Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Not just nurturing...rooting for gender diversity!!

A couple of weeks back a young and upcoming leader at the mid management level in my organization did something that most people would probably hesitate doing – she wrote to the CEO, myself and a group of senior leaders in the company about a personal experience very close to her heart.

Her note referred to International Women’s Day and started off talking about all the media hype around the event, which tends to focus on the position of women today, workplace issues etc. …. with an underlying tone of the need for being treated equal. Probably like most of the others marked on the mail, I assumed this was either a congratulatory note to to applaud our gender diversity efforts or she was suggesting new ways to beef it up further.

But the note wasn’t about that. It was about sharing a very personal experience she had going back eight years and what it meant for her!! She referred to the time she was called for an interview with Genpact and how she was convinced she'd be rejected at the first level – why? Because of her 8 month baby bump! To her amazement her experience was very different… and I quote: “To my surprise, my impending motherhood did not deter the hiring team from taking me on… they were focused on the capability that I would bring to the organization! I have come to realize that in our organization, opportunities are assigned always based on capability." She then went on to describe how our flexible culture and meritocracy driven environment has played a significant role in her staying on with the company and how many people probably take this culture for granted.

Her note, while flattering to the culture we have fostered and built, also made a very important point – the fact that many women assume that pregnancy and motherhood comes in the way of building a career -- ironic since she was actually starting the journey of a long fruitful career during her pregnancy.

The question in my mind has always been how do you create and sustain an environment where you can tap the best talent available, drive a strong performance culture, allow people to dream and attain their full potential over time and yet be able to allow them to go through life’s many milestones. We're obviously doing something that's working that must be replicated sustained and encouraged everywhere in the world.

All of us in our leadership roles in organizations strive for business performance that’s admired by our stakeholders, customers, investors, employees etc. We drive hard to find a motivated workforce... but in the end it’s the fact that we can actually create an environment that makes one write what she wrote, allow her to fulfill her ambition while going through other pulls and pressures of life...is what makes everything else pale into insignificance in comparison. WWish we could all create more environments across the world like this!!!