Men Become Bastions of Diversity and Gender Inclusion in Companies

CHENNAI, INDIA -At Accenture India, select male employees are the bastions of diversity and inclusion (D&I). Carefully handpicked from the pool of middle management and senior leaders, these employees are sensitized to become advocates of diversity. A host of companies including Genpact, Pega Systems and Pepsico are now putting the focus on male employees in the organisation to lead, advocate and handhold women as they progress in their careers.

"D&I shouldn't be a zero-sum game. Men in the organisation need to be part of the process and when a man stands up and talks about diversity, it sends a strong message. Empowering women is not just a for women, by women initiative," said Dhanya Rajeswaran, director - HR, Accenture India. She adds that many thousand men are part of this journey at Accenture India. Among their various roles, they are expected to mentor and sponsor female employees who are identified for future growth. "There is difference between mentoring and sponsoring. Mentoring is acting as sounding board and providing career guidance. Sponsoring is being much more hands on - identifying which assignments play to her strength, making such opportunities available and playing an active role in shaping her career," said Rajeswaran.

At IT product company Pegasystems, Woman@Pega is a key initiative of the company. The company prides itself with having 57% women at the senior level. Krishnamurthy SV, senior director, industry applications, Pegasystems says makes their D&I goal easier by adopting a top down approach to replicate this success at all levels. "We have realised that this ratio is broadly the same at the entry level too. It is the mid management level where there is leakage and hence we put a lot of focus there," he said. As part of their Womentoring initiative, female employees are aligned to a mentor based on their needs. "It could be people management or picking up a new technology - a mapping is done so we find the right fit for the mentor and employee. 60% of our mentors are men," said Krishnamurthy.

With D&I initiatives being adopted in full swing in several large corporates, a challenge that comes along with it is an inherent feeling of exclusion. "Creation of women networking groups etc tend to create a feeling of exclusion for everyone else in the organisation. The idea of using men as allies is to be inclusive and make them a part of the process," said Saundarya Rajesh, founder, AVATAR group. With men constituting a statistical majority in almost all organisations, they are in a position to influence decision making and pass on values to the rest of the employees.

Rajesh says many of the successes she has seen with programs has been because of senior male employees in organisations she has worked with. For instance, Scope International ( now Standard Chartered Global Business Services) was among the earliest companies to have a program in place for second careers for women in 2006. "This was possible largely due to the efforts of Chandrashekhar Pingali, head HR at the company," Rajesh said.

AVATAR works with multiple companies including Accenture, Pepsico and Genpact for this program. "Every male ally is a true role model. We look several aspects like how many women they have mentored, how many careers have been salvaged and if they have a focus towards creating an anabling workplace, not just quarter on quarter revenues," said Rajesh.