Canon India: Overcoming Gender Bias

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The tech industry should take up as their responsibility to inspire girls into science and technology. Canon India believes that all employees should feel valued and appreciated in an environment of inclusiveness, says Shikha Rai, Vice President, HR & IT, Canon India in conversation with Elets News Network (ENN).

What efforts are being taken to address the issue of gender bias at Canon India?

Canon India’s vision is “We will be the company that is respected by people. People who work for Canon and those related with it will take pride in their association”. Fair, transparent, equitable systems with no prejudices and biases would make such vision possible. Our endeavour is that all employees should feel valued and appreciated in an environment of inclusiveness.

We believe that to address issues related to mindsets, the change should happen from the top. Leadership support should be visible. This year, the CEO and President of Canon India held a series of lunch meetings with the women employees across all grades and locations to understand the unique challenges that they may be facing and how the company could support their career objectives. We have initiated a programme called WE@Canon (Women Empowerment at Canon) where the senior women leaders are advisors to the CEO to support initiatives that can bring positive change in the organisation’s gender ratio.

Policies and guidelines are being relooked from the lens of gender equity. While we have increased the maternity leaves to 26 weeks, we looked into the appraisal policy and included guideline for the managers on how to appraise those women colleagues who would be on leave for this extended period. Post-maternity transition support has been introduced with flexibility in office timing and part time option.

While hiring, our talent acquisition teams ensure fair representation of women candidates. Our leaders and key managers have gone through a workshop called ‘Fine Balance’ which spoke about how unconscious biases are present in workplaces, impact of stereotyping and also how a diverse workforce makes business sense – leads to better Return of Equity, creative ideation and balanced decision making. We have programmes to address any discrimination or harassment.

Training on Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) is mandated. Workshops are conducted on various topics like work-life balance, how to establish one’s own sense of identity and also to learn from role models. We ensure that the workforce is continuously motivated to engage and evolve through various company activities. Not only at our own offices but efforts towards gender diversity are also extended to our adopted villages. Employees visit the adopted villages under our flagship initiative ‘Adopt a Village’ to interact with girls in the village to educate them about important issues like personal hygiene, significance of sanitation, self-defence, safety and the importance of education.

What is your opinion on women-friendly HR policies in organisations?

I believe that the HR policies need to be fair, transparent and equitable which means that they need to be friendly to all sections of the workforce. If a particular section of the workforce has a unique need, and differential support is required to address it, it should be done. Diverse workforce brings the best results and hence the HR policies should be such that encourage and promote diversity and inclusion.

What are the challenges faced by women in the tech industry?

Engineering colleges still report a lopsided representation of women. The tech industry should take up, as their responsibility to inspire girls into science and technology. Lack of women role models in the tech industry also does not help the cause. The gap expands the higher up one goes, as there are dropouts during the crucial junctures of marriage and child-bearing. These factors also create gender bias at the time of recruitment.

What are your views on “women leaders are driving the tech industry”?

Women are emerging as leaders in every industry including technology. It is interesting to note that technology companies in particular have intensified the push for gender diversity and parity in the past few years. However, challenges of pipeline and retention continue. Today, tech industry should utilise the power of technology to provide options like mobile working, work from home etc. to women who need such support especially during the years when the children are young. Such support during these crucial years will ensure retention and improved chances of women getting to the leadership roles. Studies say that companies with diverse leadership are more successful. Women consistently score higher in emotional intelligence and social sensitivity, which helps them to mould the behaviours and attributes — listening, constructive criticism and open-mindedness — that create healthy team dynamics.

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