In 2017, India was ranked 125 of 159 countries in the Gender Inequality Index (GII), and recently it slipped 21 places on the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap index (2017) to 108. While less participation of women in the economy and low wages continue to be two of the major challenges, India is moving towards achieving the goal of gender equality and inclusion.
Large and small organizations across industries are working towards bridging the gender gap, and some of them have been successful as well. One such example is Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, making constant efforts towards building gender diversity and inclusion. Let’s take a look at how they overcame the challenge of gender inequality:
Strengthening gender diversity and inclusion: Dr Reddy's Laboratories
Two years back, while taking stock of diversity within the organization, the company realized that although they had a healthy overall representation of women, the number of women in sales and manufacturing were lesser. Given that over 60% of their workforce was in these functions, they realized the need to bring more gender parity in this space. That’s when a decision to look at hiring more women into sales and manufacturing and encouraging them to occupy some unconventional roles was taken.
Here are few highlights of the two major challenges they identified and the steps taken towards overcoming them and achieving gender equality:
The SHE Story: Increasing Women in Sales
Dr Reddy's Sales & Marketing Business in India was facing a conundrum. They wanted to expand their penetration to tap the potential of 300+ medical colleges in India. However, a regular Sales Representative whose target is to meet around 10-12 doctors in a day was not able to cover these medical colleges due to geographical and time constraints. These medical colleges demanded one dedicated salesperson per college. Moreover, at that time, the sales team was also looking at a gender diversity of 1.9% as compared to the organization's 9.6%.
SHE - Special Hospital Executives, an all-women sales force (Medical Representatives)
To increase the diversity in their field sales and to efficiently deepen the market reach, a team of women returning from career breaks was created. 50 SHE’s were recruited as a pilot across tier 1&2 cities in two of the sales divisions. They were hired on Fixed Term Contract basis for the first year to study feasibility and success of the project. Medical institutes where SHEs would be deployed were identified, and performance evaluation parameters were created. The work design was also redesigned to make it compatible for “SHE”. Here is a comparison between the work by a regular medical representative and SHE:
With SHE initiative, Dr Reddy's brand's visibility and recall in the market has grown. Additionally, this has helped them to generate a higher number of prescriptions in a potentially untapped market. Today, 50% of SHE employees from Wintura and Aqura SG are above 100% of their targets. Here are some of the key achievements that this initiative led to:
- The formation of SHE field force led to an addition of 45 lakhs strips for the year.
- The overall customer base expanded for pan India, from 1.10 lakhs customers to 1.17 lakhs.
A solid presence was established in over 25 untapped medical institutions —especially in colleges where only females are allowed. The initiative started with 50 SHE's in two divisions as a pilot, and currently, they are operating with 100 SHEs spanning pan India in three divisions. Now, they look forward to increasing the scope of this team further.
Increasing Women in Manufacturing
Given that a significant number of Dr Reddy’s workforce is in manufacturing, they identified a need to bring more gender parity in this space.
This was probably happening because generally, Managers avoid recruiting women in manufacturing as they believe that women would not opt for unconventional roles or take up the grueling shifts in production. Hence, there was a need for breaking this stereotype. And this could be done by making the workplace more conducive and by encouraging the women to challenge these conventions.
Dr Reddy’s instead of approaching this issue from a numbers perspective adopted a pull-based approach. Openings were made for women in roles that were otherwise not available to them, such as process engineering, warehouse, R&D, etc. and the women themselves applied to these roles. This demonstrated that women were not only capable of taking these roles up but if given a choice, they would willingly take it up too.
Besides this, the senior leaders reached out to more women candidates, built more awareness about the kind of roles that were available through planned communication and continuously pushed themselves to explore all possible ways of introducing them into core areas of the plants.
Some of the key features of initiatives in the manufacturing segment were:
- Women were hired at all levels- entry, mid & senior levels.
- It became legally compliant to deploy women in API Production and also in night shifts in plants (select plants).
- Garnered support of family members by organizing plant visits for them and dialed up their interactions with plant leaders. Such events helped bring confidence among family members that Dr. Reddy’s offers a safe workplace for women to work in production.
- Hired women who are on career breaks through a unique platform- "Career Comeback for women."
- Shifts were redesigned to make it a five day work week in our Bio-similar plant. The 9.5 hrs (Fixed shift schedules) A and B now allow for two days weekly off and better predictability thereby encouraging women employees to opt for both the shifts. It also facilitated proper shift handover with the overlap.
The gender diversity has increased from 8.4 percent in FY15 to 13 percent as of today.
Here are few more highlights of the impact created by these initiatives in sales and manufacturing:
- Diversity hiring increased
- All the supportive policies and practices such as maternity counseling and buddy mothers caused maternity resignations to drop significantly
- Women headcount grew
- The number of resignations post maternity declined
Besides the initiatives discussed above various other efforts were done to promote inclusion. For instance, point-to-point cabs were introduced, and women drivers were trained to build safety. Further, to increase the visibility of women working in unconventional roles story inspired other women to take up these roles too.
Dr Reddy’s with these initiatives in two major areas overcame the challenge of gender inequality and achieved the goal of empowering, engaging, developing and supporting women workforce. All these efforts helped them top the “Diversity in Corporate Asia” among 200 major companies in the report issued by Carnstone and also made them the only Indian company to be in the Bloomberg’s Gender Equality Index 2018.