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Guest AuthorHema Ravichandar

Enlist male leaders onto the inclusivity agenda to get the gender balance right

By | Hema Ravichandar | Strategic HR Advisory, former CHRO Infosys Ltd 

The International Women’s Day (IWD) has gone in a whiff of perfume, rustle of silk and the lustre of jewellery. While I am all for celebrations, especially at the workplace, the rah rah , “one-day-in-a-year” kind of celebration, now honestly tends to leave me cold.

Every day must be a celebration of diversity at the workplace; and more importantly, of the culture of inclusivity. After all, diversity ultimately, is only a statistic. It is the spirit of inclusivity which eventually encourages every employee to bring more of herself or himself to the place of work.

Having tracked organizations and their inclusivity initiatives over the years, I am convinced that this culture of inclusivity can be institutionalized only when it is driven from the top. Of course, as we have seen in the recent past many “our DNA is male only” kind of bodies, have reached a tipping point, facing a groundswell of revolt, forcing them to hastily don the armour of inclusivity. However, almost invariably, it is the positive cues that come from the corner office that embeds a truly inclusive culture. Employees need to see inclusivity, both in spirit and in action, high on the CEO’s agenda before it can become a reality at the workplace.

Which is why I am disappointed when I see conferences or seminars held to encourage gender balance in organizations (#BalanceforBetter is incidentally this year’s theme of the IWD), having great gender imbalance in their participant profile. Do a quick headcount check of the participants—it usually hovers around 10% male, and the percentage further drops after the Diversity Awards have been handed over.

Many successful women I have spoken to have highlighted the importance of male sponsors in shaping their careers, in making them confident and successful. In my view, sponsorship starts early in life, at home. Gender stereotypes and biases ubiquitously creep in and become a self-fulfilling prophecy, eroding the confidence of young girls, unless they are broken down by early intervention at home. Active sponsorship will give them a much-needed level playing field as they prepare to enter the professional training and work arena. Organizations, of course, can help —for every programme they run for working mothers — promote fathers’ programmes too.

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