Article: Low-cost solutions can promote gender diversity - KPMG's HR Head shares tips


Low-cost solutions can promote gender diversity - KPMG's HR Head shares tips

Despite efforts to boost the representation of women in the tech sector, the figures still fall short of achieving equality, according to Sunit Sinha, who shared affordable solutions to enhance diversity.
Low-cost solutions can promote gender diversity - KPMG's HR Head shares tips

Every company relies on a specific set of policies or rules to function effectively. While some may view successful organisational strategies as expensive ventures, they don't necessarily have to be budget-busters. In reality, numerous impactful strategies can be executed without demanding significant financial resources.

The key lies in creativity, resourcefulness, and a keen understanding of the company's strengths and challenges, explained Sunit Sinha, Partner and Head, People, Performance and Culture, KPMG in India, during an exclusive interview with People Matters. 

Smart and efficient utilisation of resources is at the heart of cost-effective organisational strategies. Companies can leverage existing assets, such as human capital, technology, and infrastructure, to devise innovative approaches that drive growth and efficiency. This might involve optimising internal processes, streamlining workflows, or reallocating resources to areas with the highest potential for impact. 

By maximising the value derived from existing resources, companies can achieve significant results without incurring exorbitant costs. Furthermore, embracing a culture of agility and adaptability is essential for implementing cost-effective organisational strategies. In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, companies must be nimble and responsive to changes in market dynamics, customer preferences, and industry trends. 

Excerpts from the interview:  

What do you believe are the primary barriers preventing more women from entering the tech industry?

Although there are measures to increase the percentages of women entering the tech industry, the numbers are nowhere near equality. There is a range of barriers starting from what jobs women ‘should’ do. Systemic inequalities like gender bias, challenges faced with life events such as motherhood/caregiving, prevailing social norms and stereotypes, often discourage women from pursuing careers perceived as dominated by men. 

The educational systems have traditionally not encouraged girls to pursue STEM subjects, which limit the pipeline of women leading to them being underrepresented in tech roles. Fewer visible women leaders and role models in the tech industry can deter women from aspiring for such careers. Other factors could be that the tech industry often lacks inclusive policies which can lead to women not feeling valued or supported and can dissuade women from pursuing long-term careers in tech.

What low-cost strategies or initiatives do you believe could effectively attract more women to pursue careers in tech?

While the efforts are well-intentioned, for it to make an impact there is a need to make a lasting change for women in tech. There has been an increased focus on gender parity in new hires that we see. A structured return to work programme (second careers and maternity returnees) backed by agile work arrangements, flexible work hours and progressive leave policies can encourage women who value work-life harmony. 

Collaborations with educational institutions to create workshops, bootcamps, and courses that can demystify tech roles and teach relevant skills are other effective ways to break the bias around tech roles. Also, regular discussions on career road map with a clear growth trajectory, women’s development programs and intentional career-pathing aligned to the overall organisation strategy and the individual’s aspirations, to improve the gender ratio.

How can companies leverage existing infrastructure or resources to implement low-cost solutions for promoting gender diversity in tech?

Establishing role models within organisations and crafting mentorship opportunities where experienced professionals can guide and encourage women entering the field of tech is one approach. Also, creating awareness within the organisation through success stories of women in tech and offsetting stereotypes, can inspire more women to consider tech as a viable career. These, coupled with networking events within the tech world, building professional connections, creating communities, helps foster a sense of empathy and convergence.

The other critical point and a clear case for women’s equal participation in the technology spaces is determining that the technology of the future is sustainable and inclusive. The perspectives that women bring into technology will help to better understand that innovation needs to be diverse and inclusive, so it allows and equips organisations to create better and safer products and solutions, which take everybody into consideration.

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Have you encountered any resistance or scepticism regarding diversity initiatives in the tech industry? If so, how did you address it?

There could be a perceived resistance from those who are not aligned or on board with the belief that diversity, inclusion and equity are vital, therefore posing challenges to meaningful progress and a growth mindset. The way we address this is by moving away from the rhetorical reasons as to why DEI is important and changing the narrative to describe DEI as a business imperative. The way we define and talk about the things that make us different, helps to bring us together and ensure a strong, inclusive culture in which all our people, clients, communities, and suppliers have a voice and are heard, feel they belong, and are empowered to contribute. 

Firstly, we emphasised on leadership accountability where leaders consistently championing DEI through inclusive behaviours and living our organisations’s values. Secondly, we engaged colleagues through network engines such as – ERGs, DEI councils, the Allyship programs etc. By embedding DEI priorities in all our HR and business processes, we have ensured metrics are not compromised in the name of diversity, and quality benchmarks are maintained in terms of assessment, wherein we strive to advocate equal opportunity conditions of working particularly during significant life events to bring a balance.

Are there any emerging technologies or innovative approaches that hold promise for addressing the gender diversity challenge?

The first step is to utilise data analytics to monitor diversity metrics, track progress, and identify areas that require improvement in policies, processes and practices which then leads to proactively increasing the pool/funnel of women candidates to increase their entry. Given the scarcity of women in tech, organisations to create a pool of talent in this space with focused skilling interventions, which will lead to building a pipeline of talent for future. 

Implementing AI tools that can help reduce bias in hiring, by anonymising resumes, and assessing skills and experiences objectively is an approach that organisations are implementing. Virtual Reality (VR) training which uses VR to simulate real-world tech is being used by organisations for training, allowing women to gain experience and confidence from anywhere and to create collaborative workspaces, reduce physical presence – all of which could otherwise pose as a deterrent to women being part of the workforce.

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Topics: Diversity, #PracticalTips, #InternationalWomensDay, #HRTech, #HRCommunity

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