India Inc Goes for Gender-Neutral Policy

MUMBAI: Times of India reported that as India Inc evolves and becomes gender sensitive, the “male model of ambition” is gradually being given a quiet burial. Most organizations have begun to operate on a gender-neutral policy at work, where assessment is based on results and not on an employee’s ability to put in long hours with high mobility factor. Traditionally, such factors have posed a positive bias towards male employees, putting women at a disadvantage.

Similarly, women employees who take career breaks are now returning back to work with compensations benchmarked on the years of experience and achievement and not the year they graduated in.

On their return from maternity leave, most organizations are appraising women for the time spent at work rather than looking at the number of months they have stayed away.

The concept of following gender-neutral policy has gathered momentum. Although a larger number of companies are pushing on the diversity initiative across levels with specific emphasis on hiring more women, the effort is aimed at correcting the gender imbalance that currently exists in the system. “I believe that the so-called ‘male model’ is overrated and clearly not one that serves the purpose of most corporations’ business outcomes. We have adequate examples of businesses run on the ‘male model’ failing in times of market adversity and unable to bounce back successfully. In fact, more and more men are seeking work life balance and are open to the notion of a policy that provides both genders opportunities to balance work and personal/family life,” said Cecy Kuruvilla, global director (leadership development/diversity), Sodexo Remote Sites & Asia-Australia (AMECAA).

At Sodexo, initiatives that are aimed at ensuring involvement of disadvantaged groups end up being of benefit to all employees. For instance, mentoring and flexibility initiatives at Sodexo, both of which were initially developed keeping women’s needs in mind were later found to be useful across both genders.

Experts in the space of recruitment are advising companies to adopt genderneutral policies. “As organizations strive to improve diversity at various levels, it is imperative that they adopt gender-neutral policies which deal with unconscious bias rather than positive discrimination in the form of quotas, etc, as the latter can further harm perceptions relating to diversity,” said Tulika Tripathi, MD, PageGroup, India, a specialist recruitment firm.

“Traditionally, organizations have unconsciously followed a ‘male model’ of ambition defined by anytime /anywhere, i.e. high mobility and ability to work long hours. A gender neutral approach would measure this on delivery of results rather than hours put in or mobility. Similarly, a gender neutral model does not define career paths as linear but rather accounts for career breaks. As a result, this model compares like for like, i.e. benchmark women employees coming back after a break, on the basis of the years of experience/ achievements rather than look at the batch year in which they graduated,” said Tripathi.

At Apollo Munich, women employees who go on maternity leave, can expect to get a higher grade during the appraisal period based on their performance during the appraisal period. “Our performance appraisal system is transparent in rewarding performance based on results delivered and not on time spent at or away from the workplace. In fact, during this year’s appraisal process, as a result of the positive feedback garnered from their immediate reporting heads, some of the previously mentioned women employees were promoted to the next grade in our management hierarchy,” said Sriharsha Achar, chief people officer, Apollo Munich Health Insurance.

In the past 12 months, Apollo Munich Health Insurance has had several women employees who have availed of maternity leaves—paid and extended (unpaid) periods, of over six months at the least—to be with their newborns . Upon their return to the workplace, there was no hesitation from the management to place them back into their previous posts.

Gender neutrality describes the notion that companies should avoid distinguishing people by their gender, in order to avoid discrimination . “In today’s corporate culture where more and more women in the workplace are competing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts, it is imperative that organizations follow this principle in letter and spirit as there are no roles in the corporate sector for which one gender is more suited than the other,” said Achar.

Sodexo found that companies that pursue a path of mindset change that is more inclusive in its approach and committed to gender equity, gender balance and diversity as a good business practice will also retain the best talent from both genders.

(Times of India)



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