Despite a significant number of women enrolling in STEM courses, the underrepresentation of women in STEM careers remains a pressing issue. According to the latest AISHE data, only 14% of female STEM graduates secure positions as scientists, engineers, and technologists in research and development institutions and universities. The concerning trend can be attributed to societal stereotypes, a lack of female role models, unconscious bias, and limited access to resources and opportunities.
Prasad Salvi, Director HR at Medtronic Engineering and Innovation Center, Hyderabad, delves into the vital role that HR leaders can play in increasing women's participation, particularly in leadership roles.
Despite the push for gender diversity and inclusion, women's participation in the STEM field remains low. Where are the gaps?
While initiatives, improved infrastructure, and more awareness are encouraging, the ratio of women among STEM graduates entering the profession is not encouraging.
Traditional gender roles such as childcare, parenting, and household chores are still prevalent in the country, limiting the existence of female role models to drive learning on the topic.
Equity barriers continue to exist, and as a result, inequalities persist in the country.
How can HR leaders of emerging businesses in the STEM space help increase women's participation, especially in leadership roles?
HR leaders have a huge role to play in fostering a culture where everyone gets an equal opportunity to grow within the organisation. To drive commitment to inclusion, diversity, and equity (ID&E), leaders need to focus on removing barriers to equity at our workplace, in our industry, and within our communities.
This includes (but not is limited to):
- Partnership with organisations who share a similar commitment towards ID&E
- Higher Education and Skill Building Programs
- Designing relevant benefits that cater to the needs of the workforce—for example, childcare and family care leave
For example, at the Medtronic Engineering & Innovation Center (MEIC) in Hyderabad, we have a program called Careers 2.0. It has been designed to enable women with career breaks to return to work.
How are you creating an inclusive workplace for your employees? What have been some of the outcomes so far?
Tenet 5 of the Medtronic Mission is ‘To recognise the personal worth of all employees’.
Our commitment to ID&E is unwavering and rooted in our mission, which was written more than 60 years ago. Through the years, we have built a strong foundation. And it has prepared us to act on the bold challenge in front of us: to remove barriers to equity across our workplace, industry, and the communities we serve.
At Medtronic, we drive our ID&E strategy like any other segment of our business — with sizable investments, quarterly reviews, measurable goals, and specific metrics to track our progress.
As we build the inclusion, diversity, and equity (ID&E) framework, ensuring our leaders are able to 'own' the work is critical to success.
To support that ownership, Global Inclusion, Diversity & Engagement (GIDE), along with HR partners, are committed to providing data analysis, tools, education resources, and best practices from both internal and external sources. Leaders receive core and common resources as well as support to customise their ID&E action plan to meet their unique business needs.
Our actions have resulted in increased representation of women at all levels of the organisation. Some of the specific actions that we focus on in MEIC are:
- The Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) resource group is part of Medtronic Women’s Network (MWN). WISE focuses on advancing women in engineering and science roles. From building career development toolkits to getting involved with local schools and STEM communities, WISE works to foster an inclusive work environment for women in a field that continues to be predominantly male.
- External partnership with organizations like SWE (Society of Women Engineers) to create networking and development opportunities for women talent.
- Benefits like child care up to the age of 9 years and family care leave to support family and personal needs.
How are you promoting a sense of belonging among your staff and supporting their growth? Can you share some specific examples and supporting evidence?
Equality means offering the same solutions to everyone, while equity means offering tailored solutions that meet the unique, human needs of a group or individual. Fostering a workforce of diverse talents, backgrounds, and experiences drives new ideas, more innovations, and ultimately, helps us serve more patients.
We at Medtronic recognise the importance of professional development and, thus, focus on offering a wide range of training and development opportunities to prepare ourselves for the next higher roles by maximizing our potential. We offer many benefits and programs to support career development for our employees at MEIC:
- Conduct Fitness Challenge and events in collaboration like PINK October for breast cancer awareness and Healthy Heart
- Enable a stress-free environment by building camaraderie, organizing celebrations and recognitions, and taking initiatives that enable leaders and employees to connect. The most recent International Women’s Day celebration is an example of this.
- WISE STEM Volunteering Project – reaching out to local schools to encourage girls to consider a career in STEM.
- Organise hiring drives/talent engagement sessions, Careers 2.0 – bringing women back to the workforce.
- Support innovation through hackathons, idea-generation programmes, and patents.
- ‘Careers That Change Lives’ defines our employee experience, and we do all we can to nurture and sustain this for all.
What are your three big talent priorities for the ongoing 23-24 financial year?
Inclusion, diversity, and equity play a critical role in driving our competitiveness, bringing more creativity, better decision-making, and enhanced innovation.
We would continue our unwavering commitment to "zero barriers to equity." A few things that we would focus on are:
- Continue our WISE employee network’s efforts for Refresh Culture, Outreach, Acquisition and Development.
- External Partnership with Academia and external forums for enabling growth and networking opportunities
- Going big with Careers 2.0 at MEIC.