Achieving gender equality is not disrupting the status quo and not negotiating it. - Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka , Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Executive Director of UN Women.
India is the second most populous country in the world with 1.324 billion out of which women comprise 48.5% of the population. According to Catalyst research, more women work in rural India than in cities. The study also indicates that the labour force participation rate for women is falling: from 37% in 2004-05 to 28% in 2016. According to data, in 2015-2016, women comprised 16.2% of all urban workers.
Talking about the representation of women at different levels, women hold only 7.7% of board seats and just 2.7% of board chairs. The industries with the highest percentage of women on boards are technology, media, and telecommunications.
Out of 323 total executive directorship positions (generally considered to be prerequisite to becoming CEO) on the Bombay Stock Exchange 100, just eight (2.5%) are held by women.
People Matters recently had a discussion with Pitney Bowes’ Senior Vice President- Global Innovation & Managing Director for India Operations, Manish Choudhary on how companies can improve the way they hire, retain, and promote women.
Q: What are your thoughts on the current scenario of gender gap at workplaces, especially hiring? What are the most common biases that women face while getting hired for a job?
I was at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad last week, where the theme of the event was Women First, Prosperity for All. All the global executives present at the prestigious event, agree on the fact that in order for women to take up more technology centric roles, they need to be encouraged to take up STEM at an early age. In the technology industry, it’s more important than ever to nurture women who have the interest and capability to become leaders in the field. We need to address the skills gap and see more talent in the pipeline at all levels across the organization. Some challenges in the talent funnel which lead to gender gap at the workplace could include:
a) Number of women graduating with computer science degrees is not enough
b) There aren’t enough mentors and role models for women who are interested in technology
c) Young girls at school are not encouraged enough to take up science, engineering and technology fields
Around the world and even more so in India, fewer women have careers in science and technology related fields. Those who do often reach crossroads between family responsibilities and career progression. To encourage more inclusive workplaces, companies need to provide challenging work, a supportive, flexible environment and ample opportunities for career progression and growth for women pursuing careers in the technology field.
As a member of the Catalyst Board in India, we create awareness around biases that women face at different stages in their careers such as stereotyping, unconscious bias, perceptions and other dilemmas that women face.
Pitney Bowes has long been focused to diversity and inclusion. Awareness is key. We develop inclusive leadership skills and encourage leaders to take conscious action to mitigate biases in themselves and others. We are a company that celebrates diversity and it is a defining element of how we do business.
Q: What were the challenges did you face while attracting and hiring women at your organization primarily for the technical roles?
At an overall industry level, the number of women in technical fields such as technology, manufacturing, defense is far lower than men. This challenge then continues across the talent pipeline. We have been fortunate to have a strong female talent pipeline and that comes from the investments we make in nurturing talent at a student and graduate level. Once the talent pipeline is built, retaining talent is far more challenging. As a company whose values center around diversity and inclusion, our people policies and practices are focused on providing challenging work and a nurturing environment that encourages innovation and personal development.
Q: What are the various initiatives and programs implemented by Pitney Bowes to attract and retain women employees?
Pitney Bowes has several Career Growth Programs, Remain at Work, and Family Support Initiatives in place to help women grow personally and professionally.
We continuously work to include more women in our workforce through Dedicated Referral Program organized on International Women’s Day to facilitate women referrals, and organize Special Hiring Days every quarter dedicated to evaluating women candidates only. This has helped us build a great talent pool.
We have some policies and practices in place that encourage work/life integration. Our maternity program Mayeri extends six months of maternity leave to new mothers along with other key benefits such as free sessions with nutritionists for parents, tie-ups with crèches, and a designated buddy to help make a smooth transition back from maternity.
We also have a program called Re-launch Pad to encourage women employees to return to work after a career break. The program aims to give women who have taken a sabbatical or a career break an opportunity to re-join the workforce.
Once on board, we encourage continuous skill upgrading and learning through the Technical Ladder Program, a specialized career path that enables employees to accelerate their careers while leading some of the most critical projects in the organization.
We nurture and grow potential women leaders through the Global Early in Career program, an 18-month mentoring program to help accelerate development of our young talent through a series of structured networking sessions with C-Suite executives and other senior leaders. The Pitney Bowes Aspire to Inspire Program is another focused training program that uses a unique blend of classroom training with simulations in a virtual learning environment, case studies, action learning projects and byte-sized learning modules covering various competencies.
While we have some women-focused initiatives, diversity is not a ‘women’s issue,’ and therefore it is equally important to engage the male workforce. We have partnered with leading industry bodies working on gender diversity initiatives and hold regular workshops with men and women to discuss key issues around gender diversity and role models in the workplace.
During the 2016 Pitney Bowes Accelerator Program, we inducted women-led start-ups to support women in tech within the larger start-up ecosystem.
Q: What kind of impact have you observed from the programs and initiatives you mentioned above?
The greatest validation of the success of the program is the number of women leaders that we have in the organization today. Currently, women represents 28% of the leadership positions. We also have 100% women returning from maternity.
Through a number of dedicated mentoring and leadership programs, we have been able to create a diverse and strong workforce. It is this commitment of providing a great work culture that values diversity and inclusion that led Pitney Bowes to be ranked #9 in India’s Best Companies to Work for list by the Great Place to Work® Institute; recognized for Excellence in driving a ‘Culture of Innovation & Change Management’ by the Association of Talent Development. Pitney Bowes has also received the Gold Award for Excellence in Leadership Development 2017 by Brandon Hall Group’s Human Capital Management Excellence Awards.
Q: What are your plans to close this gender gap further?
The company aims to attract and retain best industry talent by providing challenging work, a great environment, and opportunities to grow. Diversity at the workplace is a core focus in which we involve men so that there is a holistic approach to creating a culture of inclusion.
We continuously strive to work with leading industry partners to support their vision and advocacy for women and our business mirrors our own passionate belief in leveraging the best talent to serve our clients better.