Diversity walking on a thin line

Diversity needs to be managed with a certain sense of maturity and fairness.

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Men in India Inc. are becoming increasingly insecure. And why won’t they —not only has corporate India opened its home and heart for women workers, but women themselves are trying hard to pluck out a large chunk of the job market for themselves.

Women have evolved from walking two steps behind men to treading alongside them, and even ahead of them. Today, they are sowing seeds for a future that looks very promising.

The job market that was dominated by men in the past is preferring women and leaving no stone unturned for their soft boarding and long tenure. There is no dearth of friendly policies and practices to enable them to balance home and work.

In the last few years, gender diversity has become top priority for corporate India. Having received a fair share of attention from the top brass, HR is being leveraged to make it a reality.

Research has established that technology and a diverse culture can collaboratively take an organisation through disruption. Moreover, the success of digitisation depends upon how inclusive the workplace culture is.

Adil Malia

“Recruiting through forced screens, based on region, gender, complexion and religion, to manage and maintain ratios, will lead to unfairness”

Since HR is determined to improve the diversity ratio, the male candidates— whether on campus or in their early-middle careers — are anticipating a difficulty in landing jobs for themselves.

So what exactly is worrying the men? The following situition will explain the issue. There are two candidates for a vacancy, a man and a woman, both equally skilled. The man is a wee bit more suitable for the job because of his experience. But, the decision is taken in favour of the woman!

“Every company has to focus only on one critical delivery—’creating value’ for its stakeholders and shareholders,” says Adil Malia, COO, The Firm.

He adds, “In that journey, organisations need to focus only on one ratio — its ‘efficiency and competency ratio’. Competency is gender agnostic! If the recruiting manager is focused only on recruiting the right candidate, then there will be no heart burning and feeling of unfairness from different genders. But for that, the selection process needs to be carried out in a fair and just manner.”

Prabir Jha, CEO, Prabir Jha People Advisory, says, “Diversity does not and cannot mean dilution of merit. It then is really about reinforcing bias in talent selection in removing unconscious bias.”

This prejudice towards the fairer sex is driving male candidates towards upskilling, overqualifying and working harder. However, the driving force is a negative motivation, such as stress and high pressure, and that is not good for any society.

Prabir Jha

“Diversity does not and cannot mean dilution of merit. It then is really about reinforcing bias in talent selection in removing unconscious bias”

Anything that is done just for the sake of it, and violative of merit, is bound to provoke a reaction, and at some stage talent will migrate away, feels Jha.

Talent acquisition in India is not entirely based on skills. From campus to workplace, there is a reserved quota for certain people on the basis of caste, creed, and economic background. Further, giving preference to women candidates is making men very circumspect.

Unhealthy motivation is crawling into the male sphere as they find themselves under undue pressure to perform beyond their potential, so as to stand a chance in a hyper-competitive market.

Recently, a friend was heard saying to her son, a class XII student, “You have to work harder than hard if you want a seat in a good college and a job to follow. Women are being favoured everywhere.”

“Recruiting through forced screens, based on region, gender, complexion and religion, to manage and maintain ratios, will lead to unfairness,” says Malia.

It is a catch-22 situation. In the past, not only were there fewer opportunities for women but very few takers too. Today, there is a conscious effort to create a suitable environment to increase their numbers in the workforce. But should that be done at the cost of being unfair to men?

“Sometimes, decades of unfair suppression has to be rectified. A reasonable modification in agenda to accommodate a certain gender situation, therefore, is understandable,” reasons Malia.

“The diversity agenda, thus, needs to be handled sensitively but squarely in the pursuit of a larger corporate purpose than any tokenism,” opines Jha.

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