Research indicates that building gender-inclusive workplaces unlocks greater prosperity, heightens resilience, and boosts socio-economic progress. As the benefits of gender diversity become ever more apparent, companies are working to close the gender gap and reap the rewards of equal representation of men and women across their organisations.
While women have made significant strides in the workplace, a workforce that is gender-balanced is still a work in progress. The need for gender parity is a global phenomenon and not unique to India. As companies revisit their talent and people strategy, it is imperative for companies to make concerted efforts to strengthen their diversity and inclusion agenda, bringing more women across levels to create strong role models.
In an interview with People Matters Roshni Wadhwa, Director - Human Resources, L’Oréal India, said that organisations need to create not only inclusion-enabling policies but also ensure that the philosophy is assimilated and internalised by key stakeholders. Roshni is responsible for the organisation’s HR strategy, focusing on leadership, talent and culture. She joined L'Oréal as GM - HR for the Consumer Products Division, before being promoted as Country HR Director of L’Oréal Singapore in 2015. She returned to India in 2017 as Director - Human Resources. Edited excerpts:
Do you see a shift in outlook towards DEI from the right thing to do to a business imperative? What are your thoughts on making DEI more impactful across the business?
Organisations can succeed only if they treat DEI as a business and strategic priority. Specifically, companies need clear metrics on recruitment, retention, advancement, representation, and equal pay of women. Across all these five areas, they need to focus on the right interventions and measure their progress over time. Most importantly, the leadership team must be committed and accountable for results. Given the performance improvements that a balanced workforce can create, gender diversity is not simply an HR priority; it’s a board-level priority.
With the pace of change still slow, how can organisations better balance the needs of underrepresented communities across access to employment, mental healthcare, career growth, and cultural inclusion?
In order to become a truly diverse and inclusive workplace, organisations must not just create enabling policies but also ensure that the philosophy is assimilated and internalised by key stakeholders. What organisations need to focus on is to be more employee-centric and build a cohesive ecosystem that is supportive to employees of all backgrounds and their various needs. Beyond this, we also need to nurture sensitivity, awareness, address biases and make shifts in mindsets to create a progressive workspace.
For example, an organisation might have appropriate policies in place, but there could be prevalent unconscious biases or a lack of support mechanisms that limit true equality or equal access to opportunities. As we move towards new ways of working, organisations need to regularly conduct sessions on ‘unconscious biases’ for managers and help employees fulfil their growth aspirations, express their challenges without feeling scrutinised or stigmatised.
How do you see the role of managers in solidifying inclusion? How essential is manager sensitisation to enabling sustainable inclusion?
An inclusive environment is created and fostered by the behavior of individuals-leaders, managers, and employees. That is why organisations must ensure that people managers across levels undertake relevant training and learning & development programs on modules such as removing unconscious bias, eliminating micro-aggressions, encouraging diverse perspectives, and consistently responding in ways that build on inclusion.
When it comes to recruitment, to drive diversity and inclusion, hiring managers must be certified before they can interview a candidate or weigh in on a hiring decision. Managers must be trained to go into interviews with well-aligned, objective hiring criteria, awareness of biases, respect for diverse perspectives, and a much better decision-making process.
We have seen a direct result of this training. Our teams across functions are led by people managers who act thoughtfully and with compassion to build their teams that have strong connections and encourage every single team member to realise their full potential and thrive.
With a multi-generational workforce working in a hybrid environment, how is your organisation enabling an ecosystem of empathy, inclusion, collaboration?
At L’Oréal India, diversity, equity, and inclusion are not just moral imperatives, they are integral to our mission to create the beauty that moves the world. To elevate the diversity of thought, generations in the workplace are truly important. If we hope to provide unique beauty to every individual across the world, we are going to need a variety of perspectives and approaches.
We build an ecosystem of empathy, inclusion, and collaboration among our colleagues of all ages in the following ways:
We create age-diverse opportunities for employees to interact: This could be through diverse teams, cross-functional task forces aimed at solving business or organisational issues, etc.
Equal learning and development opportunities for all: We ensure that all employees receive similar levels of learning and development opportunities. For example, we held the Digital Upskilling Series, spread over 3 months that provided bite-sized learnings on Data Analytics, Digital Marketing, Technology/tools, and eCommerce. This initiative turned out to be a strong milestone with more than 3500 hours of digital learning.
Foster reciprocal mentoring opportunities: At L’Oréal India, our younger colleagues mentor senior colleagues and vice versa.
Policies & practices supportive of senior colleagues: We invest in a culture that values employees of all ages. To support older employees, we provide the opportunity to work flexibly, phased-out retirement support, financial planning, and health benefits.
To gender diversity, how do you see the role of men in enabling and accelerating gender equity?
Creating an inclusive workplace requires participation by both men and women. This truly is a gender-agnostic issue and businesses can help advance gender equality by shifting individual behavior, committing to inclusive organisations, and using their external influence to shape new social norms.
Most importantly, for an impactful change, companies will have to complement actions that support individual shifts in attitudes with broader, organisational commitments that enable equality and inclusion to thrive. Doing this well requires that leaders clearly articulate how gender equality is core to the organisation’s overall strategy and future direction, and actively support efforts on strategic, cultural, and policy levels.