Diversity & Inclusion is not an initiative but a way of life: Industry experts –


Diversity & Inclusion is not an initiative but a way of life: Industry expertsBy Abhishek Sahu

It’s not a hidden fact that industries, irrespective of the sector they are operating in, face multiple challenges in ensuring diversity and inclusion (D&I) at the workplace. However, experts take a pragmatic approach and opine that it is possible by taking concentrated and diverse efforts with crystal clear aim.

According to Ruma Rao, Director – Employee Engagement, D&I and Business Excellence, Tata Consumer Products, it’s important to ensure everyone understands that it’s a journey, rather than a goal to be achieved in a short period.

Rao said, “When we make D&I of about 1-2 demographic groups, then we may narrow it down too much and people think D&I is nothing beyond an initiative.”

She further said, “D&I is not an initiative, it’s about how you interact with your team every day, it’s a way of life. It is important to have an ongoing conversation, and leaders have a large role to play by bringing people’s attention to it.”

Ruma Rao was speaking in a panel discussion on ‘Creating an Impact: Building an Inclusive Work Environment for a Diverse Workforce’ at ETHRWorld Human Capital Experience virtual event organised on November 20.

Moderating the panel discussion, Aparna Mittal, Founder, Samāna Centre for Gender, Policy and Law, pointed out the one prevalent myth she comes across that there is some kind of prerogative perception that any kind of D&I initiative, especially hiring initiative, compromises merit.

Speaking on the role of hiring strategy in ensuring diversity, she said, “Somehow hiring initiatives drive the agenda for me because only when you are able to attract a diverse talent pool, you can actually proceed in the way of creating an inclusive workplace.”

Need to introduce D&I as a business imperative and not as an HR agenda

Taking a 360-degree perspective, Sheetal Shah, CPO – India and South Asia, Schindler, said for her, diversity is not about gender, LGBTQ, race or religion. Diversity in thoughts, opinions and ideas is what Schindler looks at.

“Being diverse is more about being able to bring different experiences, backgrounds, perspectives and thought processes and then making sure that you create an environment that allows them to bring out the uniqueness that they possess,” Shah said.

Similarly, Prachi Rastogi, Diversity and Inclusion Leader, IBM APAC, thinks whenever there are people, we need to have diversity. “Until we are inclusive of everyone because of the differences and not despite the differences, we can’t really create wiser solutions. And I think that is the miss. What we need to do with business is not to introduce D&I as an HR agenda but a business imperative. And that makes more sense,” she said.

Bringing diverse ideas, solutions and knowledge are important because, she said, ‘if we look different and sound the same, which means even if we have gender balance in place, and we don’t know how to harness the diversity, it doesn’t really make sense.”

Experts also believe that Covid has played a larger role in bringing diversity discourse at the centre point. According to them, people usually avoid such issues because of the comfort zone they enjoy.

Speaking on the same, Zainab Patel, Director – Diversity & Inclusion, KPMG India, said, “In the post-Covid situation, people have been forced to move out of their comfort zone, when they talk about merit and location, to look at marginalisation and delocation. Because people have no option but to look at these…

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