Written by Jane Hodgen, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Asia Pacific, TCS.
This is shaping up to be a significant year for advancing global equality everywhere from the sporting field to the boardroom. I’ve been thrilled to see the gender diverse talent on display at the Olympics. Almost half of the athletes this year are women, more than any other Games in history.
At the same time, Australia has recently become one of three countries to have women representation of more than 30 per cent on top company boards without gender quotas. Closer to my home in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden currently leads the most diverse government in our country’s history – today there are more women, people across cultures and ethnicities, LGBTQ+ and Indigenous MPs than ever before.
While these are steps in the right direction, there’s still a way to go when it comes to addressing diversity and inclusion.
Having lived in South Africa, New Zealand, Sweden, Australia, and the UK and having worked across many more different cultures across Europe and Asia Pacific, I’ve learnt about the importance of different value systems, as well as experienced first-hand how diversity in organisations helps establish cultures that drive growth.
When an organisation or team first brings in diversity, and if it is only one type I have seen this leads to an ‘us and them’ mentality setting in, there is a sweet spot after that when more diversity of different types is brought in where it switches to a culture of valuing different perspectives and not presuming responses from the ‘other’. This is where we should all strive to be and where we can see acceleration in ideas, acceptance and output for our customers as well as a better sense of engagement for employees. These learnings have been valuable as COVID-19 continues to push us to navigate the world of hybrid work, both as employers and employees. While it’s stretched us, it’s also set the framework for a sustainable workplace built around diversity and inclusion.
Technology drives inclusivity in a virtual world
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the shift to remote work has helped a lot of people previously challenged by traditional ways of working. Virtual work has broken down some of the traditional social cliques and made it easier to access people across the organisation. It has made bringing together people across regions, cities and projects easier and more time effective. It has made access to training programs or new roles more accessible for those who can’t travel or who’s family circumstances don’t allow.
This is especially pertinent to the technology industry which has capacity via IT platforms to provide accessible employment to people, such as those who might be on the autism spectrum or those who are visually impaired. Platforms such as Microsoft Teams make it easy to use inbuilt capability to convert speech to text for those who may have difficulty hearing, alternate text is easy to add to any visual images that can be used by people with visual impairments. These are hugely empowering advances. And as we move forward, I’ll continue to encourage virtual working fully or with an option for home working days as a great platform for us to connect more people from across the diversity spectrum.
Gender diversity against the backdrop of remote work
When we consider the pandemic’s impact on employment in Australia and New Zealand, there are some harsh statistics, particularly for women. In Australia, in April 2021 the Grattan Institute reported 8% of women lost their jobs, in comparison to 4% of men. In New Zealand, between March and September 2020, over two-thirds of job losses (22,000) resulting from the Covid impact were women, according to Stats NZ.
This has been a globally recognised phenomenon referred to as the “Pink Recessession” and is linked to the type of work often performed predominantly by one or other gender, the caring responsibility largely falling on women, more women working part time and the pay rates for roles for women being lower. If one person has to step out of the workforce it is often unfortunately the women.
As a society, we need to move away from gendered roles to create greater equality. This means encouraging our children into a broad range of careers, being open minded about who we hire, actively tracking our overall gender pay gap and supporting carer roles across genders. This will have a positive knock-on effect in the workplace.
Many European countries, such as Sweden, support both genders to be the primary carers with full pay. Many organisations have adopted this practice in Australia and New Zealand as well. We need it not just to be adopted more widely, but also to build on the culture of acceptance in our organisations. I remember the example of a man who left his employer after returning from being the primary carer for six months in New Zealand after he felt he was treated differently as a result and was passed over for promotion. Until we give gender equality to men, we can’t have gender equality for women either.
As the mother of a girl and a boy who are in the process of building their gender identities, confidence in themselves and place in the world, I believe that now is the time to pave the way for future generations. Working for a business like TCS that both embraces equality and has the technology to facilitate diversity, gives me the confidence that we can build a sustainable future for all employees.