“Equality is giving everyone a shoe; Equity is giving everyone a shoe that fits.”
Equality says, “Everyone is treated the same in a given situation.” Equity, on the other hand, challenges and acts, “What policies, systems, and practices must be addressed or dismantled for everyone to be treated fairly?
Equality and equity are different, but they are both critical to businesses, believes Aarti Srivastava, Vice President- Global Head of HR, Business Services at Capgemini. In a recent interview with People Matters, she shared how creating equal workplaces is the steppingstone to get to building an equitable organization.
What are your views on workplace equity and workplace equality? What do you think is more important?
Both are very important. Equality is fairness, equity is greater fairness of outcomes. Equality is, for example, giving the same elevator to every employee, to be able to go from the ground floor to the 6th floor. But equity is giving an elevator which is differently-abled friendly, which accommodates everyone with their different needs.
Equity can exist in evolved and mature organizations that have already walked on the path of creating an equal workplace. Equality is like a stepping stone to get to an equitable organization. Not every organization right now is at the stage of promoting equity. Equality, on the other hand, has been present in the workplace for quite some time. Since 2004, we have driven a diversity agenda across the whole Group. Some of the dimensions of diversity and inclusion at Capgemini today include gender balance, PwD, LGBTI+ community, Multiculturism, and Wellness.
How do you create an equal and equitable workplace? How to make equity at the workplace a leadership agenda?
I think the first battle is taken care of. In the last few years, workplace diversity or equality has become a critical agenda for all companies. Almost everybody is talking about it and the top level of organizations is also completely aligned to it. Whether it is driven by the market pressure to catch up with other competitors or whether it is truly understanding the value diversity brings to the business, the fact is that the top-level is on board with the idea of promoting workplace diversity. With the top-level on board already, it becomes easier to percolate it down in the organization.
However, as you move towards changing the culture of the company, of course, there are a lot of challenges and roadblocks. It is simpler to lead business-related changes with metrics and numbers around them. But when you must lead a cultural change there are a lot of qualitative things you need to consider. What kind of society are you operating in? What are the multiple different cultures and multiple different regions to be mindful of? The problem becomes monumental because then you must align every culture and belief along the lines of D&I and understand equality at the workplace.
I feel the first step is to have the leadership on board and aligned. Given that for most of the organizations that step is already taken, it is time to now move to the second step where we need to focus on creating the work culture where we have more and more accommodative people. These people are of different beliefs, cultures, age or gender, but are more open-minded and accommodative to work with one another.
Considering that Capgemini has been creating a multicultural environment for quite some time, the biggest challenge we have realized is getting the cultural change down to the middle management level.
You must make the middle management realize the benefits of promoting workplace equality and encourage them to be change leaders themselves. The focus should be on educating the middle managers to be transparent with all people's decisions whether hiring-related or pay related.
I think the starting point for building this culture is the HR partners who are dealing with people and managers on a day to day basis and recruitment partners who are getting the right people into the company. They are the ones who can start to drive this change and ensure that everyone understands the concept and importance of a diverse and inclusive workplace and contributes to creating one.
As an influential leader yourself, how do you ensure that you foster a culture that encourages gender equity?
At an industry level while gender equality has been given importance, it has its own gaps. The main challenge is that many organizations are chasing numbers when it comes to addressing gender diversity. Let’s have ‘X’ no. of women in the organizations, at leadership positions.
At Capgemini, partnering with our learning & development and Talent management functions, we are mainstreaming all developmental programs to be gender agnostic and ensuring that every program at every level has a critical mass of women participation aligned to our growth targets.
Our program is called ‘Power Ahead’ and has been even been identified as one of the Top 20 most innovative practices - DivHERsity Programs by JobsForHer. It is a six months program that works towards accelerating women into leadership level. Delivered in partnership with IIM, the program weaves in leadership connects, shadowing, mentoring and stretch roles apart from commitments into CSR to reiterate being the Architects of Positive Future. Capgemini hence focuses on being more transparent and merit driven. And to lead this change I also think we can depend on millennials. They love breaking barriers, whether it’s a cultural barrier or a mental barrier, they are ready to break it. The moment you start communicating and promoting such initiatives, it helps change the mindset of people associated with you.
Secondly, be merit driven. When an organization is merit driven you to tend to bring in the change.
I try to be very talent-driven when people deserve something, they get it. And I am extremely transparent in communicating why this person has been chosen or promoted, for instance. This is how neither the person nor others feel that they got an opportunity, or a raise, or a promotion because of some bias, they know that it was merit driven, based on their work and potential. Transparency and communication are the foundation of acceptance and that’s what I would focus on to lead cultural change.
How are you at Capgemini ensuring that your organization becomes an equal employer in the true sense?
I have been against these programs that are focused on the minorities to train them. And not in a way that they are not helpful. But because I believe that they are not enough. Instead of training people who need to be felt more inclusive in the organization, it is more important to work on the people on the other side. They must be trained to be more accepting and receptive to the needs of women or differently-abled. Or people from one generation need to be more understanding of the needs of the other. What we have been doing is to train more and more people who are on the other side to be more accepting.
Firstly, we curated programs to build inclusive mindsets among our senior managers and middle managers to be more accepting and inculcate inclusive culture within their teams. This was critical for us. Look at India, most of the women leave work after a career span of 12-13 years, or when they are building their families. In metro cities, we still see that women are coming forward and more equipped to be able to continue with their careers, but they still need the support to manage work and home both. It should not be an ‘either’ ‘or’ option for them. We thus designed a program called fareWelcome! This program is designed to support women colleagues during the maternity phase - assist in the transition from office to maternity leave, help stay connected with the organization and colleagues during the maternity break and ease ‘back to work’ transition process. Additionally, up-skilling enablers are also provided to ensure a smooth transition from maternity leave to work. We leverage flexibility as a key tool to enable work-life balance. As part of this program, Capgemini opened its 5th in-house creche in Chennai in 2019 and recently expanded the creche facility in Mumbai to welcome 150 children. We also have tie-ups with external partners in other locations to ensure all employees have access to the creche facility.
We also launched a Flexi work policy across the organisation to address the employee’s personal challenges and retain the best talent in the organisation. Flexibility at work is no longer either a nice-to-have initiative or an optional perk mostly used by women. The common stereotypes around flexibility and the importance of facetime are now a fad. We need to de-parent, de-gender, and de-age the perception around flexible working. We saw a 50 percent jump in employee usage of Flexi work policy in 2019. Women usage of flex is a couple of percentage points lesser than that of men
We have tried to create an environment for women where they get that support during those challenging times and can continue with their careers. It is about promoting that environment where women feel supported and trusted.
What are your top priorities for D&I in 2020?
Honestly, I am not going to do something new. We need to ensure whatever we have launched is successful. Having 20 different programs is not going to help. What will add value is having maybe five programs drilled down into the organization with the right culture change. Few of these initiatives that we will continue to enhance in 2020 are as follows:
- Apart from expanding our existing creche facility in Bangalore to a 100-seater, we commit to setting up facilities in our Pune office location.
- Launch Parents network - Parents@CG is our parental network support program that aims to support all colleagues with parental responsibilities and strengthen their existing parenting abilities.
- OUTfront is Capgemini’s LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) forum that supports individuals in the community, by fostering a safe and inclusive work environment. We are taking our OUTfront program a step further and creating inclusion champions, where colleagues will affirm their actions by taking a pledge to be an ally and continue to drive the culture of inclusion intentionally at all levels of the organisation. These sensitization sessions will run across Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Noida not just for leaders and workforce but also for the supplier community, guards, office staff, cafeteria vendors, search firm vendors, etc.
- We are focusing on building a balanced parental leave policy for great equality and flexibility for our colleagues.
- Enhanced focus on hiring Persons with Disabilities.
Can you tell us in one word what Diversity and Inclusion mean to you?
In simple terms: Equality and Equity.