Addressing diversity issue in private sector
The Supreme Court upholding the legal sanctity of the EWS quota has led to a new debate over shrinking space for socially disadvantaged communities, given the government’s privatisation push.
Published: 14th November 2022 06:24 AM | Last Updated: 14th November 2022 06:24 AM | A+A A-
The Supreme Court upholding the legal sanctity of the EWS quota has led to a new debate over shrinking space for socially disadvantaged communities, given the government’s privatisation push. Historically, it has been the responsibility of the public sector to carry the burden of giving representation to these communities through reservation in jobs. It is time for the private sector to share some burden.
No, we are not advocating mandatory reservation in the private sector, but it can do more than what it is doing now. It does talk about diversity in the workforce, but this talk is largely focused on gender and, at times, disability. It should now expand the horizon of diversity and try to give more representation to socially backward communities—be it SCs, STs, OBCs—and other religious minorities. With the participation of women in the labour force as low as 20% in India, one cannot find fault that the private sector has been focusing mostly on a more gender-diverse workforce. Still, it cannot afford to have a blinkered vision of diversity.
Women form 50% of the population (a little less, maybe), and socially backward communities and religious minorities (women included) form 80–85% of the population—a big pool of talent and skill to tap into. The idea of ‘merit’ propagated about reservation is judged on very narrow parameters—a few soft skills, language and writing abilities, etc. And often, the difference between meritorious and not-so-meritorious is very thin, separated by a few points/marks. Therefore, the private sector—which, despite all its flaws, pushes and inspires its workforce to learn new skill sets and achieve excellence in their respective fields of work—should not get bogged down by the unnecessary debate around ‘merit’.
With all the talk around sustainable businesses, one cannot ignore diversity and inclusion and yet think of achieving sustainability. A diverse and inclusive workforce boosts organisational innovation and empowers society. It reduces toxicity at the workplace and increases empathy for and understanding of different communities. But to do so, the corporate world needs leaders who are shorn of their long-held biases against caste-based reservation and are ready to look beyond the hollowed narrative on merit. If corporate boardrooms today have more women directors, it is because there was a push by the government and regulators. The women have not disappointed. Hope India Inc learns from this experience and addresses the larger diversity issue on its own.