Appreciating Diversity, Corporate Style – Guest Post by Anonymous

Guest Post by Anonymous

A senior leader of India’s leading IT Services Company took a moment on March 8th to send a note to his colleagues wishing them on International Women’s Day.  In the mailer, he also exhorted his colleagues, among other things, to strive towards building an environment that appreciates variety. The variety of Race, Ethnicity, Gender or Generation! He did not stop there, but went on to talk about drawing strength from these differences. Caste, quite evidently, is conspicuous by its absence in the corporate discourse on diversity (or variety as they also like to call it).

What is it that makes Corporate India, or a part of it, sensitive towards race issues/matters on one hand but allows them ignore caste on the other? Is it reflective of what a social activist friend once mentioned to me in a private conversation – Caste is only visible from “down below” and not “up above”?

In my decade and a half long career in IT services industry, I have found it to be hopelessly upper-caste dominated. Campuses full of young and not-so-young professionals who sincerly believe that they have made it big on sheer “merit”. One can find himself/herself cornered at slightest attempt to defend reservation policy over lunch table conversations or plainly outnumbered in speaking against “fair complexion preferred” sort of matrimonial alliances on the company bulletin boards.

Leaving aside the “Generation”, which was, perhaps, included for the sake of alliteration or came out of ageing/aged leader’s “kabhi to main jawan tha” moment of realization, “Gender” too in a way has become a relatively innocuous aspect of diversity to be invoked. Who would object to the fantastic idea of increasing women’s presence in IT industry as long as they play the role of “ultimate multi-tasker”? Gels perfectly well with “modernization without modernity” dictum and is palatable to all and sundry. And talking about “Race” and “Ethnicity” aspects of diversity in the context of India (since an overwhelming majority of the Organization’s workforce is Indian or India-based in spite of its global presence) is somewhat like highlighting Sumit Sehgal and Avinash Wadhwan in a discussion over leading men of Bollywood Cinema in the 1990s.

To what extent the leader’s or the Organization’s concern towards race and ethnicity is genuine and to what extent it is borne out of compulsions of doing business in the United States is anybody’s guess. An Indian equivalent of something like Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may stir their interest in considering more “national” dimensions of diversity namely Caste and Religious minorities. Until then we can keep it under the wraps and get back to our call with onsite (or offshore, depending upon what side you are on).

3 thoughts on “Appreciating Diversity, Corporate Style – Guest Post by Anonymous

  1. tu

    IT industry becoming sensitive to gender should be welcomed. Caste is a different issue and why should IT industry be concerned about the caste related issues. In terms of diversity IT industry perhaps is the most diverse if one takes into account all aspects, language, state and age among the employees. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is not the right model in India where there is enormous diversity among groups in terms of caste, religion etc.IT companies recruit employees from campus interviews held across the country and that itself results in diversity among employees at the initial levels.

  2. Sreejith

    I have worked at Technopark, Trivandrum, and my experience there has been quite different. I can’t remember an instance in 5 years and 3 months when religious or caste identity came in as a discussion topic. Most people are not bothered or concerned about it. Although, with some people, the caste and religious identity were evident from their names, I have never seen a discriminatory incident there. Career progression is usually based on your output and demonstration of leadership skills, which are usually measured through elaborate performance management systems. As far as gender diversity is concerned, yes, taking lessons from CIPD (UK) and SHRM (USA), most companies are keen to have women on the workforce. I believe this writer’s experience was an exception rather than usual practice.

    From my perspective, a society where people are oblivious about their sectarian identities, because they’re capable of looking beyond caste/religious affiliations, is the best one. Not one where people have to be asked, instructed or trained to accept equality of castes and religions.

  3. MV

    The comments above that are critical of the writer’s opinion prove the very point that the writer is making. Caste & religion are not to be discussed. And why? Because in their experience, the IT industry is already selecting its employees from campuses that are “diverse” in their opinion, de facto. And in another instance, they should not be discussed, because in their experience, it has never been discussed, or any problem related to it is visible in the workplace. Circular logic is no logic. The point that the writer is making is that the experience of those who actually face these problems are very real, and just because they are invisible to those who never had to face them, or who make them invisible by ignoring or directly suppressing these issues, does not mean that they should not be discussed. The irony is that those who have never faced discrimination on these issues are the ones saying that there is no need for discussion on it, because it does not affect us, and we don’t see it around us. Precisely why caste and religion should be discussed!

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