The intent to foster a diversified workforce in India’s corporate sector is evident, encompassing individuals with diverse sexual orientations, physical disabilities, and neurodiversities. However, translating this intent into tangible action remains a challenge for most companies, with only a handful of top-tier firms taking the lead.
Illustrating this is the tale of Tata Steel’s west Bokaro division. In December 2021, the division sought to hire heavy earth-moving machinery operators for its mining site. A unique initiative emerged when the HR manager decided to offer this opportunity to the local transgender community. Through interactions with the workers’ union, the division successfully integrated 14 transgender individuals into its workforce, marking a turning point for the ₹2.43 lakh crore steel major. Tata Steel now boasts over 100 transgender employees across various locations.
Tata Steel’s approach goes beyond mere employment. From reshaping insurance policies to support sex-affirmation surgeries to sensitizing the entire workforce to the needs of the transgender community, the company has undertaken comprehensive measures. They even created a contest named ‘QUEERious,’ aimed at the LGBTQ+ community, fostering inclusivity within business schools and technical institutions.
The importance of embracing diversity is highlighted by the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs). Beyond fulfilling a global mandate, businesses stand to gain from diversity. A McKinsey report underscores that companies with greater ethnic and racial diversity in management are 35% more likely to surpass industry-average financial returns.
While Tata Steel sets a remarkable example, the majority of companies are struggling to move beyond gender diversity. Hiring individuals from the LGBTQ+ community or with disabilities demands more than lip service—it necessitates infrastructure changes, training initiatives, and a true commitment to inclusion.
Achieving diversity extends to gender parity. From MG Motors’ 37% diversity rate with women working in roles traditionally reserved for men, to Schneider Electric’s ambitious target of women comprising 50% of new hires by 2025, companies are navigating uncharted waters.
However, the journey is complex, involving grassroots efforts. Agriculture and sports sectors are also fostering diversity. State millet missions encourage women farmers, while initiatives like the women’s IPL are broadening horizons.
While India Inc. has embarked on a path toward diversity, the road ahead is far from smooth. The approach varies across companies, with only some moving beyond symbolic gestures. Larger corporations are leading the way with comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategies, while mid-sized and smaller organizations lag behind.
Disclosing numbers pertaining to diversity categories remains a challenge due to privacy concerns. Nevertheless, companies like LTI Mindtree are creating an environment that encourages employees to openly identify themselves. Employee business resource groups are providing spaces for dialogue and support.
Retention proves equally challenging. Despite making strides in hiring, retention remains elusive. The need for appropriate accommodations and training is crucial, as exemplified by the experiences of transwomen hired by Kochi Metro and visually impaired employees facing external discrimination.
In conclusion, while India Inc. demonstrates intent, there is still progress to be made in implementing true diversity and inclusion practices. The challenge lies in breaking biases, fostering awareness, and ensuring that individuals from all backgrounds feel valued and included in the workplace.