(Since 2020, HCLTech Finland has partnered with the HJK's women's football team. From left: Gavin Westwood (HCLTech), Wilma Sjöholm (HJK), Mimmi Nurmela (HJK) and Vaishali Doshi (HCLTech)).
Women are underrepresented in the tech industry. Diversity, however, is about more than just gender – ethnicity, race, age, and disability, and skillsets are other underrepresented categories to name but a few. Inclusion and equity are essential parts of the diversity equation. Taking steps in the right direction can be a challenge and it calls for determination and perseverance – but with long-term commitment the tide will turn.
The relationship between technology and gender has emerged as a hot topic over the past few years. This was highlighted in Caroline Criado Perez’s book, Invisible Women. Awareness is on the rise for a good reason.
“We all use technology, and as humans, we’re diverse by nature,” says Vaishali Doshi, Client Partner and Sales Director at HCLTech. “Technological design and innovation need to reflect that. Women represent half of the world’s population. Women should be equally involved in the design and implementation of tech.”
Many leading IT enterprises are setting ambitious goals to achieve a better gender balance. Increasing women's share in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) is on the agenda worldwide.
Finland is no different. The share of women applying to study technology in higher education hit a record 36% in the spring of 2022. This is progress, but a lot remains to be done. As a point of comparison, based on data from 2020, only a little more than a fifth of employees in ICT companies in Finland are women.
“Historically, IT hasn’t been very diverse,” says Gavin Westwood, Senior Vice President at HCLTech. “We at HCLTech work very hard to support diversity and equality. Our Chairperson, Roshni Malhotra, has truly shifted gears in this area. She feels very passionate about it, and we collectively do too.”
Currently, every fourth member on HCLTech’ Board is a woman. Overall, 27% of employees are women, 30% of new hires are female, and HCLTech also aims to improve gender diversity in the workforce to 40% women by 2030.
Diversity is worth the effort as it is critical in building an innovative mindset. The business case is solid. Organizations should focus on creating a workplace culture that fosters inclusivity.
“Diversity is a business imperative as important as any other strategic business priority,” says Doshi. “We get a constant message from our young talent that they want to work in a high-performing, diverse and inclusive organization.”
The benefits of attracting, developing, and retaining talent outweigh the cost of replacement and recruitment. A diverse organization is robust, with enhanced capabilities to tackle problems, make decisions, and innovate.
“The best performing teams I've been a part of, have been truly diverse, “ Westwood concurs. “It's no coincidence.”
Moving from equality to equity
The world of talent attraction talks about DEI. The acronym stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion. In the Nordic markets, there is a strong understanding of equality. Equity is the next step. If equality means everyone has the same opportunities, equity is about helping all reach similar outcomes. No one's left behind.
One example concerns parents – still mostly women – staying home for an extended time after childbirth.
“We have to support women returning to the workforce,” Doshi points out. “Tech moves fast. A modest break quickly turns into eons. There's catching up to do, and a good employer extends their hand, ensuring that the returning parent gets similar opportunities and extra support to thrive.”
Three Rs are essential in DEI. That is, recruitment (diversity), retention (inclusion), and representation (role models). It means that a company pays attention to who they hire, such as a diverse workforce, that they retain the hired employees by providing an inclusive work environment, and ensure that they are represented well by providing career enhancement, mentoring forums, and communities”, says Doshi.
“We all need role models, people that we look up to, on all organizational levels,” Doshi explains. “To aspire towards something and grow, and to feel that your aspirations are legitimate.”
Diversity is more than gender
Diversity is not a binary concept, not only about women and men. HCLTech looks at, for example, ethnicity, LGBTIQA+ community, disability, skillsets, and age equally closely. In 2021, the company increased the headcount of disabled employees by 9%.
But these are baby steps. The management commits to putting in the effort to make change happen.
“Many organizations are becoming more diverse,”Doshi points out. “But are we there yet? Looking at targets and numbers set for diversity or gender balance is one thing. Still, we also need to look at the support measures to ensure the workplace is truly inclusive.”
In Doshi’s view, inclusivity is not rocket science. Common sense applies.
“Ask yourself if you're truly able to be yourself at work. And then, ask yourself whether your colleagues would say the same? We all must consider if we’re creating a safe working environment for people around us.”
“Take my example. I’m a mother of two girls and an Indian woman working in Finland. If I’m asked to come to work, forget who I am, and blend in, I can’t be authentic. I can’t give my best if my environment doesn’t allow me to feel safe to be myself, fully.”
Doshi's view is that no organization is perfect. The point is creating momentun to move in the right direction.
“Everybody fails at times. We've had our mistakes, too. Our company’s upside is that people do seem to speak out, and we do listen and learn.”
Deeds more than words
Westwood agrees that building a diverse, inclusive, and equitable company is not overly impossibly difficult but it needs to be supported by dedicated structures, skills, and principles to be a success
And you need action.
“Little nudges go a long way,” Westwood says. “We have a monthly bulletin that gives us the latest details. The newsletter has statistics, relates stories of empowerment, and information on our various communities.”
But you also need bold leadership. Leaders who believe that a diverse and equal culture matters. Leaders who take action and create empowering environments. As a form of self-management, the people of HCLTech are building communities for single mothers, people with disabilities, and groups united by ethnic or geographical backgrounds.
Since 2020, HCLTech Finland has partnered with the HJK's women's football team. Soccer for Americans.
“We wanted to extend our hand outside the business arena,“ says Westwood.
The company wants to discover the two organizations' shared values in partnerships. When something pulls you together, the association has a purpose.
“For us, the partnership with HJK is beyond a mere transaction,” Westwood says. “We’re proud of the team. HJK has taken steps to make sports more equitable and accessible for women. We strive to support them on their way to recognition on an equal footing in the world of sport, ad through that, be trailblazers for everyone looking to realize their full potential, on the playing field or in the boardroom.