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).