Sunday 19th May 2024,
Sandeep Mann

Is Diversity a Great Thing?

pluralism is a strength
If we move by folklore, by fads, Diversity is a great thing. It’s the done thing, an aspect all organizations ought to cherish, to be reflected in their workforce composition.

Were one to look closer, and lo! – a different picture arises. We see corporate paying a lip service to this practice, and NOT truly meaning it. This is the lacuna I’ve discovered from close quarters with companies. Having pursued these causes, let me share the true picture:

  • Do We have Meaningful Diversity: Tell me, why do we want diversity, esp. ethnic diversity or even gender-based diversity – because somewhere we believe that diversity allows contrarian views and approaches to come in; such pluralism fosters more creativity and innovation, it permits better solutioneering pool. Yet what do we find in practice, we find that most companies run on purely procedural and analytic thinking basis. Intuitive thought is discouraged, the typical women’s sky-view holistic thinking is disapproved; rather the male’s compartmentalised mode is what prevails all over. The American culture dominates, nobody seems to apply Korean or Japanese or Assamese or Kannada ways of looking at problems. This articulation isn’t to underline a few stereotypes, but to emphasise the rich dividens that all possible in solving our problems and leveraging opportunities.
  • Is Glass Ceiling Disallowing Diversity in Top Management: You bet. A glass ceiling is a political term used to describe “the seen, yet unreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.” Just look at the percentages we have of women in top management. Often many firms, esp. service sector ones, claim they’ve 60% women workforce (It happened when I asked the country head-HR of American Express at an NHRD event). Hold it, we’re here talking of not masses but top management. In a south India based business group, you won’t find many north Indians or east Indians in its top management. There are definitely glass ceilings. Women, who’ve taken a child birth and care break of 3-4 years, are permanently relegated to low seniority. Time for scrutiny, and overhauling mindsets that assign top roles. Biases need to be shed.
  • No Board Diversity: You know there is a Board in every listed corporate. How many women does it have, ever pondered. How far are minorities represented there? Is it because women an minorities lack appropriate competencies to hold board positions, or something else is the fishy reason? US too has low Board Diversity, and expects equal men-women on its boards by 2070. You read it right, 2070! Can India beat this, and at least show 20% women on its boards by 2030? US has 4%. This is a program we initiated with CII – somewhere CII lost interest, it is a spineless lobbying body bothered with low end events. Can you add muscle to this movement? After all, if women perspectives aren’t factored in at top leadership (governance by board), how can we expect policy formulation to value women in the workforce, how can we expect valuing women customers and consumers. Can we?

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