Minister of State, Social Justice & Empowerment exhorts industry to scale-up initiatives in workplace inclusion

New Delhi :Addressing the first “Diversity and Inclusion Conclave” organised by FICCIMr Ramdas Athawale, Minister of State of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India, said, “we need to make avenues for each individual to flourish and create many more success stories, to realise the benefits of diversity of inclusion”. 

The minister added that PM Shri Narendra Modi led government is leaving no stone unturned to ensure marginalised sections get included in the mainstream economy and exhorted corporate India to work with the disadvantaged community, especially in workplace inclusion and sustainable livelihoods.

Speaking on occasion, Mr Suhas Lalinakere Yathiraj, District Magistrate of Gautam Buddha Nagar, enthused the audience to stop worrying about their disabilities. “If you have got something different, the real challenge is to overcome worry”, he said and added that “the challenge is to pursue truth and embrace what we have”.

Addressing an audience question on improving the competitiveness of the marginalised and vulnerable sections, Mr Yathiraj said that it is essential to ensure ‘equality of opportunity’. “The society should ensure equality of opportunity; it is up to the individual to determine whether the outcome will be equal or diverse”, he said.

In his welcome remarks, Mr Sanjiv Mehta, President, FICCI and CEO & Managing Director, Hindustan Unilever Limited, President, Unilever South Asia & Member, Unilever Leadership Executive (Global Executive Board), said that many corporates in India now recognise that D&I efforts are not just good corporate policy but have real economic and business impact. “There is clear evidence that companies which are more diverse and inclusive have better financial performance”, he said.

Mr Mehta shared a five-point action plan to anchor and boost diversity and inclusion efforts. “Introduce non-discriminatory business policies, offer bias-free and equal working and recruitment opportunities, build accessible workplaces, adopt accessible technology, and ensure accessible content”, he said.

According to Mr Mehta, women account for just 20 per cent of the workforce in India despite being 48 per cent of the population. Further, out of the 26.9 billion people with disabilities in the country, just about a third are employed. In addition, a world bank study posits that discrimination against LGBTQ people in India could cost the country up to USD 32 billion annually in lost economic output. Referring to the vulnerable sections, Mr Mehta said, “whether it is about gender parity, empowering persons with disabilities and inclusion of the LGBTQ plus communities, I urge the private sector to ensure that workplace policies and practices are emphatic in ways that ensure individuals work with dignity, feel included and empowered”. 

A study by Great Place to Work shows that when employees trust they will be treated fairly, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or age, they are 9.8 times more likely to look forward to going to work. Further, such employees are 6.3 times more likely to have pride in their work and 5.4 times more likely to want to stay longer at the company.

Ms Rekha M. Menon, Chairperson and Senior Managing Director, Accenture India, felt “very optimistic about inclusive growth in India”. She outlined four key trends – India’s demographic opportunity, stakeholder capitalism that pushes for inclusive growth, technology, and the favourable business imperative of having a diverse workforce – that are building a solid case for inclusive growth. She added that organisations are firmly positioned to play a leadership role and immediately impact their businesses and around.  “Businesses can contribute, and they should are contributing by making inclusion a business imperative”, she said; adding that the organisations can also drive impact by supporting the ecosystem and value chains and collaborating for initiatives to create inclusive societal impact.

Speaking about, her organisation, Ms Menon said we measure our success not just by our financial results but by creating 360-degree value for all our stakeholders. She added that Accenture will have gender parity by 2035. “I’m very pleased to say that right now, women are 47% of our workforce, globally and in India”, Ms Menon added.

Keshav Suri, Co-Chair, FICCI Task Force on D&I, Executive Director, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group and Founder, The Keshav Suri Foundation, said that inclusion and diversity need to be touched, felt and seen. “When people see somebody from their community, a feeling of oneness comes in”, he said while adding that “I don’t think that could be bad for business”.

In her closing remarks, Dr Jyotsna Suri, Past President FICCI, Mentor, FICCI Task Force on D&I and Chairperson and CMD, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, said the challenges of the vulnerable sections: women, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ plus community, are enormous. She added that everyone, whether the government or the industry, must get together to create an ecosystem that allows vulnerable sections to live and work with dignity and contribute to society. “Diversity and inclusion is not about compliance; it is about commitment”, she added.

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