Lavanya Shrinagesh is the Global CSR and Diversity & Inclusion leader for Genpact. As a CSR leader, she leads programs that harness the energy and talent of our employees for the economic, social, and environmental betterment of the communities we live and work in. Her role as a D&I leader involves steering initiatives to create a gender-balanced organization with 50% representation of women across all levels.
Prior to her current role, Lavanya designed and implemented Genpact's Contact Center Eco System, creating "I speak", CAC and developed the training contact center model. She has more than 18 years of work experience across Hiring, HR and Learning and Development domain. She specialized in creating hiring tools that map to job competencies; building Learning and Development plans to bridge the skill gap. In addition to this, Lavanya has also worked in the Luxury Retail and Education sector.
What are your thoughts on the issue of women and leadership in the context of your own career trajectory?
Gender bias has never been a barrier in my career journey. If anything, I faced ‘age’ barrier as I started out young — I was 19 when I joined GE as a trainer! Different jobs and industries later, I am now pursuing my passion of corporate social responsibility at Genpact. And here’s my learning, because Genpact is such a people-centric and result-oriented organization, there’s no room for any perception to trickle in. As long as you’re doing your best, you will break all barriers and grow. That’s inherent in our culture.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for women in leadership roles or barriers to success?
More often than not, challenges present themselves in the form of a mindset — for both women and men. Many people are not able to gain the right exposure at the right time and I do believe this inherent fear of failure, brought on by stiff competition, can be a barrier to one’s success. At Genpact, we encourage certain behavioral attributes that push people to be their best version. Our culture celebrates “Curious, Incisive, and Courageous behavior on a bed rock of Integrity.” While we call it (C1)2, our people call it a game changer. It’s important for organizations to define and deploy enablers of growth for their people… and for people to have the drive and passion to grow.
Businesses still have this mentality of an "old-boys' club" where money and power define everything. It's about who "plays golf with you" and business at the top level is still very much done that way. Why are things not changing?
From my experience, I believe that things are changing and changing dramatically. Let’s look at the numbers from my organization. The number of women on our Board has gone up from 6 percent in 2015 to 27 percent in 2018. Female representation on our Global Leadership Council has increased from 9 percent in 2015 to 24 percent in 2018. The percentage of women with the title ‘Senior Vice President’ has increased from 18 percent in 2015 to 23 percent in 2018.
We have strong examples of women in key leadership roles. Our Chief Strategy Officer, our Global Business Leader for Insurance, Diversity and CSR, our Chief Marketing Officer, our General Counsel and our Digital Solutioning Leader—all are women. The sentiment of a ‘boys club’ does not have any room to percolate down. In fact, personally speaking, my support system at work is a network of strong women leaders.
Given the statistics, many women may feel that they have limited opportunities for promotion and may not get another chance. How do you think women can ascertain if they are being offered a risky or precarious position?
The very definition of the word ‘work’ is changing radically. Transformation and disruption are the undisputed buzzwords and in this context, any role that’s offered to anyone (man or woman) in any industry or organization is new and comes with a unique set of opportunities and risks. My personal mantra is to have tremendous willingness to learn and take on new challenges – irrespective of the area of work or gender.
What advice would you give women that are taking on leadership roles?
In today’s world, with the changing environment, I believe that leaders need to be evolve as fast as the world around them. There is a need to constantly learn, unlearn, and relearn. For women leaders in particular, I believe they need to take more risks without the fear of losing.
What are women leaders doing for women in the supposedly male-dominated digital era?
I don’t believe the digital era is entirely male-dominated. You see, digital is not equal to tech and coding. It’s time we change this notion. There are enough and more examples of women who are leading in the digital world and the industry is realizing how women matter in the world of digital transformation.