This year on Women’s Day through SheMatters, we want to challenge the mindset, notions, practices, and biases to help create equitable workplaces. She Matters, which aims at enabling organizations to help their women employees to thrive and be empowered at work.
In this first episode of the She Matters video series, we reflect upon what are some key and impactful practices of EY GDS that are helping the company to get more women in the workforce and creating a gender-balanced workplace.
Here is a key excerpt from the interview:
Anushree: Talking about a gender-inclusive workplace. What’s more critical– equality or equity?
Mary Elizabeth Porray: Now, it's a great question. And I want to first say that at EY, inclusiveness and diversity are not a question. It's a given. It's not nice to have, it's imperative for us. And it's something that we feel so strongly about. This past year, our global executive, which is an EY board has signed an EY diversity and inclusion statement, which underscores our focus on diversity and inclusiveness. I also have the pleasure of serving on our global diversity and inclusiveness Steering Committee, which is made up of a diverse group of senior partners around the world. And one of the things that's great about that group is that we are extremely focused not on talk, but on the action. And so, each of us has pledged, that we will individually and collectively act to make sure that there was more inclusiveness in the workplace. And so with regards to equality and equity, I mean, both need to be there, right? We have a collective commitment to foster an environment where we value our differences, and where we practice equitable experiences which help our people have a sense of belonging. That sense of belonging is where our people are inspired, they feel that they can be their true selves and that they can move forward in their interactions on a day-to-day basis.
Anushree: Thanks, Mary Elizabeth. So how important it is to have the right recruitment strategy in place to have a more gender-balanced workplace?
Mary Elizabeth Porray: Recruiting is a very important part of how we get to more of a balanced workforce. I will first tell you that we're doing a fantastic job with the balance of our workforce when it comes to recruiting. And that's something that is absolutely important for us. One of the things that we need to do is we need to work with the pipeline that we have of females in our workforce.
One of the ways that we can have a more balanced workforce is to hire more women and one of the ways that we can attract these women is to make sure that we're thinking about their needs. Sometimes women have different needs than men. And so one of the ways that we do we think about that is different parts of flexibility that we may need that speaks to women providing on ramps and off ramps, for example, providing flexible ways of working. And one of the most exciting things I think that's happened this year is due to the pandemic, one of the best silver linings is that I think we'll be able to attract more women to the workforce because flexibility is here to stay.
Sreesukhi Sudarshan: Do we need a recruitment strategy? Yes, we do need a recruitment strategy. And as Mary Elizabeth said, for us, that why it's imperative, it is not one of the targets or the numbers that we want to achieve and then show it to the world. Right, we just definitely look at our workforce as more inclusive, more equal. And for that to bring in, we do need a strategy.
Anushree: Sukhi, you are leading the recruitment at EY GDS, if I may ask you, what were the challenges for EY GDS when it came to winning the fight–hiring more female talent in the organization?
Sreesukhi Sudarshan: Within the organization, there is absolutely no fight. Everybody is very clear that what is the kind of workforce we want, right for the organization– we have to attract women.
What's that winning fight we want to do is all we're currently facing is bringing the right quality. We don't want to compromise on the quality.
And as women, all of us over here would definitely want to be credited for who we are than getting anything for being a woman or being what gender we are in. And that's what our focus is. So how do I bring in a pipeline of equality in the agenda? If I have five good quality male candidates, can I also have five good quality female candidates to increase my probability of hiring? So that's, the constant focus, for us to bring in quality and equality.
Anushree: Interesting, so what all initiatives and strategies you and your team devised to get more women in the workforce? Can you throw some light on how it differs for different job levels?
Sreesukhi Sudarshan: Quite a lot. I think as an organization EY, it's quite natural for us as a part of our culture and a lot of initiatives that we have.
To start with, we have something called Rewrite which focuses on the talent who have to take a sabbatical or a break in their career. As a part of this program, we connect with them proactively and bring them back and help them rewrite their career and fill the gap they took during the sabbatical.
We have another focus program called Reinstate wherein we go ahead and look for women employees who have the passion to be a part of the workforce, and train them on the skill. We are not looking at their past experience, we are not looking at what skills they have, but provide them that training and skill them with the latest digital technologies for six months, and then make them really valuable in the market and finally hire them.
We have another program that enhances flexibility at work. We have a GigNow program, where we hire them and offer them an option to work part-time or on a project basis or want to work full time.
Mary Elizabeth Porray: I think one other thing that we have done is we've activated our alumni network. And so, we have launched an alumni network. There are some women that may have opted out of their career for family reasons, or for personal reasons. And we want to reach back out to them to say the way that you may have been working with us previously isn't how we work today. And so we've really initiated an alumni program to welcome people back to the EY family if their situation has changed, or if we can change how they can do their job. So some of them would enter through the gig economy, which Sukhi just talked about. And some of them have been also taking up full-time positions, being flexible working from home. And so that's been extremely encouraging to see for us.
Anushree: Mary Elizabeth, you have been with EY GDS for over a decade now and have been leading teams in different geographies. How have you seen the growth in women’s representation in the workforce? What do you think the company is doing right to move the needle in the right direction?
Mary Elizabeth Porray: I've been with EY for now 24 years and I've seen it through the whole entire system. One of the ways that we really helped women in the workforce is through the entire supply chain, i.e. from interview to being promoted to become a partner and becoming alumni themselves. There are a lot of purposeful development programs that happen in between this employee lifecycle. However, I would like to highlight the fact that one of the things that most helped women in the workforce is men. And hence there's a lot of things that we need to do for men to make sure that they're helping our women in terms of development in terms of recruiting in terms of retention.
One of the things that we're really focused on is our D&I committee at GDS, and they meet often. And that committee is composed of people with different ranks and levels which help us capture the perspective of what people are thinking and what can we do to help them.
Anushree: That’s wonderful, Mary Elizabeth. That’s a great key takeaway for our viewers looking to solve this challenge.
Sukhi, getting back to recruitment, what are some of the blind spots in the recruitment strategy that can hamper its ability to attract the best and brightest talent and how it may affect the representation of women at work?
Sreesukhi Sudarshan: We all carry bias which consciously we are not even aware of, however, it gets in a way to attracting the right talent. I've been in recruitment for 25 years and in all those years, I have come across the fact that your job descriptions can attract or drive quality candidates away. Why I’m saying that is because of the way we articulate a role and the way we frame our sentences. There are a few words that are considered masculine and unconsciously women do not get attracted to these words and hence, do not apply for these roles. So how can organizations, consciously look at these simple small things, but yet has a high impact and showcase that we are very neutral?
At EY, we have developed our own tool and we call it blue pencil. We take every JD through that tool to ensure that the job description is gender-neutral and make sure we aren’t being biased towards any gender.
Another issue is pay equity. For a long time, men have been paid more than women and most organizations continue to do so. So, we have been actively been able to correct it!