Mumbai: It is evident from the recent spate of #MeToo accusations that many Indian organisations still have a long way to go when it comes to making the workplace safe and welcoming for women employees. In an interview, Richard Lobo, executive vice president and head of human resources at Infosys Ltd, spoke about the factors that go into creating a positive and inclusive work environment. Edited excerpts:
What processes does Infosys have in place to address the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace?
Whenever people join our organization, especially at the entry level, they have to undergo training sessions where we give them case studies of what is okay and what is not okay at the workplace. We also explain the mechanisms you can use to bring misconduct to the attention of someone who can do something about it. You also have to act seriously on every complaint, so that there is an element of trust built up. Otherwise nobody will come to you. Third, sometimes people need help to bring out their stories, to tell others. So we make sure that counselling and support is available.
Inappropriate behaviour sits on a spectrum that goes beyond the legal definitions of harassment. How do you handle cases that don’t fit the definition?
We used to get a lot of inappropriate jokes and comments when we started, but not so much now. We definitely benefit from having more women in the workforce than in many other industries. When the number of women go up, the behaviour of the others changes for the better. And we come down on such comments pretty hard. Even if one person feels uncomfortable because of a joke, then it’s not okay.
How important is it to ensure diversity in the management structure? Does that help in making it a more comfortable workplace for women?
I don’t think it’s directly correlated. From the management, I think leadership by example is most important. Many companies get into trouble because they treat people differently based on how important the person is, as you can see in many #MeToo cases. In 2002, we had a case that involved a member of our board. We asked this person to leave. So from the Infosys perspective, we couldn’t have a better example to show our employees that we are serious about harassment. However, that said, I think diversity in management is very important and we are making a lot of effort to that end. Our board has three members who are women, and we are actively encouraging not just women but members from different cultures and backgrounds to join us at senior levels.
What sort of changes would you like to see to make Indian corporate culture more inclusive?
First, I think we still have a distance to go before an employee feels welcome in a workplace and not frightened. We need to create a positive work environment where only the work you do matters, not where you came from, how you look or what your gender is. I am also very heartened by the kind of people entering the workforce. Today, you are seeing a generation coming in that has a very refreshing attitude and I believe that they will make the workforce better.
Of course, we have to support them and show them that the others can learn their attitudes. But they come from an India which is very different. They’re not scared for their jobs and are willing to speak out and support their friends. I think that is a big shift.