MUMBAI: As Ratan Tata prepares to hang up his boots at Bombay House, the chairman of the 120-company Tata Group is trying to fix one glaring chink in the conglomerate’s armoury – the sheer lack of women in leadership positions and across the workforce as well.
With the sprinkling of young talent across frontline group companies virtually complete – which culminated in the appointment of 43-year-old Cyrus Mistry as successor to Tata when the latter retires in December 2012 – the stage is now set for focusing on gender diversity. At various companies across the group – big and small – young women are being handpicked to be groomed for leadership roles.
The Tata Group is known for many firsts and feats; gender diversity isn’t one of them, what with Simone Tata, chairperson of Trent, being the only head of a significant Tata operation. Now Tata himself is leading the drive to motivate women to take up tougher operational jobs – in areas such as engineering, traditionally the sole preserve of men – to hone their leadership skills. Tata also wants more gender diversity in the group’s management cadre, especially at the board level, say officials close to the initiative.
The efforts – the intensity of which varies from company to company – are beginning to yield results. At software services giant TCS, for instance, the percentage of women in the workforce is as high as 30.3%, and women occupy 11% of senior management positions. One of the women in that elite group is Ritu Anand, vice-president and deputy global head of HR, who heads the global talent management function at TCS.
Anand oversees some 200,000 people worldwide and is responsible for compensation and benefits, company policies, career, performance and leadership management.
TCS’ focus on diversity is not restricted to domestic shores. With outposts in some 42 countries, the IT services major is keen to have women leaders in other geographies too. Like Deborah Hadwen, who was appointed CEO, TCS Australia & New Zealand, in April 2011. Hadwen has been with TCS since November 2005 as the head of TCS’ banking and financial services business down under.
Another woman making waves overseas is Vijaya Deepti, vice-president and head of global insurance delivery. Deepti has the additional responsibility to grow the insurance business in the UK and Euro zone. Her experience in delivering large-scale transformations enables her to be a business advisor to CXOs of global insurance corporations.
In sharp contrast to TCS, a traditional manufacturing company like Tata Motors has just 3.5% of women in the workforce. But, here too, efforts are being made to raise the number – to 8-10% in the next couple of years. “Women managers have proven to be inclusive by nature,” says a person familiar with the diversity plans at the auto major.
Delna Avari is proof of Tata Motors’ diversity pudding. A former vice-president at Tata Motors (Thailand), Avari is now product head for Tata’s pet project, the ultra low-cost car, the Nano. If Tata’s aim is to get more women into group companies, one of Avari’s missions would be to step up the number of women owning Nanos.
Avari, who began her career with Tata Motors at its UK operations a decade ago, is now in her mid-30s and may be the one to watch out for at the car & truck maker.
Other women in vital roles and companies include Veetika Deoras, a deputy vice-president in charge of brand marketing at Tata Capital, a non-banking finance company; Jia Maheshwari and Amita Thakur Desai, both DGMs at Tata Realty & Infrastructure; and Sohini Iyer, head of business HR at Tata Steel.
“The best thing Tata Realty has done for me is to not treat me any differently from the men. While the group has been extremely supportive, every growth opportunity is based on merit,” says Maheshwari, who is the only woman in Tata Realty’s business development team.
“Several companies in the group are changing their mindsets to hire more women, as studies show a clear linkage of organisational success to employee diversity. And I am sure that in the years ahead, we will have several women at the top leadership level,” adds a senior group official.
Rajesh Dahiya, till recently head of Tata Administrative Services (TAS), points out that the number of women hires has reached 30% in the group’s management development programme. “There is a lot more nurturing of women employees and a support system from the group to ensure they stick around for the long run,” says Dahiya, now president, HR, Axis Bank. “In the next 10 years there will be enough women leaders within the group,” he adds. He also points out that Tata company CEOs have been ensuring that women with leadership qualities get experience in global markets.
Away from the team heads, the Tata Group is also encouraging women to take up jobs traditionally dominated by men, such as those on the shop floor and on assembly lines. For instance, at Tata Motors, the trim line of the Tata World Truck in Jamshedpur is completely managed by women. Still in Jamshedpur, Tata Steel has embarked on a drive to empower women.
Dubbed Tejaswini, the initiative involves training women to undertake physical tasks such as operating dumpers, bulldozers, overhead cranes and locos. Like it does with its male fast-trackers, the group is shifting women managers across sectors. For instance, prior to joining Tata Capital, Deoras worked with consumeroriented Tata businesses such as Tanishq, Titan, Tata Indicom and Tata Teleservices.
There’s room for rotation within companies too. TCS allows flexibility of roles through job rotations across businesses, practices and functions. Unsurprisingly, women are more visible in consumer-facing operations.
(Economic Times Report)