Radhika Mehta
Guest Article

Navigating the complex tapestry of DEI in India: A role for leaders and practitioners

Our guest author delves into the hurdles and remedies involved in nurturing diversity, equity, and inclusion within the nation's organisations.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are three buzzwords that become a kaleidoscope when put together. These concepts have gained a steady foothold in organisations, with brands significantly investing in incorporating these cultures. But when I think of India, it's a different story here. DEI is a multifaceted and complex concept in our country.

The tapestry of India's rich social, cultural, and economic heritage makes implementing DEI an arduous task for organisations today. One exciting way to look at it is through the lens of intersectionality, inclusive culture and a strong leadership commitment.

Understanding intersectionality

In the Indian context, the concept of intersectionality goes beyond the commonly discussed categories of race, gender, and sexual orientation. It encompasses a wide array of identities that we as individuals embody, including religion, language, socioeconomic background, and regional heritage. 

These factors influence our experiences at the workplace and present organisations with the complex task of ensuring inclusivity for all. One of the ways we can address or embrace intersectionality is to dismantle the hierarchies in our organisations.

We must go above and beyond to create opportunities for our peers from different backgrounds to access leadership roles, participate in decision-making processes, and contribute their unique perspectives to shape organisational policies and practices.

Promoting inclusivity

Workplaces, especially in India, are grappling with the complexities of diversity brought about by the convergence of multiple generations. Gen Z, millennials, and baby boomers, each with unique perspectives and work styles, present a dynamic yet challenging scenario.

While this diverse mix can foster innovation, it can also lead to potential misunderstanding and discord due to disparate outlooks. Therefore, the risk of alienation and a divided work environment is a significant issue.

The solution to this challenge lies in promoting open dialogue, especially since tech-savvy Gen Z employees prefer transparent and authentic conversations. By fostering such communication via diversity workshops, employee resource groups, and inclusive feedback mechanisms, organisations can break down barriers and foster understanding.

This process helps transform the workplace from merely being diverse to genuinely inclusive, where every employee, regardless of their generational identity, feels valued and can contribute their unique experiences and perspectives.

This brings us to the most essential factor that can help organisations shape their DEI policies.

Strong Leadership Commitment

It sounds obvious but is more complex than it seems. The commitment to DEI must be steadfast, which reflects how leadership conducts itself in the organisation. Today, employees want more than mere lip service.

This implies that leaders should actively champion and advocate diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of the organisation – from hiring practices and promotion policies to resource allocation and decision-making processes.

Ultimately, Gen Z and younger millennials prioritise practicality and tend to interact with brands that resonate with their values and perceptions.

This journey is a long and arduous one. As Communication practitioners, we ought to handhold organisations in their journey to become diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces. After all, the path to DEI in India may be intricate, but the rewards of a more equitable and empowered society are immeasurable.

(Our guest author is Radhika Mehta, National Director, Operations & Growth at Ruder Finn India.)

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