How Democratizing Access to Opportunity Drives Gender Parity in the Era of Business 4.0

It has been truly rewarding to see the paradigm shift that has occurred in the business innovation cycle. Recent technological advancements are primarily responsible for accelerating the adoption of digital technologies. In an era where consumers are a ‘segment of one’ and demand nothing less than a digital-first-personalized-experience, enterprises are seeing the competitive advantage created by being intelligent, agile, automated, and on the cloud. At Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), we call this Business 4.0 - a shift in thinking from ‘optimizing scarce resources’ to ‘harnessing abundance’.

Lately, I have been contemplating what Business 4.0 means for TCS and the Tata Group, and our mission to improve the quality of life in communities through long-term value creation. We consider it not only a moral obligation, but the fundamental ethos of our business, motivated by the need to ensure we bring ALL our stakeholders along on this new journey.

So, what does Business 4.0 mean for the community and who are the key stakeholders?

To me, it means engendering a culture of sharing and democratizing access to provide opportunities for all. We are experiencing a workplace revolution, predominantly created by the introduction of new technologies. Digital and technology related skills remain at the core of the reskilling and upskilling pathways that will help individuals adapt to the future. However, we live in a world of economic, gender and ethnic inequities. Systemic barriers prevent large cross sections of our society from having access to opportunities that are created by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Demographic trends indicate that women and minorities are the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. workforce. Despite rising levels of education, women and minorities continue to be underrepresented in the workforce—especially in high potential sectors and high paid, highly rewarding jobs. According to the latest data, on average globally, women have less than two-thirds of the economic opportunity that men have. Traditionally, we tend to limit ourselves by the mindset of scarce resources even when private, public and civic sectors coalesce to create partnerships and drive societal initiatives that address these inequities.

I believe the Fourth Industrial revolution presents us with unique opportunities created by technological advancement. Business leaders like TCS are the lighthouse of market trends, as we are uniquely positioned to collaborate with our customers to create exponential value for their end consumers. Contextual knowledge plays a key role in unlocking the transformation potential of these technologies, where both our 50-year industry experience as well as project experiences of our 390,000 employees are key differentiators, so are the market knowhow from operating in 46 countries and cultural competency of employees from over 130 nationalities. Over the past two decades, we adopted several progressive policies to promote gender equity at the workplace at all levels of the organization. This enabled us to become one of the largest employers of women in the world, with more than 130,000 female employees. Whether it is through initiatives that provide mentorship, professional development or sponsorship, we are striving towards achieving gender parity at the middle management and leadership levels.

As the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report illustrates, the education attaintment gap is narrowing but the same cannot be said of the economic opportunity gap. This is where industry can play a key role, in supporting women on the pathways from education to careers. Some of the ways in which industry can engage are through gender sensitization of educational content, providing business context of how what is learnt will be applied in a work environment, improving confidence by engaging industry professionals as role models and mentors, building traditional and non-traditional partnerships that help provide more access to women and in-house programs that build persistence and retention for career growth.

An early lesson that we learned is that in order to build solutions that have sustainability and impact, we need to meet people and communities where they are and engage them in problem solving.
  • Let’s take the case of TCS’ All-Women Technology Center in Riyadh, Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia.  Over 1000+ employees, 85% Saudization, 610K Training hours and 50 countries supported, these women are empowered to drive social and economic growth.
  • Or the example of TCS goIT, our flagship education program that inspires students - across 58 U.S. and Canadian cities - to use technology and solve real world problems. By addressing stereotypes around gender and ethnicity while designing the program, we were able to buck the trend of vast underrepresentation of girls and women in the computing fields - Over 42.3% of TCS goIT participants are girls.
  • Another example is Million Women Mentors, an initiative that has become a national movement to engage industry mentors to advance girls and young women in STEM education and careers. Since 2013, we have garnered over 2.2 million mentor pledges and 1 million mentor-mentee relationships as a result of a cross-sector effort.

While the impact of solutions like the ones illustrated above are promising and positive, businesses around the world need to play a bigger and more direct role in bridging the gap between education attainment and economic opportunity. We cannot rest until we create pathways to significantly improve equity and access, laying the groundwork for a day when gender parity is no longer a dream, but the norm.

[Editor's Note: Balaji Ganapathy is Head of Workforce Effectiveness and oversees the functions of Human Resources Business Consulting, Diversity & Inclusion and Social Responsibility for Tata Consultancy Services. Balaji, a frequent presenter at national conferences and panels, will be speaking at this year’s International Women’s Day Forum, Partner With Purpose: Business for Gender Equality on March 7th. Follow him on Twitter @musafirbala and @TCS_NA.]