Gender Diversity and Inclusion in Workplaces

Gender Diversity and Inclusion in Workplaces

Recently, we have seen many corporate and multinational companies become publicly more ‘inclusive’. Zomato announced period leaves for its employees and 26 weeks of parental leave for both men and women. Paytm introduced a helpline exclusively for female employees to address their concerns and issues. Myntra offices named their meeting rooms after women, and so on. Most companies have designations like ‘Chief Diversity Officer,’ ‘D & I Recruiter’ (Diversity and Inclusion Recruiter), ‘Diversity Consultant,’ who have permanent roles in their management. But have these measures really made the lives of marginalized employees better? 

We often talk about diversity and inclusion as if they mean the same thing. However, it is important to get the difference right – hiring employees from under-represented groups (e.g. people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and people from the LGBTQ+ community), leads to boosting diversity. But that might not be enough. After being hired, if the employees feel alienated, voiceless, and are uncomfortable enough to be their true selves, then the environment is not inclusive. The same goes for schools. We learn about discrimination based on caste and gender differences in our textbooks, and yet those differences are severely underrepresented and overlooked when it comes to our curriculum. How can we make workplaces not just more diverse, but also more inclusive?

The first step would be to give them a voice, and the same opportunities as we gave to privileged employees or students. Paying men and women equally, having an equal number of women, Dalit, and LGBTQ+ people in important decision-making positions and board rooms ensures that their voices and opinions are heard and the policies and curricula that are made are themselves inclusive. An inclusive environment plays a vital role in making the members of the various marginalized communities feel included. In 2018, Kochi Metro hired transgender employees in the name of diversity, however, they very soon quit because it was difficult for them to find living arrangements. It would have been very easy for Kochi Metro Rail Limited to provide quarters or protection to the employees. Providing gender-neutral bathrooms, a crèche in the workplace for single mothers, providing transport to and from school for disadvantaged students, and making common areas disability-friendly are very basic ways to help out. I truly believe that with some empathy, compassion, and education, companies can be selflessly inclusive, not just for media attention or to meet HR guidelines.

-Kalpita Mookherji

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