In an email to employees on International Women’s Day on Sunday, Infosys Chief Executive Vishal Sikka passionately advocated his desire to have more women in senior roles at the company.
Speaking about the two women who played a vital role in his life — his mother (also a school teacher who guided Sikka, his brother and “many others”), and his wife (his “conscience, anchor and barometer”) — Sikka expressed disappointment over the low representation of women in senior roles, despite they accounting for over half the trainees joining Infosys.
Sikka said India’s second-largest information technology (IT) services company had now set a target to have 25 per cent women in senior leadership roles by 2020. The company’s newly formed Global Diversity Council will look to ensure the target is met.
“Every time I am at Mysore, I am reminded of the fact that more than half our trainees are women. Then, I look at our executive teams and realise almost none of them made their way up there. Something happened during the journey from Mysore to management — and we lost our leverage over half of humanity,” Sikka said in the email. “What a massive and shameful loss of collective imagination, creativity and intellect! And, conversely, what an amazing opportunity to help us improve ourselves!”
While Infosys’ 10-member board of directors has three woman independent directors — Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Rupa Kudwa and Carol M Browner — all the company’s five executive officers and 12 executive vice-presidents are men.
Overall, 35 per cent of Infosys’ 169,638 employees currently are women. This is almost in line with the industry trend; according to estimates by industry body Nasscom, women account for around 34 per cent of the Indian IT services and business process outsourcing (BPO) industry’s 3.5 million workforce.
However, experts unanimously say the number mainly reflects women in the junior- to middle-level positions, and there are very few woman leaders in the industry.
The Global Diversity Council is among the initiatives started after Sikka came on board. Observers believe the council is inspired by Sikka’s past experience of working with multinational companies, which have stringent rules around respecting diversity of all kinds. The council focuses on empowering and engaging employees across Infosys’ offices around the world, and has representatives from all geographies it operates in. The council is aimed at enhancing diversity across gender, nationality and ability.
“One of its (Global Diversity Council) functions is to institute measures to ensure Infosys is the most appealing company for women to work in, contribute to and thrive,” Sikka wrote. “To help equip the women among us with initiatives, insights and opportunities as they tread the path to leadership... by 2020, the council will help us achieve one of our goals that women account for 25 per cent of the Infosys leadership team.” Sikka added the need to reach the target was not to show numbers to the world, or because it was a benchmark or a best practice, or some “in” list to check off “but because — just look around — it is the right thing to do. And it makes us all better and richer, and moves us all forward.” He said it was fundamental for companies to ensure they nurtured the best talent because “great solutions come where there is a synthesis of many different points of view”.
“Teams composed of multiple perspectives, from diverse backgrounds, produce outcomes that are much richer. When we are diverse, we create more opportunities for a richer synthesis of perspectives. That is why diversity — including gender diversity — is deeply important to the success of companies,” he said.