I lead a large team in a premier Indian IT organization. A core part of my job is to supervise a talented, diverse group of employees and manage their expectations, their work and, most importantly, their aspirations. I have been quite aghast at times to see blatant discrimination based on gender – be it in performance reviews or when it comes to the picking order for visas!
While I have tried my best, the systems in place bestow the powers in specific hands, who have outdone me, quite a few times. The argument (off record, of course) stands at– “Why should we initiate visa processing (US H1B work visas) for ‘HER’? She is of ‘marriageable’ age and eventually will have restrictions to travel. So why ‘waste’ a visa slot?”! A fuming me tries to explain,“She is better than anyone at work within her skillset and deserves the opportunity. Also, she is committed to traveling if her visa is processed.”But, my words fall on deaf ears.
The prejudicecan be attributed toa patriarchal society that we have inherited. We are unable to set aside preconceived notions about what a man and a woman can do, at work and home. The rules apply differently for women in our society. So much so, that women employees aren’t even viewed as assets in the corporate world.
Making A Difference
Men, like me, in decision making positions need to rise above such notions and bring a visible, lasting and permeable change in our areas of influence. Having worked with a diverse group of professionals, I have found women to be as capable as men. At times, I find them more adept at handling difficult situations due to a superior emotional quotient.
Through small changes in my management style, I have made sure that women in my team have afair opportunity to thrive and keep their careers on track. As a senior leader, a work policy I adopt is flexibility to manage personal commitments with work responsibilities. By providing options such as work from home, extended maternity, part-time work for six months or a year and so on, I have retained talented women on my team. In individual cases, I have tried to ensure that transient situations of personal commitments are supported sensitively.
What I do keep a watch on, though, is to ensure that within my team there are no silos created that sideline any individual or group of people. Merit and skill based project assignments that encourage ownership, innovation and initiatives ensure that everyone has an equal shot at success.
I have always believed that diversity brings with it different abilities, skills, ideas, knowledge and experiences. It is then a matter of harnessing the strengths of each individual, minus the gender filter. As a leader, you want to create a highly effective team. And the way I see it, women are an indispensable part of that equation. We need to recognize that beyond just Women’s Day.