A new report on diversity and inclusion in the workforce covering the APAC (Asia Pacific) market has revealed that women-focused initiatives dominate D&I programs in India. In contrast, programs focused on race, ethnicity, and LGBTQ engagement, are still at a nascent stage in the country, as found by the study.
For this report, consulting firm Heidrick & Struggles conducted a study across 141 companies in Asia, where the D&I programs focused on three key areas: women in leadership, race and ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
“While half of the APAC-based respondents focus their firm’s D&I programs on race (56%) and sexual orientation (42%), the vast majority–89%–focus on programs that aim at empowering women to join leadership positions,” the report states.
The India story
In India, where female infanticide and foetal selection is rampant, World Bank has found that women’s workforce participation is an abysmal 27%. The D&I report attributes this to cultural factors, access to health care, and lack of flexible working opportunities.
However, the silver lining is that leaders in APAC region are becoming increasingly receptive to the fact that D&I improves financial performance. Gauri Padmanabhan, Partner, Heidrick&Struggles, says, “Thanks to the growing involvement of leaders committed to creating a more inclusive work environment, we are seeing a growing trend of more women becoming equipped with the latest technology skill sets. This indicates an increasing number of women in India are entering a space which was commonly seen as a male-dominated domain.”
However, she added that Indian businesses will need to widen the scope of D&I with the objective of including the LGBTQ community and differently-abled people. “Tackling gender disparity in India is currently the foremost concern, given our cultural norms. But as women break barriers and step forward in every area, we will gradually be able to create pathways for inclusion of other communities. And this will indeed be welcome progress,” she has said.
Peculiarities of APAC
The Asia Pacific, which accommodates 60% of the world’s population, is also home to some of youngest working-age populations in the world, such as Bangladesh and the Philippines, alongside some of the oldest, such as Japan and South Korea. The survey reveals that although more than 40% of companies in APAC have an LGBTQ inclusion program, respondents under 50 years old were more appreciative of D&I efforts than older respondents. The study also found Australia to be APAC’s most advanced market for developing D&I programmes.
However, India has beaten the rest of APAC region with its higher-than-average share of women with artificial intelligence (AI) skill sets: 27%. The Global Gender Gap Report 2018 by World Economic Forum had also found that AI talent is most prominent in the US, closely followed by India and Germany.
Although a recent study had pointed out that women in senior management positions are few, there is hope yet for female presence in the boardroom of Indian companies. Notably, in May 2018, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) mandated listen companies to have six independent directors on the board and that at least one of the six should be a woman.