In the latest interview in The Token Man series, Nadia Nagamootoo (NN), founder of Avenir Consulting, interviews Tiger Tyagarajan (TT), President and CEO at Genpact.
NN: What have you done personally as a leader to help solve the issue of gender equality?
TT: I decided that if I, as a CEO have to push something, it has to be the biggest diversity group with the most impact across the organisation. I said, “If I can’t get this done then how the hell are we going to get the more local stuff done?!”
Very early in this revelation, the leadership team asked, “How can we attract the best women in the world, and how do we retain them?” We concluded that for that to happen you have to start from the top. Now, you can’t start from the top if you don’t have adequate gender diversity. By definition, men will have to drive it because they are already at the top.
NN: How do you ensure there is clear direction on gender diversity across the organisation?
TT: It is a clear direction. I no longer have to share with them [the leadership team] my view because they know it, but obviously in large organisations you have to keep saying the same thing again and again and again because people change. The only way you get the result you want is to connect it to business. I believe that you should always pivot these types of things on, “Show me the reason that it’s good for my business.”
NN: Why is gender diversity so critical?
TT: I’m a big believer that in our business (actually in any business), having different points of view at the table when trying to solve a problem aids a better solution. If you have people with different backgrounds ethnicity, race, gender but also cognitive and personality differences at the table, all attacking a problem, they will each bring a different perspective. Each grapples with the solution differently and the group comes up with the best one. I have a deep and firm belief that that’s what happens. I have actually seen these differences within the team. They produce better solutions. Hence diversity and gender diversity as a big example of that is very important to solve complex problems better.
Also, when you create an environment that allows different people to be together, by definition the culture and the team is one of curiosity. You can’t have different views unless other people listen to those different views. So, you’re creating a curious, listening, inclusive, diverse culture and by definition, that’s good for our clients because better solutions are created . Once you are able to get used to differences within a team then actually it becomes a thriving virtuous cycle.
NN: The conversation around work life balance, and in particular family life, typically centres around women. How do you encourage both male and female parents to take advantage of flexible working?
TT: We have two kinds of flexible workforces, so let’s take a round-up of the population of the people that actually do the work. These are people in operating centres – a lot of those jobs at this level require you to be there in the office. So, there are lots of jobs where you can’t work flexibly. There are some pieces of work that enable you to work from home where you’re available only for two or three days a week. I would say probably about 300-400 jobs have the capability of being that way. A lot of the top 2,000 employees are client-facing, travel-intensive, global – basically, they are consulting jobs and once you are in a consulting engagement, you may have to dedicate that time to the client for the next three or four months.
There is however a flip side of that. It’s easy for a number of those types of roles to be roles where someone says, “Actually, I’m going to spend Friday at home. I’m going to go home at 4.00pm every evening and at 8.30pm I restart because I’m in the US and India wakes up at 8.30pm or I start my day at 5am when Europe wakes up and I have to deal with them so I might as well. So then from 8.30pm-11.30pm I’m on calls or video conferences with them or from China or Australia.” But actually many women have told me, particularly as they become more senior, that they love this and that they are the master of their time. I think also, the biggest thing is they don’t need to ask anyone for permission to do that.
NN: What is your company’s current maternity/paternity leave policy?
TT: Our policy in the US is six weeks of paid parental leave on top of the mandated by law three weeks, we are actually extremely generous. In Europe and India etc its even longer, its generous and the idea is to be hugely supportive.
We have a parental leave policy, which means anyone man or woman can come and ask for it. I don’t think men take it that often . I have personally not been involved in any situation where a man has taken it, except from in the Nordic countries. However, we do have situations where we would have a global conference call. One of the guys in my team or further down would say, ‘I’m going to disappear for the next three hours because I’m alone at home and I have to look after my kids and that’s it.’ I mean, it’s normal.
NN: To what extent is it recognised across the organisation that this way of working is accessible to everyone?
TT: The guy I speak of leads a team of 20,000 people so he’s almost a third of the company and his team knows how he works. I would say the culture is like this across Genpact. As you know, not everyone is similar but it’s more skewed than a normal organisation in the direction of flexibility, and it keeps getting pushed in that direction every passing year, driven from the top.
NN: Going back to your maternity/paternity leave policy, are you saying you give two to three months full paternity pay but no one is taking it? If so, why? What is the business doing to encourage fathers to take time off?
TT: It’s early days of the policy – it’s just a year plus old. We are building awareness and visibility. We haven’t done anything else for the moment, and haven’t yet thought through how we might approach it.
NN: Let’s talk data. What are the percentages of men to women in Genpact? On the board?
TT: If you look at our ratios at entry-level, we are about 45% women. At mid-level, it drops to 32%. At senior, most levels, it used to be 15% - it’s now up to 26%-27%. At board-level, it used to be 0 but it’s now close to 30%. The goal we have in the company is that across all levels board, we should hit the 50% mark, its aspirational.
NN: Of the 30% at board level, how many of these represent executive positions? What are you doing to hit the 50% mark?
TT: All of them are independent directors – I am the only executive on our board. The 50% is aspirational and we don’t have a set date.
NN: With these ratios in mind, do you feel there has been a direct impact on the bottom line as a result of your gender equality programme?
TT: It’s difficult to quantify. I actually think the world spends too much time trying to do the math of why gender diversity is important. I actually have a view that if people need to be convinced about it, then I think they are in the wrong place.
NN: What is the gender pay gap within the business?
TT: When we did our last study about six months back, we had zero gender pay gap meaning for the same jobs, there is no pay difference between men and women at all levels in the company. That’s not a surprise because our pay is driven more by job and job band than the person on the job, so we have huge parity in general. But since there are lesser women at senior levels and lesser women in sales jobs and these jobs have higher pay on the average so average pay of men is higher than women so the only solution is to get to 50 % gender diversity across all levels and all jobs.
NN: Name me a gender diversity hack that has had the most impact on your business?
TT: We launched a programme about three years back called Genpact Career 2.0. We targeted women who had left the workforce and wanted to come back. We ran focus groups of women inside and outside the company and found key barriers for women coming back into the workforce:
1. Self-confidence. Can I come back?
2. Who do I talk to if I want to come back? What can I come back to?
3. I can come back but I’m not so sure I can come back full-time.
4. I may be able to come back full-time but I’m not sure it will work – lots of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ and ‘don’t knows.’
The normal hiring process takes months from start to finish. One of the things women told us was that they entered the process and then they gave up after some time – they got scared halfway through because there were too many interviews and the process was slow. So we said:
1. We must be out there saying we are available and open for business for these types of jobs
2. We must describe those jobs in detail
3. We must allow conversations to happen that eases fear and creates self-confidence for a person to enter
4. We must find a way to make the process short
We launched it through a social media campaign. We had a set of job profiles describing what the jobs were and how flexibility is possible. We interviewed about 500 and we ended up hiring 70.
NN: Do you then consider positive discrimination something that you advocate when necessary?
TT: I wouldn’t say “discrimination” as that’s very weighted. But it’s important to look further than the usual talent pot that head hunters are using. What’s critical is that you can’t change the specs – you still need the best person. Saying we will only meet female candidates made the job harder and it made the job longer but we did get a bunch of these roles filled with absolutely fabulous people.
Here’s what I would say, the faster you can get role models in leadership positions that women can turn to and say, “Tell me how you got there, tell me how you continue to be there,” the more those women lower down actually say two things. They say:
1. This actually works
2. Everything that Tiger talks about is actually real and it’s not just a story!
NN: Do you have a budget allocated for progressing gender diversity?
TT: Our business is to work with global companies so we have a very strong women’s network inside the company and we have a very strong women’s network in which men participate. The work on diversity sits under corporate social responsibility, which has a budget. This runs as a percentage of our profits – I think, put together, it’s 2% of our India profits.
NN: And how much of that 2% do you think goes towards diversity?
More than 60% goes towards women-related issues, and the education and employability of women.
NN: Going back to your women’s group, it is great to hear that men are getting involved, can you please tell us a little bit more about that and why it is important?
TT: All our leaders typically participate – men and women. They see it as important to show their commitment. They know that if they do then the women lower down in their teams feel they are listening, engaging and understanding their issues. It’s important as it builds greater empathy for issues.
NN: Do you think there is a risk that a lot of investment is being spent focusing on women when it is men and the cultures that have been built that need equal focus?
TT: It is just as much about men on diversity training, unconscious bias training etc. So our programs encompass cultures around men and women.
NN: Talk to me about the results of your Harvard test.
TT: I have a weak association of men with family and women with career. The first time I got this result I was surprised (pleasantly) and I got it again… three years later.
NN: What do you take from those results?
TT: I know that societies that have strong economically, as well as mentally, independent women tend to do better. How do you get there? You get there primarily through making sure that education and work opportunities are equal. I’ve always had the view that matriarchal societies tend to perform better – they are actually socially and culturally more open and liberal. This is mainly through reading and learning, and then everyday life experience actually tells you that that’s true.
At home when I was growing up, it was semi-matriarchal so it wasn’t a surprise that I kind of grew up that way.
NN: What’s the one thing (if any) you commit to doing or will continue to work on as a result of this interview?
TT: It’s made me think about Genpact Career 2.0 – we launched it at one level and I think we could broaden it further to the next level. I’m going to take it back to the team.
NN: Finally, who would you nominate for the next Token Man interview?
TT: Peter Gauer. He has single-handedly changed the gender diversity agenda in Bloomberg over the last 10 plus years.
About Token Man
Token Man is an initiative to give men in industry a better understanding of the challenges women face in business and a greater empathy for when they are in the minority. We hope to achieve individual behaviour change that fuels a cultural shift in the workplace, enabling men in a tangible way to contribute to the movement for gender equality. Ultimately this needs to act as a platform for the progression of women in industry to reverse gender inequality.
Token Man was founded by Emma Perkins, creative director at Lego, Georgia Barretta, UK design director at Cheil, Penny Othen, a social media consultant and Daniele Fiandaca, co-founder of Utopia and co-founder of Creative Social and Innovation Social.