Sumana Iyengar, CEO & Co-Founder, Goavega Software India Pvt Ltd

Sumana is an experienced IT professional, having spent over 23 years in the industry. This includes global experience across the domain, which includes Delivery management, Risk management, operations management to strategic planning and consulting. She has successfully executed several business plans and has a strong business acumen for handling channel management activities. Prior to starting Goavega, she worked in several large MNC’s and product companies. Some of her past stints include Symphony Services Corp India Pvt Ltd, where she served as a director for 6 years. Additionally, she was at AIG (American International Group), Singapore as Assistant Manager from Jun’01 – Apr’04.


One of the many things that the recent pandemic has taught us, is the need to build agile and innovative companies that are not only well prepared to tackle unexpected crisis but also one that can survive and possibly thrive through it all. And this is possible only with a visionary leadership and a robust team of diverse people, at its core.

While diversity and inclusive workplaces have been a subject of corporate conversations for the past few years, their significance and role in building a successful workplace has yet to be properly understood. Women at workplace, both in leadership and executive roles, have displayed tremendous contribution towards the growth and agility of the workplace, while offering an amicable and pleasant work environment.

As per the Egon Zehnder Global Diversity Report 2020, women in India currently comprise 17% board positions in corporate India, an increase of 8.6% since 2012. However, they lag behind when it comes to leadership posts, and only 11% committee chairs are held by women, compared to the 27.3% globally. While there have been several conversations around better representation of women in leadership roles, and equal pay etc., India Inc. has a long way to go, considering the need to focus on the basics like an inclusive and diversified hiring process, and encouraging safe work environment to voice biases and concerns around workplace harassment etc., before moving forward to effective grooming and mentorship program for their women employees.

Here is a list of 4 key people policies that can help accelerate the attempt at building more inclusive workplaces for women, and increasing their visibility in leadership roles:

  1. Cross sectional diversity: The first step towards inclusivity for any organisation is to balance the gender representation across the so called ‘female dominated’ and ‘male dominated’ sections. For example, having a ‘all women’ or ‘majority women’ employees in the HR section, Vs. a male dominated sales and marketing/ tech support section, should be consciously re-looked at. The results will help create a truly diversified fabric of the organisation, helping to eliminate some problems from the roots.
  2. Creating safer work environments: An inclusive workplace is also one which offers safe and respectful work environment, while focusing on equal representation, across departments in the company. The need to create an unbiased, and safe platform for all employees – men, and women, to come forward and raise concerns or report gender based discriminatory behaviour, is vital to preserve diverse work cultures. This will not only help to create a safer and more acceptable work environment for employees but also build a stronger trust and employee loyalty.
  3. Training programs: Another important aspect of employee and company growth, are regular training and mentoring programs. However, a lot of companies create training schedules and modules which may not be suitable for or be difficult for women, automatically depriving them of an important career opportunity to gain knowledge and training. For example, off site trainings and workshops that often stretch over 2-3 days, may be difficult for women employees who have just delivered babies or have additional personal responsibilities. Access to effective training and mentoring, be it online or in person, is a right of every employee and the duty of every company to provide the same to everyone willing to grow and learn, to further their career. A more thoughtful and inclusive approach to training schedules and modules, are thus needed to ensure a non-biased and gender inclusive approach is offered to all employees.
  4. Unbiased growth opportunities: Last but not the least, equal share of voice and equal opportunity for all deserving professionals, irrespective of their gender, must be the goal for every company. Without the biased approach of creating reservations and quota based roles, it is important to nurture talent, mentor, groom, and lead it to realise its true potential. And a gender neutral ranking and promotion system is one of the important aspects of this process. Coupled with a ‘minimum’ pay benchmark per designation, which is not judgemental towards the gender but the overall talent and experience of the employee, can be a game changer.

In the backdrop of COVID and the rise of digitization, there has been a renewed focus on intangible skills, including interpersonal and innovative problem solving skills, which distinguish the unique value add that companies can provide, over and above the superior tech enabled, operational efficiency. Qualities like emotional intelligence, effective communication, empathy, and self-regulation, are set to see tremendous growth, along with qualities of critical, creative, and collaborative thinking skills, that can go beyond what machines are capable of. And this makes it even more important for companies to focus on not only the functional aspect of employee productivity but also the emotional and creative aspect, which can come only in a truly diverse work environment.

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