On the road to inclusion: Diversity and the future of work | HCLTech

On the road to inclusion: Diversity and the future of work

HCLTech-hosted panel at WEF 2024 discusses DEI goals and challenges as experts from the field offer strategic vision to redesign the workplace
8 minutes read
Mousume Roy
Mousume Roy
APAC Reporter, HCLTech
8 minutes read
On the road to inclusion: Diversity and the future of work

The traditional workplace is transforming and ushering in an era where flexibility, diversity and inclusivity take center stage. With emerging technologies reshaping the workforce dynamics, organizations are compelled to reevaluate structures, fostering environments that not only accommodate change but actively embrace it. A recent panel discussion at the , as part of the WEF 2024 annual meeting, explored the crucial theme of "Diversity-led progress for the future workforce."

Dr. Anino Emuwa, Managing Director, Avandis Consulting and Founder of 100 Women @ Davos; Jill Kouri, Chief Marketing Officer, HCLTech; , Senior Partner and Co-owner, InTouch Female Leadership & Career Academy and Thomas Churchill, Global Head of Corporate Communications and Culture at Euroclear took part in the panel discussion moderated by Dr. Saikat Chaudhuri from UC Berkeley and shared their insights and experiences on navigating the challenges and opportunities in building resilient and inclusive workplaces for the future.

Vision for a diverse and inclusive workforce

Dr. Emuwa kickstarted the discussion by acknowledging the current crisis in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and cautioned against its politicization, highlighting its proven role in enhancing innovation, organizational performance and economic progress. “[The] technology [sector] is suffering from a shortage of talent, yet, we don’t have enough women and minorities in the field. We need all the talents in this world to solve the problems and drive progress,” she said.

Dr. Vasic framed diversity and inclusion as the “new sustainability”, drawing parallels with the evolution of sustainability discourse over the past decade. She underlined the economic benefits of DEI, citing a recent McKinsey report which said that by addressing the 25% more time that women spend in “poor health” could boost the global economy by at least $1 trillion annually by 2040. She envisioned DEI becoming a central tenet for organizations in the coming years and being more aligned to economic progress and critical issues like gender gaps in health.

Churchill positioned diversity as a key factor in building trust within an organization, emphasizing the role of diverse perspectives in fostering innovation, resilience and sustainable economic growth. Trust, he noted, is a superpower that requires a diverse workforce to maintain and enhance engagement and productivity.

Kouri acknowledged the critical connection between financial literacy, inclusion and the broader discourse on diversity by providing insights into HCLTech’s global presence and workforce composition. “We are 225,000 people in 60 countries, headquartered in India. Interestingly, 30% of our population is female, making us one of the biggest employers of women in India. However, with 80% of our workforce based in India, we acknowledge that there's still work to be done, especially as we expand into new markets," she said.

Diversity goals and challenges

As the panelists focused their attention on the diversity metrics challenges, Kouri highlighted the hurdles faced by women returning from maternity leave. “While 99% return to work, the challenges of balancing household responsibilities, childcare and elderly care become overwhelming,” she said while outlining proactive measures by HCLTech such as on-site daycare and healthcare facilities as well as its robust training and mentoring programs aimed at fostering a supportive community for female employees.

Euroclear’s Churchill said that his company has been led by a female CEO with a background in technology and extensive experience in financial services for the past seven years and the company has announced another accomplished female leader as her successor. But this is relatively uncommon in the financial industry, he noted, and acknowledged the persistent challenges in advancing women through the ranks, particularly from mid to senior levels.

“To address this, we are actively working on comprehensive strategies, closely monitoring our progress and setting a key diversity and inclusion goal – aiming for 40% of senior leaders to be women, a target to be achieved by 2026,” Churchill said.

Kouri advocated for a collective effort in encouraging leaders to embrace audacious goals openly. Drawing inspiration from CEOs publicly declaring ambitious diversity targets, she stressed the importance of transparency and progress over perfection. The conversation underscored the need for a cultural shift in goal-setting, balancing ambition with humility, as the panel explored the intricacies of achieving diversity objectives.

Strategic vision to redesign the workplace

How can progress be made in nurturing inclusivity? Dr. Vasic responded by shedding light on the comprehensive strategies needed to empower individuals, particularly women, in strategically navigating their careers and organizations. Backed by data of measurable progress from her academy's programs, she emphasized the urgency of transforming organizational culture and leadership practices for a more inclusive future.

Dr. Emuwa called for “a radical redesign of the workplace” that historically catered to male leadership. “The fundamental problem lies in the fact that for 200 years of industrialization, the workforce and the workplace were tailored to suit male leadership, perpetuating a biased system. To fix the gender disparity, we can't just slot women into spaces that were never created with them in mind. We need to reimagine and reconstruct the entire workplace, questioning norms such as the traditional nine-to-five model, which may not align with the diverse needs of the workforce."

She proposed incorporating KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and targets for executives, aligning diversity goals with key business metrics to drive meaningful change. “DEI cannot be treated as a mere initiative or an HR task; it must be a strategic, CEO-led priority,” she added.

Creating a win-win strategy

The panelists addressed the pressing need for a win-win strategy in promoting diversity and inclusion. Kouri advocated for collaboration between NGOs, academia and corporations for a continuous learning commitment. There is a need to remove biases from the interviewing process, she said while urging for a collective approach to tackle challenges.

Churchill stressed the importance of promoting behaviors aligned with organizational values and establishing supportive systems and processes while Dr. Vasic called for a shift toward more empathetic, compassionate and sustainable organizational cultures. Marking out diversity as not just an ethical choice but a strategic imperative for organizational success, Dr. Emuwa emphasized the intentional effort required in decision-making processes to ensure diverse voices, especially those on the margins, are heard.

As the session approached its conclusion, Dr. Chaudhuri posed a personal question to each panelist: "What's one thing that each of you could do to improve diversity and inclusion?" The responses varied from Dr. Emuwa's aspiration to sit with CEOs to discuss strategic DEI to Dr. Vasic's call for a shift from unconscious to conscious behavior. Churchill committed to being an ally, especially in addressing differences that make a significant impact, while HCLTech’s Kouri pledged to share more stories externally to showcase the diverse tapestry of people within organizations.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Chaudhuri emphasized the importance of metrics, workplace adaptation, end-to-end process reevaluation and bold leadership in advancing diversity and inclusion.

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