A special piece by Megha Chaturvedi, a passionate storyteller and hobbyist poet who is working with Adfactors PR as a Senior Account Director in its Corporate Reputation practice.
Megha was a part of the PR 30 under 30, 2019 cohort, and wants to be constantly educated by new folks, ideas, stories, hobbies, and places. Megha reads graphic novels and Op-ed articles with equal fervour, and resilience and curiosity are her superpowers.
The remote working model has brought us closer to our colleagues’ lives more than ever. While on the one hand it has shrunk the personal-professional gap, on the other, it has also expanded our limited visibility to other realms of people’s existence beyond glazed corridors.
I remember last year, with the beginning of work-from-home, India Inc. awoke to salute its women employees who, besides showing up and acing challenges at work, also take care of duties at home — unfazed and ‘un-tired’.
The on-going pandemic is both an opportunity and an obligation for organizations to take deliberate and sustained action to further knit gender-neutrality and cultural inclusivity inextricably into their fabric. Let me tell you, this is going to be a comprehensive effort; one that needs intentional action from across.
I won’t deny that business priorities and continuity, health & safety of the employees are the two most critical pieces at the moment; however, creating forums and platforms that drive cultural diversity and gender equality are, to my mind, equally non-negotiable.
Employee resource groups
ERGs are our warriors who keep the clarion call of diversity and equality ringing loud and clear even when immediate priorities keep the top layer busy. In my organization, we had these wonderful colleagues who did a nukadd natak to sharply pronounce the importance of embracing the LGBT community. That session did sensitize us to the subtle biases this community has to face.
ERGs, when comprised of colleagues from various backgrounds, will bring out the finer nuances of the cultural dough. In addition, amidst a crisis, these groups can help to relieve employee fears, bring calm, and maintain productivity during challenging times.
Create opportunities for connections
We don’t need ‘International’ days to recognize what some of us may be facing, or the need to foster inclusion. Regular interventions and conversations bring out a sense of value and belonging, and aid to the cognizance of any bias. I know of some organizations that have doubled the frequency of their organization-wide town halls through newly introduced events as check-ins, etc. In addition, smaller business units devising their engagement styles and one-on-one conversations can also help gauge the pulse.
The only thing that we must bear in mind is, it shouldn’t be overwhelming on employees’ time beyond work hours.
Understand how gender bias may show up
Gender bias often creeps in silent, invisible ways in the form of insensitive comments, passive-aggressive behavior, questioning a colleague’s capacity and intent. Showing empathy for working parents by checking in with them, offering flexibility or pushing back deadlines, and, most of all, showing grace when children of any employees interrupt video meetings. Oftentimes, talking to them beyond work and lending them an ear is a small step with a giant positive impact.
Companies that are lucky enough to effectively see employees through this uncertainty will have put practices in place that align with the larger goal. Working alongside in-house teams or experts will lend a structured approach to the program, and should be considered.
Let’s make cultural diversity a baton that’s a responsibility of every employee to carry with grace and grit.
It’s a win-win.