This weekend, I was interviewed by a research agency who is working on a study that aims to understand business leaders’ perception on Diversity and Inclusion. In the hour long discussion, I had the opportunity to think about my journey and association with the term ‘diversity’ (especially gender diversity) through my career.
I consider myself one of those privileged few women in the country who has never faced gender discrimination. I grew up in a home where my parents treated my brother and me as equals. There was no distinction in the way we were brought up, educated or encouraged to pursue our dreams. And when I joined the workplace, I had the good fortune of working in progressive organizations, and found great leadership and mentors who were women. Therefore I never quite recognized the need for participating in “diversity” initiatives. My organization, Sapient, had a Women Leadership Network (WLN) that was formed 5 years ago. But in the initial years, I never bothered to join this volunteer led group, as I used to think that their initiatives were for people who had faced discrimination and who needed mentorship. Looking back at those days, I can only say I was so naïve.
Over the years, I have been exposed to so many conversations on diversity, especially when I joined WLN. It was then that I realized that I could play a much larger role to help other women and men address unconscious biases that have been harbored for many years. How do we as women help our own gender? How do we get men to be EQUAL participants in the conversations and actions? How can organizations develop frameworks and policies that further the mindset of diversity and inclusion? How do we help women hone their craft and provide them platforms for exposure in the industry? These are conversations that I love to have today. These initiatives make me realize that as a privileged one, how can I help others enjoy the same level of freedom and empowerment that I have had.
Today if you ever log in to any social media platform, you will see the world going through a difficult time. The power of voice that social has given, has also become a threat to free speech. A differing point of view is slammed down, every word is dissected and every voice of disagreement is met with so much antagonism. In such an environment, the need for inclusivity has never been stronger, as marginalizing different opinions and thoughts only make us more regressive. If you remember your school days of debate- there was always an argument and a counter argument. That’s what made a debate healthy. Diversity in gender, in ethnicity, in sexual orientation bring forth perspectives that enrich lives and enhance organizations’ capabilities.
There was a funny anecdote I had heard from a colleague once. They were a team of 8 men who went to pitch for the global account of a women haircare and makeup brand. The client looked at them incredulously and asked, you men want to help us sell women products and you have no women in your team? Here is one small instance of how important diversity is, in business conversations.
To sum it up, I’d say diversity shouldn’t be a “cause”. Diversity should be a way of life. Break the boundaries of your own mind, seek out people who are not like you and see how those conversations enrich your life.
About Neha Pathak
Neha Pathak has over 12 years of experience and has worked with organization like 20:20 MEDIA & IBM Daksh . Neha holds a Post Graduate Diploma, Relations and Corporate Communications from Xavier Institute of Communications, Mumbai.