Right from leaves for caregivers to more opportunities for women in their workplace, here's what corporates can learn from Accenture about closing the gender gap.
This article has been sponsored by Accenture.
“Life does not always give you extra time. Just play your best shot and never let failure be the end,” says Denita Lyngdoh, a football enthusiast. Like any other football player, while on the field, Denita has one aim in mind — winning the game.
But, unlike others, she has only her sense of sound, touch and space to guide her in this.
The visually impaired footballer is a striker for the Bangalore Women Blind Football Team along with working as a Business Operations New Associate at Accenture.
When she was diagnosed with glaucoma at the tender age of six, Denita was told by the doctors that she would have only 20 per cent vision in just one eye. But, this did not demotivate her when it came to pursuing her passion for football.
Denita knew what she lacked in sight, she would have to make up in other things — the instructions of two coaches guiding her forward, the ringing sound from the bearings inside the ball, and her gut instincts.
Credit her for her success and amazing feats, and she says it wouldn’t have been possible if not for her family, especially her parents, for instilling that don’t-quit attitude, and her workplace, Accenture, for making her feel part of a team.
A solid game plan on and off the field
When Denita joined the Accenture Corporate Functions Inclusive Internship programme in 2021, she quickly engaged in self-learning to enhance her communication skills.
She says, “Positive, transparent communication and my team’s open mindset help us nurture one another. My supervisor and teammates are constantly guiding and encouraging me to take on tasks, even those that I feel like I can’t do.”
Denita adds that her game plan has always been simple: “Success never comes easy. We might fall, but what’s important is we always rise and push forward.”
While she is a standing example of someone who has shattered stereotypes and not only aced a male-dominated sport but done so despite a disability, gender equality needs more attention worldwide and in India.
According to a March 2020 NASSCOM report titled ‘India’s Tech Industry: Women For The Techade’, women constitute 35 per cent of India’s technology industry. This translates to one female professional being present for every three male professionals and points to a gaping divide in the equality balance.
While the reality seems gruesome, a World Bank estimate indicates that India has one of the lowest female labour force participation rates.
So what can be done to empower the female workforce in India?
In a blog titled ‘Mind the differing views on equality‘, Ruhi Ranjan, Senior Managing Director at Accenture says the first step would be to create an inclusive organisation where women can thrive. “This should be at the top of the CEO’s agenda.”
She goes on to add that if not, the talent gap will only continue to grow.
Another step in the endeavour to create equal opportunity for women is to have the organisation support women during significant milestones in their personal and professional lives, she says. This will make them feel like the workplace cares.
This should be done by the topmost people in the organisation and others will follow, Ruhi believes. “Leaders have a huge opportunity to increase women’s potential and hence it is important for them to prioritise and take action to accelerate true equality,” she says.
Give women a chance to lead
Empowering women is one side of the coin. The other is to let them take charge.
While gender equality has always been an important crux of the workplace, there is no time for women to step into leadership roles like the present. This is due to a revolution that corporates are seeing which is driven by digital technologies.
Take for instance corporate giant Accenture. They made a bold public commitment in 2017 to build a 50:50 workforce by 2025. This was done in an attempt to ensure a more robust representation of women in leadership.
“Today,” says Ruhi, “it is a matter of pride that women represent over 45 per cent of our workforce in India and close to 25 per cent of our MDs.”
She adds that 49 per cent of the new hires are women.
On tips for other corporations to incorporate, she adds, “Creating an environment that unleashes innovation is the start. This will allow everyone at the workplace to feel that they have an equal opportunity to belong and build a career.”
Ruhi lists steps to create a workplace that empowers women:
- Equal pay
The pay equity model ensures employees receive pay that is fair and consistent when considering the similarity of work, location and tenure at the career level.
- Caregivers leave
Accenture was one of the propellers of a corporate moving away from gender binaries and focusing on caregivers rather than gender or marital status.
In addition, the ‘Returning Mothers Program’ involves experienced women executives coaching and staffing new mothers on how to successfully transition from maternity, back to successful careers.
This saw a 98 per cent return to work in 2021.
- A network for women
Ruhi speaks about the Vaahini Network, a platform that offers women professionals in India unparalleled opportunities to learn, share, empower and enable each other’s personal and professional growth.
Alongside this, there are also career development sessions that women can avail of, wherein there is on-the-job learning, rotational assignments, coaching and mentoring, skill-building sessions, and career intentionality workshops for women across all career levels.
“Making diversity and inclusion a priority will be a winning strategy for companies and the strength of the economy at large,” she concludes.
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