s Network (Canada) etc. each having a specific focus.

Our training also covers topics such as Disability sensitization, LGBTQ+ inclusion, Gender Awareness and Unconscious Bias, all of which are important as we understand the workplace is not siloed but consists of multiple intersectionalities and identities. As a matter of general hygiene, all employees necessarily take up courses such as POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment), Equal Opportunity and Non-discrimination among the default mandatory courses.

How does LTIMindtree encourage mentorship and networking opportunities for women professionals, both internally and externally, to enhance their visibility and career progression? Are there strategies in place to ensure equal access to leadership roles irrespective of gender?

As part of our DEI initiatives, we run a series of women networking connections called Athena Meets in our different office premises which is an opportunity for women to connect and network among themselves. This has been an opportunity for women to meet other women colleagues from different functions and streams beyond their usual work and make new connections.  

Given our hybrid nature of work, and access to work from different offices, we have seen that teams are not necessarily co-located and you could feel a little isolated at work. Athena Meets has been instrumental in fostering camaraderie at the workplace. Women have seized this opportunity and are enjoying the meet-ups. Conversations have ranged from personal development to talent showcase and career advice. In some cases, these connections have also been fruitful in opening new opportunities for them within the organisation.

We also understand the invaluable experience gained when women can showcase their professional skills externally. It builds confidence and visibility for our women. They serve as role models to generations of women, who aspire to take up a career in STEM and break barriers and stereotypes. We encourage our women employees to participate in forums such as ISG – Women in Digital, Women in Tech, SHRM, Jombay 1000 Women Leaders program etc. We support them in profiling and sharing the best representation externally. We are happy to share that our women have won accolades externally in all the forums they have participated in. 

In the tech industry, gender stereotypes can be significant challenges. How does LTIMindtree actively work towards overcoming these stereotypes and creating an environment that encourages diversity of thought and perspectives?

Awareness of one’s behaviour and the resulting impact is a starting point for making positive change. As part of our sensitisation sessions, we cover topics like Unconscious Bias, Stereotyping etc. We are all subject to unconscious bias on a daily basis. While this is a natural part of brain functioning, it can unfortunately perpetuate stereotypes which may lead to an unhealthy work environment.  Bias based on gender, conformity, affinity, and attractiveness are a few common ones that we face. Understanding these biases and creating an awareness, allow us to respond in a meaningful way rather than react instinctively. 

We have a virtual module which allows us to understand the biases and a framework to help us overcome the same. This is followed by a workshop run by a leader where we discuss scenarios and have meaningful dialogues to create a more inclusive environment.

Once a fortnight we schedule a Women Wednesday session where we invite women both internal leaders as well as customers, and industry experts to share their journey and experience with us. These sessions are open to the whole organisation and we have received positive feedback that these sessions have been an eye-opener, throwing light on issues which have often been ignored.

How does LTIMindtree leverage diversity, particularly gender diversity, as a catalyst for innovation, and can you provide examples of how this has positively influenced the company's approach to solving complex business challenges?

At LTIMindtree we understand that a diverse workforce not only benefits us but helps us provide better service to our clients.

Diverse teams are an inspiration for innovation and creativity. Fostering a culturally diverse environment is the best way to unearth innovation and creativity within our teams. Ensuring that we have perspectives from diverse groups such as women or a person with disability ensures that the solutions we build are representative of the societies the solutions would be implemented in. Digital accessibility is one instance of this inclusion. 

Employees are actively engaged when they feel their organisation fosters an inclusive culture. Having actively engaged employees creates a passion for work, motivates them to learn from each other and continuously broadens their competencies. As an example, in a recent patent filed for a System and method for selecting quantum hardware for executing a quantum circuit, the core team of three had a woman integral to this solution.

What message or advice would you like to share with other organisations striving to create more inclusive and diverse workplaces, especially in the technology sector, as we celebrate International Women’s Day?

Keep at it – this is a sustained effort. An acceptance of diversity and fostering an inclusive environment is something that we have to be mindful of – every single day – in every interaction we have.

It is important to understand that a diverse workforce may also require policies and processes more suited to enabling their success. We cannot paint the landscape with just one brush. We need to look at our policies, systems, and infrastructure and build in the flexibility and capability for equity. As an example, procedures to ensure the safety of women working and availing transport for shift timings. Flexibility to take a sabbatical for care-giving or higher education etc. Having creche and lactation rooms at our facilities and more.

As we work at sustainable change, this will lead to mindset shifts for the better. Having more representation of women in the workplace, and succeeding in the technology sector, will positively influence future generations to opt for careers in STEM. 

Women have already proven themselves as equals in technology, it is up to all of us to ensure that women have a seat at the table, have a voice and are heard. The theme for this year's IWD is “Inspire Inclusion”,  and that is what we should do – so that we can collectively move to a better future, faster, together.

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Topics: Culture, Diversity, #InternationalWomensDay

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