‘Diversity simply means we need each other’

The Tata group has had a rich legacy of working closely with diverse stakeholders to create and deliver value. Its ethos of ‘leadership with trust’ emphasises its approach to doing business in an ethical, transparent and sustainable manner. The group strongly believes that a diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy for the workplace plays a key role in shaping business perspectives. This commitment is reflected in the Tata Code of Conduct and the Tata values of understanding and unity. The group also reaffirmed its commitment to D&I with Tata LEAD, an initiative launched in March 2014 by Group Chairman Cyrus P Mistry. Several Tata group companies have policies and processes in place to support D&I. Moreover, the group conducts several programmes to build awareness on D&I practices.

Dr NS Rajan @RajanNS, who chairs the Tata Group Diversity Council, shares the roadmap for Tata LEAD and talks about why it is important to narrow the gender gap at the workplace.

Tata LEAD is the group initiative on D&I. What is the approach and what are the goals and targets that the group hopes to achieve?
Tata LEAD was launched in 2014 as the group’s D&I initiative. Companies have made significant investments since then in the programme. At the Tata group, we embrace diversity by respecting differences that are fundamental to an individual’s identity such as age, gender, ethnicity, race, physical and mental ability, and sexual orientation. Gender diversity is our first area of focus and we have an aspiration to double the number of women employees across the group by 2020. We also aspire to have at least 1,000 Tata women leaders by 2020. We are pursuing a multi-pronged approach, which emphasises leadership commitment, sensitivity and awareness among all our employees, development opportunities for diverse talent to enable them to grow to their full potential and celebrating the milestones in our journey. We also believe that diversity and inclusion go hand in hand. Inclusion allows us to leverage our diversity and convert multiple perspectives into improving organisational outcomes.

The group has a large and diverse presence. How do you plan to reach out to your employees for this initiative?
For diversity and inclusion to succeed, awareness and sensitivity is key. Since the launch of Tata Lead, we have individually reached out to more than 50,000 people across the group. There is a customised approach to each constituency. Over 1200 senior executives from more than 60 group companies have been through the D&I sensitisation workshops that focus on the business case for D&I, business practices around the globe, understanding of unconscious biases and action planning to foster change within our own organisations and teams.

We have been fortunate to have over 70 senior executives who have volunteered and have been trained to reach out to our managers across companies on this initiative. This is through the Power of Inclusive Management (POIM) workshops. Over 50 such workshops have already been conducted across group companies. Our strength comes from our D&I accelerators from over 35 group companies, who are championing the initiative in their respective companies.

Pathways to Success, our development intervention aimed at women executives, has also had over 1000 women participants. These have been through more than 50 programmes covering over 50 group companies in India.

Plans are already underway to create an e-module, an induction module as well as a networking platform to enable us to connect with our employees on this initiative, at regular intervals.

Many women tend to leave the workforce at critical life stages. How are these women being supported to stay in the workforce and progress in their careers?
Several of our group companies have policies and processes in place to support women during critical life stages like motherhood, taking care of elders, etc. These include reintegration programmes post maternity leave, sabbatical policies and flexibility in work schedules where required. Each company has its own approach based on the needs of its workforce. We also sensitise our leaders and middle management so that they understand the needs of women employees when they are going through critical personal milestones or challenges, and we continue to support them.

The recent report by McKinsey Global Institute says that if the gender gap in the workforce is bridged, at full potential, India’s GDP would increase by 60 percent by 2025 and it would go up 26 percent for the entire world. What role can the Tata group play in realising this potential and how does this tie in with the 2025 vision?
We believe that diversity accelerates potential. Having more women at all levels of the organisation is critical to our business success. They bring different ways of thinking, leadership styles and approaches towards problem solving. Women account for nearly 50 percent of the available talent pool and are also a very large proportion of our customers and the communities we serve. As we progress towards our Vision 2025, we endeavour to create a more balanced workforce, attract the best and most diverse talent, and create products and services that serve the needs of our different customers. Levelling the playing field at the workplace and having many more women leaders in the industry not only benefits the business but also drives societal and cultural change at multiple levels. We believe that narrowing of the gender gap will be a natural outcome of our commitment to realise the true value that diversity can provide to our businesses.

What message would you like to convey to colleagues in the Tata group on how they can take D&I further at their workplace?
To encourage diversity and inclusion, we must treat employees equally and yet differently, as needs vary. The benefits of diversity accrue only with inclusion. People contribute their best at work when they feel included. Inclusion for us is really about operationalising diversity to improve business outcomes. Diversity needs commitment, not tokenism. As Tata employees, diversity and inclusion is part of our ethos. Each one of us is responsible for creating an environment of mutual respect which comes from appreciating and welcoming the differences that we bring to the workplace. It is important to understand the economic and social value that diversity brings to teams, and how it positively impacts innovation, collaboration and decision-making. If we become sensitive to the needs of others, be mindful of our biases and have an inclusive approach in our interactions with all stakeholders, we can truly create a happy and successful workplace. Diversity and inclusion isn’t a one-way street — it simply means we need each other.

This article was published on tata.com

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