This not-for-profit organisation aims to bridge gender gap at workplaces
Although the constitution of India grants men and women equal rights, gender disparities continue to remain. And this can be seen in many realms, including the workplace.
Despite efforts being made to improve gender equality in companies, female workers are still paid significantly less than their male counterparts, and women continue to be underrepresented in senior management roles. Added to this is the increasing cases of sexual harassment at workplace.
Gender pay gap still exists in many companies across India
In addition to this, the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown that followed saw a greater ratio of women who were laid off. According to a report by McKinsey, women make up 39 percent of global employment, but account for 54 percent of overall job losses, where four out of every ten women who were working during the last year lost their jobs during the lockdown.
Working to transform this scenario and create a more inclusive workplace is Bengaluru-based not-for-profit organisation, Engendered. Founded in March 2019, Engendered has been working to help companies and women employees go beyond the Human Resource mandate of gender parity.
The organisation helps design and develop ‘workforce inclusion accelerators’ for B2B companies in order to enhance the role of women. These accelerators are plans charted out for companies, trade associations, and government bodies based on their organisational structure.
By providing comprehensive data about workplaces to women and helping them make better decisions, Engendered is working towards bridging the gender gap. At present, the Bengaluru-based startup is working on projects in Mumbai and Chennai as well.
In a conversation with SocialStory, Ipshita Sen, founder, Engendered, and the Founder member of Global Women in PR (GWPR), talks about the role of the non-profit in bridging the gender gap across workplace communities.
Focusing on workplace issues
Even to this day, women remain a major part of the ‘unpaid’ labour force within the household. And when it comes to workplaces, they are still not paid as much as men working in similar roles in the organisation.
A report by Monster Salary Index (MSI) published in March 2019 says, Indian women earn 19 percent less than men.
Founder, Ipshita Sen
“Companies need to be encouraged to re-evaluate both their recruitment systems as well as their performance evaluation metrics to reduce the inherent gender biases,” says Ipshita.
Added to the gender pay gap are the problems of an unconscious bias and the lack of women in leadership roles.
When it comes to women entrepreneurs, female-only founding teams managed to raise only 2.3 percent of the total venture capital invested in startups, according to PitchBook data.
“Lack of female role models, sexual harassment at workplace, non-inclusive workplaces, and the difficulty to shake off stereotype that men ‘take charge’ and women ‘take care’ puts women in a unique and universal predicament,” says Ipshita.
Creating an inclusive workplace
Engendered is on a mission to dismantle barriers for women at workplaces by equipping companies to tackle workplace biases and urging governments to formulate prudent policies. It has been working with both women employees as well as corporates to create more inclusive workplaces.
The organisation is also helping companies focus on hiring and to retain women talent, and then mentor them into leadership roles. These include reviewing the performance metrics to remove biases, working towards making sure women and other groups are well represented in internal task forces, running effective meetings where women are also able to contribute and participate.
Ipshita Sen with students from Steinbeis Hochschule Berlin - Christ University.
Engendered is also encouraging working women to speak up and voice their opinion, work with mentors and benefit from mentoring, and helping them with work-life balance. Ultimately, they need to be able to bring their best self to work and set themselves up for more responsibility and leadership opportunities, says Ipshita.
Apart from Ipshita, the team includes a board of six advisors from leading corporates, and a number of volunteers. They have partnered with three main organisations – Chlorophyll Innovation Lab, Indo-Canadian Business Chamber (ICBC), and Appiness.
Engendered primarily works with B2B companies in the corporate sector, but plans to expand into other sectors in the coming years.
One of Engendered’s most successful initiatives has been the Inclusion Quotient Pledge, where the company leadership comes together to commit to make gender inclusion an initiative beyond HR.
The pledge helps companies look at functions such as procurement, vendor management, and marketing as areas to implement gender inclusive initiatives and policies. It was released in partnership with the Indo-Canadian Business Chamber (ICBC) and was signed by about 30 companies associated with ICBC – Armstrong, Bombardier, Novatek International, Bhagat Global, India Power, and others.
Signing the Inclusion Quotient Pledge
“The response is positive and enthusiastic. We’re effectively trying to change the culture that exists in an organisation, and this needs active participation of all functional groups, as well as leadership,” says Ipshita.
In March 2019, the team worked with the Consul General of Canada in Mumbai. It organised a session to design a customised ‘Diversity Dash’ to help organisational leaders think through their business case for more inclusion. Some of the participants included personalities like comedian Aditi Mittal, Raj Kalady (Director of Project Management Institute – India), Kiran Khalap (writer and co-founder, Chlorophyll), and others.
Engendered has also worked with the Greater Chennai Corporation to design a programme to improve the future employability of higher secondary girl students in Chennai schools. It has worked with 100 girls over a period of 60 days. Next year, Engendered plans to scale to five schools and 700 students and also involve boys, teachers, and parents.
While the projects are being executed at present, the impact still needs time to reflect the changes in socio-behavioural changes.
“As is well documented in research, behaviour change takes time and effort. Hence the real impact is yet to be measured over a period of 24-36 months,” says Ipshita.
The pandemic impact
The biggest challenge for most companies has been the interdependency of various departments within the company for a truly impactful change.
“Lack of women in leadership means usually there are not many senior leaders championing the cause and driving change. Hence, the progress remains slow,” says Ipshita
COVID-19 has also had a negative impact on women in general, with layoffs and the difficulty to manage both office work and home.
The way forward
In the coming years, Engendered, which is bootstrapped for now, aims to provide HR, marketing, and fundraising support to women entrepreneurs.
There are two parts to the process. The selection criteria for these entrepreneurs and working with the leaders who are donating their expertise pro-bono. It already has a panel of experts who have signed up to donate their time and expertise.
“We are in talks with multiple incubators and women entrepreneur networks to work out the selection criteria and launch this programme. We are present in Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Kolkata at the moment, and are looking to expand to Chennai, Pune, and NCR in the next phase,” she says.
“We expect to have provided pro bono business support solutions to 100 women by the end of 2021,” she adds.