Outlook Business Initiative

Fostering women leadership through a culture of inclusion and equity

Vinoj Manning, CEO, Ipas Development Foundation shares the organization’s strategies and processes for building women leadership

Published 3 years ago on Nov 17, 2020 3 minutes Read

Your company has been ranked among ‘100 best places to work for women’ by the Great Place to Work (GPTW) Institute. What are the best practices that have helped IDF earn this distinction?
IDF has often in the past, figured in the GPTW ranking of the India’s top 50 great midsize workplace and top 10 best NGOs to work for. However, 2020 is the first time we have made it to the “India’s best 100 workplaces for women”. The key driver in making IDF one of the best places to work, is our strategic intent to deliberately create a culture of inclusion and equity. However, this strategy alone is not adequate. And so, we back it up with business practices, operating processes, and culture monitoring to ensure that the strategic intent percolates right across the organization. For instance, IDF is committed to creating a family-friendly work environment to enable staff to balance the innumerable demands of work and family responsibilities. IDF acknowledges that despite the range of childcare options available, there may be emergencies and instances where domestic responsibility conflicts with work commitments. As a responsive employer IDF allows various flexi arrangements, including bringing their children to the work place. The organizational culture of inclusivity is widely articulated as an inalienable employee right so that each woman employee can hold us accountable for maintaining the stated standards of making IDF a good place for women.

At the ground level how do you support your women employees when they are faced with challenges?
At IDF, many women staff work at the ground level interacting with different external stakeholders. We make sure we conduct process checks to identify any problem areas and remedy them. We conduct trainings and encourage internal conversations to empower women to flag any concerns. For instance, a woman employee recently raised a concern about how she feels uncomfortable around a male external stakeholder who she was supposed to meet for official work. We immediately made sure that the complainant is always accompanied by a colleague whenever she interacts with the male stakeholder. We encourage women to speak up. We make sure they are heard, and appropriate action is taken.

Most of our staff, men and women have extensive travel and to remote locations. To ensure physical safety, we have a comprehensive safety and security plan; including telephone trees, communication protocol, etc aimed to prevent and minimize the impact of crises on employee health.

How important is peer group support for women employees to ensure better outcomes?
Peer group support is an important element of organizational vibrancy.  We believe that policies and practices can be created but without peer group support they cannot produce a great culture in the organization. Peer support needs to grow organically and cannot be mandated. So, we intentionally create an environment where peer support flourishes. For example, we have a buddy system wherein a buddy is assigned to staff even before they join the organization. The buddy is the go-to person for the new staff for anything and everything. The other big facilitator in providing a supportive culture for women is the women in senior leadership positions across the organization. IDF has equal representation of women in senior management. So, women staff have role models to follow and people they can reach out to. 

What is the mantra you follow to ensure IDF is a great place to work?
In short, the organization needs to invest in building a high employee engagement culture. It is important to note that just good intent may not suffice and needs to be backed by clearly designed procedures and policies. 

To illustrate, IDF’s strategic intent to build and sustain a high-trust and high-performance workplace culture is encapsulated in our organisational values – discipline, quality, urgency, and respect. All our processes like the employee on-boarding, performance management, exit interview and annual climate survey are geared to foster and measure these values being practised at an individual and team level.

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