We have repeatedly seen that firms that embrace inclusion and diversity achieve faster innovation and provide better customer service while attracting top talent. Here's why!

02 May 2019

By Puja Dattatraya with inputs from Supreet Kaur


Let me tell you why it’s important to talk about diversity and inclusion. Here are some sobering facts about Women in India:

  • Female Literacy rate is currently at 65%
  • Women form 63% in the lowest paid labor force but only 15% in the highest paid workforce
  • India ranks 136th worldwide in women’s economic participation
  • Gender pay gap in India is at 27%

But there is some better news. According to the Grant Thornton report, proportion of women in top leadership positions in Indian Companies has improved, from 17% in 2017 to 20% in 2018. Unfortunately, the inspiring success stories of the likes of former Pepsico CEO Indira Nooyi and the former Chairperson of SBI, Arundati Bhattacharaya remain more as an exception rather than the norm, when it comes to Indian women breaking the proverbial glass ceiling.

In 2015, IMF Chief, Christine Lagarde, predicted that higher participation of women in labour force could result in 27% surge in India’s GDP! Apart from considerable financial rewards, we have repeatedly seen that firms that embrace inclusion and diversity achieve faster innovation and provide better customer service while attracting top talent.

This has caught the attention of the government as well as corporates, and has led to some of the following notable key initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion:

  • Last year, Supreme Court decriminalized Section 377 of IPC, thereby legalizing homosexuality in India.
  • Maternity Benefit Amendment Act has increased the duration of paid maternity leave available to women employees from 12 weeks to 26 weeks, in order to protect employment of women.
  • Stand up India Program has been rolled out by the government to promote Women Entrepreneurs with financial aid.
  • Corporates are also putting efforts to build an inclusive gender diverse workplace and are promoting women in prominent leadership roles.

My own company- CBRE- a global leader in Real estate Solutions, has 25% women in top leadership roles in India, with our CFO, HR, MarCom and Digital & Technology Heads all being women. Overall, our gender diversity stands at 16% off the overall 8000 employees and this percentage is steadily improving. In our Thailand and Vietnam offices, the women represent 65-70% of our overall strength! In an industry which is dominated by men, these statistics are quite encouraging. We also promote inclusion and have hired differently abled employees at our India Headquarters in Gurgaon. In fact, CBRE has been recognized by Forbes last year as one of the best employers for diversity globally.

This shows that if leaders have the will to act and implement effective practices, it can foster a workplace culture of equality, that encourages employees to be themselves and they are therefore able to provide creative solutions. This further enables career growth, job satisfaction and talent retention.

While we talk about what firms and government should do for this cause, it is imperative that we evaluate what we, as individuals who represent diversity and inclusion, can do to promote this. Below are the top five things that we can practice during our professional lives to make an impact towards this initiative:

  1. BUILD OUR NETWORK: Map the organizational and industry networks and get associated. This will help get visibility to higher role opportunities and also provide awareness to larger organizational goals and market trends.
  2. DON’T RESISIT THE HARD SKILLS: Complement the technical skills with knowledge about strategy, finance, budgets, performance metrics. This will help translate data into actionable intelligence to influence executive decisions.
  3. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK: Seek career advice and development. Get access to a mentor who will help give a different perspective on career development. He or she can also give unbiased opinion, which perhaps we may have not considered. Schedule periodic goal setting and review meetings with our manager which helps us course correct our performance proactively and identify training opportunities where needed to hone our skillsets.
  4. RAISE OUR HAND: Give our opinion where we deem necessary and don’t be afraid to speak up. Be confident. Its ok to make a mistake. Be fearless. Step up to accept more responsibility to demonstrate our leadership and decision-making skills. Be direct, assertive, and confident, while being respectful.
  5. PAY IT FORWARD: Those of us who have made it to the position of influencing these initiatives must volunteer to promote diversity initiatives. We need to be a mentor and identify training opportunities for our teams. We need to seek opportunities to promote diversity and inclusion in our industry.

The glass ceiling has many cracks in it now, but we still have a way to go before that glass is indeed broken. Therefore, not only do we, as individuals representing diversity and inclusion, have areas to improve upon; society, culture and organizations also have huge steps to take as well.  Let's each do our part along the way so that in future we do not categorize ourselves as ‘DIVERSE’ or ‘INCLUSIVE’ but just as ‘PROFESSIONALS’.