The events of the past year have put racism firmly in the spotlight, once again requiring a renewed focus on our approach to Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). The tragic killing of George Floyd in May 2020 led to a powerful movement for real change that swept across many parts of the world. People said: “enough is enough”. We, too, wanted to change. Rather than treating “diversity” and “inclusion” as buzzwords, companies in India are asking themselves what true equality looks like.
Women-led companies have been shown to generate three times the returns compared with enterprises run predominantly by men. Teams comprised of various backgrounds and work experiences collectively come up with more creative ideas and ways to solve problems. Yet most companies still lack representation from a wide range of ages, genders, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations—despite a growing body of research on the bottom-line benefits of D&I. However, they have begun asking the right questions, like ‘What does a truly inclusive workplace look like?’ and ‘What do our employees really need to feel safe and comfortable while doing their jobs?’
Diversity and inclusion at KFC India
Fast food chain KFC plans to double the count of women employees at its restaurants in India to around 5,000 in the next three to four years as it steps up D&I initiatives in the country, according to a top company official. KFC India, which currently operates two all-women restaurants, is looking at increasing the overall ratio of women employees to 40% by 2024 from the current 30% under its ‘KFC Kshamata’ programme, a focused effort towards driving doubling of empowerment by 2024.
KFC India plans to double the footprint of Special KFCs — operated by hearing and speech impaired team members, by 2024. It would also launch select flagship Special KFCs across the country, that provide an elevated KFC experience for specially-abled team members as well as customers. Under its KFC Kshamata programme, the brand aims to have 70 ‘Special KFCs’ by 2024, up from over 30 at present.
Wipro’s D&I initiatives
Wipro was recognised at the 2020 ASSOCHAM Diversity & Inclusion Excellence Awards as the winner for ‘Best Employer for Persons with Disabilities’. The tech major has also been awarded second runner-up for ‘Best Employer for Diversity and Inclusion’ in the category for organizations with more than 5000 employees. All these accolades are warranted. At Wipro, the disability inclusion charter focuses on careers, recruitment, engagement, accessibility, training and enablement.
The D&I initiatives are designed to nurture an inclusive work environment for employees with disabilities, by strengthening the ecosystem through inclusive systems, policies and procedures. In 2020, Wipro joined the global movement for The Valuable500, a business to business initiative that aims to be a catalyst for disability inclusion.
In February 2018, Wipro made LGBTQ+ inclusion a formal focus area under its Inclusion and Diversity Charter. Their inclusion philosophy is guided by the Spirit of Wipro, which expects employees to treat every person with respect. The company scored 90 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index 2020.
Inclusive networks at Barclays
In India, multinational universal bank Barclays’ focus is to improve gender representation at all levels within the organisation and also recruit senior talented women in Technology and Finance. The gender agenda is supported by the Women Initiative Network (WIN), which consists of employees volunteering to drive women empowerment. They have also partnered with the United Nations in their HeForShe campaign, which engages one billion men in the advancement of women’s rights.
Emerge is a network that supports the Multigenerational agenda through programmes such as Reverse Mentoring, Dynamic Working and Working Family Network, which helps the company in building a culture that supports talent across generations and life stages.
The Reach network organises various programmes and initiatives to build disability and mental health confidence in their workplace. They also partner with different NGOs such as Ability Foundation, Enable India, V-Shesh that work towards enabling people with disability.
The agenda is supported by colleagues’ network, Spectrum, which not only celebrates the diversity of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community, but creates an inclusive work environment where colleagues feel confident bringing their whole selves to work. Barclays has partnered with organisations such as Periferry, Pride Circle, Humsafar Trust to further strengthen this LGBT inclusion focus at the workplace.
In conclusion, recent events and the push from working millennials and Gen Z are bringing corporate entities round to making concrete changes in their offices. Apart from considering traits like gender and ethnicity that people are born with, they are addressing ‘acquired diversity.’
Acquired diversity involves traits they gain from experience: Working in another country can help one employee appreciate cultural differences. Selling to female consumers can give a male colleague better understanding of gender nuance. This combination of inherent and acquired diversity will make for an authentically and naturally inclusive work environment.