Gender Diversity must be Built into the Corporate Culture and Embraced by Everyone
Srihari Gopinath has been in various sales and marketing roles in the technology and media industries in the past two decades. Currently, he is leading the marketing efforts for Aruba, a network solutions provider within the Hewlett Packard Enterprise enabling companies to make use of mobile devices in Asia Pacific and Japan.
He is very optimistic of the outcomes that can be achieved with the interplay of applications, data, devices, and user experience. As a leader, his focus has been to build strong teams, align resources, and guide actions with a healthy balance of data driven insights and creativity. In this chat with Women Icons Network, he expressed concern about how the covid pandemic has resulted in a gender regressive scenario in terms of gender diversity in the workplace.
At Aruba, Gopinath says, the management believes that they have a duty to their employees and customers in leading the way to a more inclusive and equitable world. “Gender diversity sensitisation starts right from the top, by showing greater openness and making the conscious effort in their day-to-day interactions. Inclusiveness must be an active filter for all business activities, be it in selecting groups for projects, mentoring team members or even in hiring practices,” he says.
Gender diversity must be built into the corporate culture and embraced by everyone in the company, he adds. In addition to driving this change internally, he feels good to see some encouraging progress beyond the corporate walls. As an example of this trend, he talks about several tech companies getting involved in non-profit groups that aim to promote gender diversity or promote women participation in tech, such as Girls Who Code, Technovation Girls, among others.
Citing a 2020 report by McKinsey, he goes on to say that diversity in the workforce equals profitability. The report also indicated, he adds, that gender-diverse companies are 25% more likely to achieve above-average profitability than companies that lack gender diversity. This also aligns with Gopinath’s personal beliefs. “For me, the essence of a gender diverse workplace is that behind every solution or product, is a team of individuals with different outlooks, backgrounds, and experiences that unlocks a new way of looking at the world and solving challenges,” he explains.
In order to bridge existing biases, awareness of micro-discriminatory behaviour or even misconceptions that hinder inclusive practices, it makes sense to engage the men at the workplace in this task, believes Gopinath. He also feels that believing in the cause is only one part of the equation: men must value equality, actively contribute to the conversations, and take concrete actions to achieve it.
He believes that there are several occasions that can play out very differently if the sensibility for equality is always the dominant filter, seemingly trivial things like who you ask for help when the projector does not connect or if you are having connectivity issues, or whose help you seek to organise for team lunch, is likely to have connotations of gender bias that all of us must take responsibility for. If you have cultivated a strong bias for gender equality in thought and action, these instances can become a catalyst for change across teams and will cascade across larger groups too, he goes on to say.
Role of Leaders
Gopinath believes that there are three foundational ways that people in leadership roles can contribute to gender diversity: celebrating differences, creating an environment that allows both men and women to thrive in their careers, and to leverage this diversity to spur innovation and creativity.
“Men in senior positions can also make a difference by identifying and advocating female role models and taking informed actions needed to ensure they can move up the career ladder,” he exhorts. Having the emotional intelligence to perceive how our individual actions may be interpreted is key here, he adds.
Inclusion and job performance go hand in hand, he asserts. The broader the set of skills and perspectives an organisation can draw from its female colleagues, the greater the chance of elevating their relevancy and achieving breakthroughs. “Our customers are diverse, so should our team,” he reasons.
He says that as the new normal of the pandemic continues, organisations must also lead the way in prioritising their most important asset – employees. “COVID-19 posed significant business challenges and uprooted the traditional workplace environment. Today, leaders and management teams are focusing on providing more flexible work arrangements for their employees and reorienting their thinking to improve safety, collaboration requirements, physical and emotional well-being of their most valuable resource,” says Gopinath.
He believes that this hybrid work environment is creating greater empathy on the fine balance needed to be successful at managing personal and professional responsibilities, without compromising one or the other. While there are different dimensions to supporting teams during this period of uncertainty, another critical aspect is workplace flexibility for moms and dads, he points out. “Providing them the support and resources that are designed to balance professional and personal life also inspire them to become more innovative and productive at work,” he says.
He believes that advancing the gender equality agenda will be more important than ever and will become an increasingly prominent aspect of organisational culture in the coming years. However, balancing it with the pandemic-induced business recovery plans will be challenging for management teams.
“As a company, we succeed when we innovate for our customers – which takes listening, empathy and understanding. I strive to create that same environment for my teams so they can have opportunities that will allow them to explore their full potential, irrespective of the gender of the employees,” shares Gopinath.
He is proud of the fact the HPE has earned a 100% score in the latest Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index 2021 and in the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index 2021. He is especially pleased with the ‘Ready Now!’ program designed to help female HPE executives seek out and obtain seats on corporate boards of directors. They have also won honours like Fortune Best Workplace for Women in the US, one of the 100 Best Companies and secured the second rank on the list of Best Workplaces for Dads by Working Mother.
For Aruba, creating an inclusive work environment is more than just a tick of the box activity – it is a business imperative. Last year, HPE’s CEO Antonio Neri announced the company’s intention to launch a global HPE Inclusion and Diversity Council. “Our diversity representation figures published annually in the Living Progress Report builds on our commitment to transparency in this area,” he informs.