Gender equality between men and women…does not mean that women and men have to become the same, but that their rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they were born male or female. Gender equity means fairness of treatment for men and women according to their respective needs. This may include equal treatment or treatment that is different but which is considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations, and opportunities.” –United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
If gender equality is the end, gender equity is the means.
Read this exclusive conversation with Loma Hosne Ara, Director People & Culture, IPM India on instilling a mindset that echoes equitable workplace.
Q1. How do you see the gender equality in your industry? What challenges and opportunities do you see in making your industry an equal workplace for women?
We are entering an era, where women in workplace are more aware of their rights and expressive of their demands. As we see higher participation of women in the workforce, it is important to have the right kind of attitude and confidence at work. Women often feel reluctant in ‘asking’ for what they aspire for; from a deserved promotion to a new role, or possibly working on a project that interests them. It is important to put yourself out of your shell, showcase your merit and capability; seek and work towards what you aim for.
Q2. How to make equity at workplace a leadership agenda?
The leadership at IPM India is convinced that it is not companies that change industries, but it’s the people. Therefore, ‘Internal Transformation’ is a pivotal aspect of our transformation journey. IPM India has acknowledged gender equality and inclusion as key enablers to achieve business goals as it helps promote thought diversity and better decision making, ultimately leading to better workplace productivity. The success of our organisation depends on a talented and diverse workforce, where individuals enjoy opportunities to learn, grow and prosper in their chosen career.
Q3. What are the opportunities for business in creating an equitable workplace? How can we change the mindset of people around equity and help them avoid any kind of unconscious bias?
Well, let me share my perspective on what we do at IPM India, in fostering an equitable workplace. At the outset, cross functional and cross border experience are key components to development, which enable our women employees to evolve into well rounded professionals. So we let go off any bias or mind-set which creates any doubt of women being unable to perform within a certain function or a role.
What’s even more critical is to ensure that women feel confident and take up more management roles, eventually making it to the board level. I believe there needs to be a certain critical mass, of any segment of the workforce, for them to share their thoughts and push innovation – in line, for instance, at IPM India, our target is to reach 40 percent participation of each gender in the workforce by 2022. But increasing the underrepresented number is one part; the most crucial element is making the number work i.e. having an inclusive work environment where everyone can perform and grow to their full potential. Inclusion is crucial irrespective of gender, race or faith.
Q4. Talking specifically about gender diversity, what do you see today are the biggest obstacles that block senior leaders from supporting gender equality and pay parity in their organizations?
It’s not so much about senior leaders having a block to support gender equality. Every organisation (and we do that very well) must institutionalise the need to foster gender equality, if it needs to grow.
That boils down to having a clear strategy and an action plan signed off by the leadership. For us, our focused journey began in 2015 for IPM India with the introduction of target Gender Representation KPIs. As mentioned above, that’s how we set the aim to reach minimum 40 percent representation of each gender in management roles by 2022. And I proudly say that it was a very bold and strong decision to take up the gender representation KPI from 18 percent in 2015 to 40 percent by 2022.
This KPI has been part of the Managing Director’s and People and Culture Director’s objectives and part of organization objectives since 2017. These KPIs are shared openly with the employees as well in the bi-monthly town hall. By adding these metrics to the KPIs of the leaders, IPM India has reinforced its importance of enhancing gender diversity and by communicating it to all the employees, the company strives to instil it in its culture. Further, belief that the right ecosystem lies at the core of any transformation, IPM India takes a holistic approach to make an impact in the various employee life-cycle touchpoints from gender equality perspective.
Q5. How do organizations make sure that their women empowerment policies and programs are not discriminatory towards other forms of diversity?
It is important to have gender neutral policies rather than having policies that will provide preferential treatment to any gender. For example, we know that flexible work hours is important for women as we tend to believe they have dual responsibilities of managing home and work at the same time, but think about today’s nuclear families, flexible work hours are equally important for men to take care family responsibilities when both the partners are working!
Men are equally responsible in pitching in with family commitments while balancing work, as required. Today we are each for equal, so it is important to have policies which are gender neutral! For example, at IPM India, the crèche support facilities are available to both male and female employees. Likewise, it needs to there for all policies, only then we will be able to provide workplace that is inclusive and equal for all. Equity, equality and meritocracy are the key pillars for having a balanced workplace environment which is fruitful for all the employees. For me to ensure women empowerment, we need to treat them equally and with respect. An organisation that has pre-defined process, SOPs and KRAs, automatically treats all employees on equal platform and everyone can thrive in that organisation.
Q6. How can an organization become an equal employer in the true sense?
There needs to be a genuine commitment of being equal and unbiased in all people processes and practices, starting from hiring to developing to providing opportunities and having equal pay for equal performance. Transparency and balance needs to be put in place at all touch points of an employee’s lifecycle. This starts with absence of bias and breaking the stereo type while hiring, and it starts with the people sitting on the other side of the table. An organisation should focus on sensitising the people managers to make them aware of possible subconscious stereotypes that might lead to a tilted hiring process. And then creating the inclusive work environment where everyone can flourish irrespective of gender, race or faith. In addition to these trainings, establishing right policies and SOPs that ensure equality at all people practices will ensure that an organisation becomes an equal employer.