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Social Change Series: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion amidst a Pandemic

Blog: NASSCOM Official Blog

This article part of the social change series zooms in on diversity and inclusion in the tech sector, and new opportunities for some, alongside the challenges for many. It goes on to cover how companies can create a sense of inclusion in a remote working world, and gives examples of ThoughtWorks’ approach. 

Contributors:  Tina Vinod | Sudhir Tiwari

Empathy & transparency win

The leaders that stood out, whose approach to the pandemic has been exceptional, are those who lead with truth, empathy, humility, inclusion, collaboration, transparency and decisiveness. Some men have been successful, but the stand-out stars are women. Jacinda Ardern. Angela Merkel. Tsai Ing-Wen. Katrín Jakobsdóttir. Sanna Marin. Erna Solberg.

It’s clear that a post COVID world needs compassionate and decisive leadership. In business, among other things, this means leadership that recognizes the potential of diverse talent and understands its implications on inclusion and culture. Leadership that sees diversity as a strategic capability.

‘Work from anywhere’ is far from utopia  

As offices emptied themselves into homes, our always-connected and online world witnessed a blurring of boundaries between work and personal life.

This transition has given rise to many challenges (as discussed in Part II) including the lack of private spaces, usual child-care and support, efficient internet connections and the necessary work from home equipment. There are many for whom ‘home’ is not a safe space, given the rise in domestic violence [1] and LGBTQ+ suicides [2] across the world during lockdown.

These challenges, combined with COVID-related anxiety, have piled stress on relationships, affected mental and physical health, and begun to impact work. Simply having a wider view of a workforce’s varied experiences and contexts puts organizations in a position to help alleviate some of the issues. Understanding who is caring for children, or living with vulnerable people is key.

Some of the actions we took at ThoughtWorks include:

A pathway to a diverse talent pool 

‘Work from anywhere’ can become the chance for people from marginalized sections of society to have opportunities that were not available or considered before.

Talent that can be employed from anywhere and deliver remotely includes many groups who were previously excluded from commuter and office-based roles. People with disabilities, people from remote or rural areas, home-makers and trailing spouses, people from the LGBTQ+ community or those unable to commute to work; people from some of the most underrepresented groups in the workforce.

Differently-abled employees can take advantage of inclusive apps with features like text to speech, screen reading and speech recognition. There is also the option of apps and software that provide noise cancellation or translation where needed.

Welcoming people with open (virtual) arms is not enough. A diverse, but distant workforce needs work from home policies reframed, best practices reviewed, bias examined, sensitisation and much more –

Leading from afar  

A diverse workforce can be productive only with the right kind of leadership, else it becomes a box ticking exercise. One of the key challenges of remote leadership is the lack of social connection.

In the tech and knowledge work sector, where ‘work from anywhere’ could be a practical, long-term option, leaders should ask themselves these questions about remote work:

Here are a few steps that ThoughtWorks has taken to foster a culture of inclusion and belonging in our current ‘work from anywhere’ context:

Accountable beyond your ‘walls’ 

In the recent Case for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 4.0 [3] (World Economic Forum, June 2020) the moral, legal and economic responsibilities of organizations have been called out. The report highlights the need for businesses to take greater accountability not just for the impact they have on their employees but also on the broader communities in which they operate and serve, working towards positive social change and equity for all.

This is a time to integrate diversity, inclusion and equity practices in all aspects of the workplace and our society – we should not let this opportunity pass. The time of COVID-19 has been difficult for all, but the lessons learned can, and should, set us on course for a more equitable & inclusive future.

The post Social Change Series: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion amidst a Pandemic appeared first on NASSCOM Community |The Official Community of Indian IT Industry.

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