March 2015 | Christabelle Noronha

'A culture that views businesses, talent and communities as an ecosystem is required'

How do you define diversity? Why does a business or a workplace benefit from being inclusive and respectful of diversity? Currently, what percentage of TCS North America workforce comprises women and underrepresented groups?
To me, discussions on diversity should move beyond the traditional definitions of race, ethnicity and gender. In today’s world, businesses with global presence and interest need to be truly reflective of the markets that they operate in and the communities that they serve. This means diversity of talent that reflects the demographics of each geography, diversity of offerings that meet a felt need for customers and diversity of shared values amongst our employees and with the local communities where they live and work. Towards this, organisations need to encourage and foster an inclusive culture that views businesses, talent and communities together as an ecosystem.

While there are several benefits for diversity and inclusion (D&I), the three important ones are: driver for innovation and sustainable business growth, attracting and retaining a high quality, high performing talent pool and being an active leader of social change in the community. Employing people from different backgrounds and who have various skills, ideas, viewpoints, beliefs and personalities will help companies spot opportunities, anticipate problems and come up with original solutions before competitors do. In North America, we have employees from over 118 nationalities, working in over 450 locations in 47 US states and coast-to-coast across Canada. Around a third of our employees have been recruited locally, and through our campus hiring programme we are bringing in the brightest diverse talent from across 75 universities and schools.

Tell us about TCS’s diversity policy.
As a company, TCS greatly values diversity and inclusion. We recognise that our clients represent many different industries and collectively serve millions of diverse consumers around the world. We also realise that the technology solutions we provide, must reflect the global needs and business challenges of our clients, which can be best served through a diverse and global workforce — whether that’s experience, culture or thought process.

Through our global diversity and inclusion policy, TCS commits its support to the principles and practice of equal opportunity in employment; supporting and promoting equality at the workplace, irrespective of any individual differences; and ensure that diversity and inclusion are part of everyday business. These commitments are translated further to actions that are directed towards the workplace, marketplace (business and labour), as well as the community.

What are the biggest obstacles that corporates face when it comes to hiring and retaining qualified diversity candidates (women, minorities, LGBT individuals, differently-abled individuals)?
First and foremost, in order to attract the best talent, companies need to have a workplace that promotes diversity and a culture that promotes inclusion. That is easier said than done, with most American employers facing challenges of value congruence with at least four generations of employees working in their ranks. When evaluating companies and job offers, candidates are viewing diversity as an important decision making factor, especially with more millennial employees in the workforce. Perhaps no other time in history have corporates faced workplace expectations on creating an environment that lets very different people be, who they truly are, while maximising their talent in order to support high performance. This means utilising technology and tools to help promote diversity and retain talent, such as enterprise social networks.

In my opinion, corporates in North America face the most fundamental challenge of all, which is availability and access to a diverse talent pool that is prepared for jobs and careers of the 21st century. Consider this: African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and historically under-represented racial and ethnic groups, accounted for 10 percent of the country’s workers in science and engineering in 2010, a far smaller proportion than their share of the general population, which was 26 percent.

Although women comprise half of the population and almost half of the workforce in the United States, they make up less than 25 percent of workers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) fields. Further, educational attainment rates in engineering and IT fields for women are low. According to the US Department of Commerce, one in seven engineers is female and less than 12 percent of bachelor’s degrees in computer science are awarded to women, even though they represent 60 percent of college student population. Currently, less than 2.4 percent of US college students graduate with a computer science degree, with just eight percent students from under-represented groups.

The Tata group’s goal is to double the number of women employees by the year 2020 and have 1,000 women leaders by 2020. What steps are being taken by TCS North America taking in the promotion of education, inspiration and mentoring for women and underrepresented groups to improve their chances of employment in the technology sector?
I am inspired by our Group Chairman Cyrus P Mistry’s vision for diversity and the goal to double the number of women employees by 2020. When TCS analysed data of STEMconnector's 100 CEO leaders in STEM in 2013, we found that the top three things occupying the minds of American CEOs were technology, diversity and economic competitiveness. The American and Canadian economies are witnessing increased consumer spend and lower unemployment rates. With digital technologies revolutionising the way businesses innovate, there is an increased demand for skilled STEM workers across industries. And in today's world, a tech career can be seen as the new 'American dream’, with average lifetime earnings potential of more than $3.2 million with a STEM degree. Women earn 95 cents to the dollar compared to men — a much higher rate than most other industries — meaning these jobs create gender equity and promote diversity. Girls, young women and students from under-represented groups need to be equipped and prepared to participate in these opportunities, which can help communities prosper.

TCS is leading a cross-sector effort along with partners, customers and industry peers to inspire young boys and girls, from ethnic minorities, marginalised groups and low-income families, toward STEM education and careers. By bringing together key stakeholders from the government, industry experts, educators and non-profit sectors, we are collectively devising creative solutions to the STEM proficiency gap in North America and mapping a course of action to reverse the trend.

Inspiration: TCS is a partner for the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)’s Clinton Global Initiative commitment to scale the AspireIT programme and engage 10,000 middle school girls in learning computing concepts. Over the course of four years, NCWIT will lead a national effort to recruit and support over 600 qualified high school and college women and 250 partner organisations that will co-create and deliver about more than 400 computing outreach initiatives, including after-school programmes, summer camps, and weekend conferences. We are also a partner for Code.org, and through ‘Hour of Code’ programmes across schools and community centres, we inspire young students in computer science and technology careers.

Education: goIT is TCS’s signature community engagement programme in which TCS employees educate students in computer science using the latest icon based programming languages and technologies. The goIT programme is offered free of cost to students, and covers career awareness workshops, hands-on technology education, teacher trainings, and parent orientations. From 2009 onwards, TCS has engaged over 8,800 students through goIT. In 2014 alone, goIT attracted 1,800 plus new students in US and Canada, expanding from three to 12 cities and training over 350 new employee volunteers, resulting in 20,000 plus hours of high-impact skill building and CS programming for students, including those from underserved groups, minorities and girls.

Mentoring: To support a national technology infrastructure for STEM mentoring, TCS has developed mentoring platforms for US2020 (www.us2020.org) and Million Women Mentors (www.millionwomenmentors.org). US2020 is a national initiative that will match one million STEM mentors with students of colour, minorities and low-income youth, at youth-serving non-profits for high impact mentoring by the year 2020. Million Women Mentors (MWM) is a global initiative that will match one million STEM mentors with girls and early career women to engage mentors for students in need. As a founding partner of US2020 and MWM, TCS supports the national movement to increase girls, women, minorities and under-represented groups in STEM. Furthermore, 20 percent of TCS’s STEM workforce is committed to individually fulfil 20 hours of STEM mentoring annually until the year 2020.

Tell us about TCS’s association with Million Women Mentors network. What other organisations has TCS partnered with to broaden the focus of D&I in the workplace?
From our environmental scan and research, it was apparent that girls and young women faced traditional obstacles that prevented them from entering STEM education and taking up STEM careers. Through our round tables and partner discussions, we realised that engagement of industry professionals (men and women) as mentors could help move the needle. However there was a need to set aside individual company interests, and look for a collective impact by identifying initiatives that were scalable, replicable, and efficient with high impact. We worked along with STEMconnector®, National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) and MentorNet to help create the Million Women Mentors (MWM) initiative in 2013; and brought in our partner NPower as one of the co-founders.

We made a commitment to use our technology to build a platform that can help inspire industry professionals to pledge and become mentors for girls and young women. By the time of the formal launch on January 8, 2014, MWM had grown to a network of 18 corporate partners and 40 non-profits representing 18 million women and girls. In 2014, MWM grew its network to 58 non-profit partners across 28 states, generating over 200,000 mentor pledges through the technology platform developed by TCS. To curate best practices and resources on mentoring, we also partnered with MWM to release a white paper ‘Women in STEM: Realizing the Potential’.

It is said that a greater understanding of cultural differences between people promotes teamwork and collaboration. Does TCS have any initiatives to promote inclusion?
Absolutely. We believe in a three stage process of promoting inclusion: awareness, education and behaviour. We have a plethora of initiatives that create awareness of the value of diversity, through communication channels and tools that provide employees access to information. Take for example the Culture Meter that was launched in 2008 as a tool that talks about a country, its culture, dos and don’ts, business information, work culture. We are especially committed to supporting women within our organisation. Internally, we promote DAWN (Diversity and Women’s Network), a support group for women and minorities, which fosters inclusivity through collaborative dialogue. DAWN gives underrepresented groups access to senior leaders, mentoring, discussion forums, cultural awareness workshops, and wellness sessions.

From an education perspective, we have training offerings such as ‘Smart Manager’ to handle diverse and multi-generational teams, ‘Client Smart’ to enhance client relationship skills and competencies for managers, and ‘MAC’ (Managing Across Cultures) to help enable associates to embrace cultural differences. Our Foreign Language Initiatives (FLI) group focuses on cultural integration and language training. Some examples are cultural workshops, English-language teaching programme for non-English-speaking employees, and programme for expatriates to learn the local languages.

A few years ago we introduced ‘iEXCEL’, an executive education and leadership development programme, designed and launched for women associates in TCS to enhance their leadership skills and empower them to effectively lead their teams. iEXCEL participants get a chance to interact with the TCS’s senior leaders, and in the industry, experience positive impact on self confidence, balanced leadership skills, influencing decisions, customer engagement, networking and professional collaboration which eventually contributes to role progression and career advancement. TCS also participates in the Tata group’s Second Career initiative that offers job opportunities to women returning to the workplace after a break in their careers.