Women at Workplace

Date:   Thursday , July 05, 2007

When I started working as the diversity and inclusion leader, one of my managers came up to me and said “Tracy Ann I don’t need more women in my team.” I have one woman working with me and I am happy, and I don’t want to add more to my team. Although I was taken aback by my manager’s words, I told him “It is not about women. I just want to talk to you about what diversity means.” His approach was initially defensive, but after a month of working with him he became more flexible and adaptable to change. Here I was trying to take diversity and inclusion to a more personal level and it worked. As a facilitator of change, I understood that every human interaction is an opportunity to facilitate diversity and inclusion.

So, now let me explain diversity and inclusion to you. It is a workplace where employees from a multitude of cultures, geographies and beliefs come together and combine their unique backgrounds, experiences and values to achieve both the individual and collective best.

Now, why diversity and inclusion is important in today’s context? A culture of inclusion where diversity is clearly valued is a business imperative to any truly global company. Quarterly results and giant clients alone are not the evolving factors of the corporate world. Today we are building global teams, and creating global talent pools to cater to global clients. Hence a diverse and inclusive work culture is the only means to foster a work environment where all employees have an equal opportunity to succeed and reach their full potential.

The challenges we face in implementing diversity and inclusive practices vary from region to region. The challenges we come across in India are entirely different from those that we face in the US. We do not have to face issues like black vs white and men vs women. Hence, in India the focus is on areas like increasing the gender representation in companies and career development among women.

Currently, the industry reports claim that only 20 percent of the workforce is women and only one percent of this makes it to the top management. When we are talking about 50 percent reservation for women in the parliament, why not in the workforce? This number has to increase. How do we make sure more women take up career in technology? In Cisco, we have launched a scheme called Girls in Technology programme, whereby we invite college girls to come and understand the power of technology. Here we give them an opportunity to aspire for a career in technology and make them aware of the different opportunities available in technology related areas.

In Korea, I have only one woman manager in my office. This is also one area where we can put the diversity and inclusion practice to work. Women can be helped to climb the career ladder by providing them solutions to overcome the blocks they face.

Efforts are being made today to align the diversity and inclusion practices with organizations’ business goals. It is integrated in the performance evaluation level to understand the rate of efficiency of these programs. Diversity and inclusive practices are a part of our aim to enhance the power of human networks.

(Excerpts from the talk given by her at the panel discussion organized by Cisco’s Women Action Network on Diversity and Inclusive practices)

The author is the Senior Manager, Diversity and Inclusion Asia Pacific Global Development Center, Cisco Systems (India) Pvt Ltd. She can be reached at trcurtis@cisco.com