For our ongoing series where we acquaint you with the #csrleaders of today, we spoke to Prashasti Rastogi who is currently the Director, Communications & Business Strategy at Wiley India and leads CSR for the company. This young achiever was recognised as DivHERsity Champion 2021 by Jobs For Her Diversity Awards 2021. She has also worked closely with government departments and agencies, corporates, and academic institutions on strategic partnerships to further academic exchange.
Wiley is an American multinational publishing company that empowers researchers, learners, universities, and corporations to achieve their goals. They develop digital education, learning, assessment, and certification solutions to help universities, businesses, and individuals move between education and employment and achieve their ambitions. By partnering with learned societies, they support researchers to communicate discoveries that make a difference. Their online scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals, books, and other digital content build on a 200-year heritage of quality publishing.
To understand Wiley’s contribution to corporate citizenship in India, The CSR Journal spoke to Prashasti, who is also Wiley India’s CSR & Diversity lead. Before joining Wiley, Prashasti served as the Director at the South Asia office of Frankfurter Buchmesse where she ran multiple international projects relating to Consulting, Brand Storytelling and Content Development.
Prashasti also developed a learning app to encourage content creators to develop content in Indian languages and upskill themselves through Masterclasses by renowned authors like Jerry Pinto. In the International affairs circuit, she has worked with German Academic Exchange Service, South Asia and was on the core team of the Indo-German Centre for innovation and scientific exchange (DWIH). She has studied Information Technology at the University of Delhi and holds an MBA degree from the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q 1: What does CSR mean to you at Wiley India?
Our CSR initiatives are driven by the purpose of encouraging young talent from the underprivileged communities, especially women and girls, to become ‘Atmanirbhar’ (self-reliant) so that they can stand on their own feet and could contribute to India’s growth and development story. Along with our partners’ support, we provide skill-based and vocational training to underprivileged children and orphaned girls and aid them in leading a meaningful life full of respect and dignity.
Q 2: You are a DivHERsity Champion 2021. Tell us more.
The DivHERsity Awards by JobsForHer recognises exceptional work done by companies to accelerate female participation and performance in the Indian workforce. The awards laud companies that are walking the talk and doing everything it takes to meet and surpass their diversity and inclusion goals, making the Indian workplace a women-friendly space.
Q 3: How does Wiley walk the talk when it comes to diversity?
Wiley firmly believes in the tenets of diversity and inclusion and places a huge impetus on advancing the cause across the globe.
Besides focusing our CSR efforts on employability skilling, the company is also engaged in shaping workforce of the future through WileyNXT and Mthree initiatives. Wiley mthree sources the talent from the non-metro towns in India; train them in emerging technologies and to help them start careers at Fortune 500 Companies. To put it simply, it bridges the gap and serve two purposes- help build a diverse, inclusive and skilled talent from tier-II/III cities in India and help companies meet their diversity and inclusion objectives and goals.
60% of our candidates in the mthree programmes in India are females. Our mthree cohorts have representation from almost every nook and corner of India which includes even north-eastern states as far as Meghalaya. More than 50% of our mthree alumni are from economically weaker sections of the society. Based on the success and broader philosophy of mthree, Wiley has won three awards at D&I Summit 2021 recognizing its efforts towards promoting D&I in a true holistic manner.
Q 4: Tell us about CSR initiatives by Wiley India. How does your CSR initiative Mitra help empower the girl child?
At Wiley, we have been actively championing the cause of ‘skilling’ and promoting a diverse and inclusive workforce. Most of our CSR initiatives are aligned with the similar objective of encouraging and building an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.
‘Project Swayam’ in collaboration with ‘Jagriti’ is one of the initiatives wherein we focus on job-oriented training and mentoring for slum dwellers including children, women and youth. Wiley had built a Skill Development Centre within the Kali Basti slum area in Delhi. It is here that we host sessions and conduct training in several batches for slum residents, which run throughout the day to align with the work and school timings of the enrolled candidates. Before the pandemic, the underprivileged children at the Centre were being trained in computer, mobile repair, make-up and grooming, and spoken English/ personality development. However, taking cognizance of the pandemic and prioritizing the health and safety of people, we decided to halt the training. It shall resume as soon as the situation becomes plausible.
Wiley India also has a collaboration with ‘Little Star Home’ and the aim of this partnership is to empower the orphaned girls with skill-based training. Little Star Home is an all-girls orphanage that acts as a haven for victims rescued from flesh trade, trafficking, and many other forms of social injustices. Under this CSR initiative, the girls of the orphanage are trained in various skill sets such as in the fields of computers, culinary, beauty, fashion designing, arts and crafts, martial arts, swimming, wrestling, horse riding etc. With proper guidance and adequate support, some of these girls have made it to the national and district levels for horse riding and shooting. Till date, over 400 precious lives have been transformed via meaningful interventions.
It is only recently that we announced an employee volunteering initiative, Project ‘Mitra’. It is an extension of our association with ‘Little Star Home’. This initiative has two-pronged objectives: one is to instill a sense of security amongst the children so that they are able to lead their lives with dignity, and second is to provide a platform to our employees to give back to the society in their own little ways.
Under this CSR initiative, Wiley India’s employees act as a ‘Mitra’ (friend) to the ‘Little Stars’. They play a vital role in the social integration and inclusion of the young girls of the ‘Little Star Home’. As ‘Mitras’, employees (individually or along with their respective families) interact and engage with the little stars (kids at the orphanage) as their friends, family, and mentors to help and support them.
Q 5: Tell us more about the bridge learning solution, WileyNXT. Does it contribute to promoting STEM education for women?
WileyNXT is our company’s innovative learning solution built to bridge the skill gap. It offers professional learning and education programmes in new and emerging technologies, which are relevant for today’s workforce. Our programmes are designed by Wiley Innovation Advisory Council (WIAC), a body of 70 industry and academia leaders.
Under WileyNXT, we offer professional and skill-based learning, focused on industry 4.0 and 4.1. This is facilitated in an association and partnership with premier educational institutions across the globe.
In the latest (2021) fortune 500 list, it was revealed that only 41 companies out of 500 are headed by women CEOs, which means that just 8.1% of the leadership positions and hats are with women. At our company, we address this gender gap by imagining and encouraging a world with gender inclusive workforces.
WileyNXT programmes offer special and exclusive scholarships for women known as ‘TechitLikeher’ Scholarship. Under this, 50% waiver on programme fee is offered to meritorious women candidates’ basis an assessment test. Our vision is to encourage women upskilling and learning in new and advanced technologies to have more and more women technology leaders.
Q 6: What role will industry partnerships and public-private partnerships play in the socio-economic development in coming years?
We are living in a world where collaboration between public and private enterprises are producing world-class results and outcomes. If we were to particularly talk about socio-economic development projects, we have multiple success stories relating to PPP. When public-private entities collaborate, they bring together their own expertise and then work towards addressing a common problem or issue. The common agenda corroborated by the vision and purpose of making a meaningful difference to the lives and livelihoods of communities, then becomes the defining objective.
Based on the success of such a model, we may see more and more such collaborations for the welfare and development of the society.