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IBM wants to hire more women in India


2 May 2011
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MUMBAI/DELHI: Big Blue, led by power woman, Ginni Rometty, is on a drive to hire more women in leadership positions and across all positions in its India operations.

The multinational software giant has launched several programs targeted at employing more women, including those who want to get back to a career after a break, women only walk-in interviews and a program to enable female alumni to continue to contribute to projects in IBM.

One such campaign e-mailed to employees in several business units in IBM's India operations this month is titled, 'We are more than an IT company, We are an opportunity Company!!!' and asks staff to specifically refer women graduates and post-graduates for careers in its global business services.
These referrals, promoting more diversity in the firm, earn employees a higher referral bonus or fee compared to normal referral programs.

Another e-mail to employees is about a special walk-in program for women IT professionals. "At IBM India, diversity is a key ingredient that unlocks the potential for excellence," the mail says.

The 'Bring her Back' campaign launched last year to re-employ women to want to get back to a career is segmented into several sub-groups targeted at young mothers, those who have taken a study break or sabbatical, and those who have taken a few years off to take care of family.

"We believe it is a business imperative to have diversity. The marketplace is made of clients that are diverse -- if we mirror the marketplace, we get diverse viewpoints, which gives rise to innovation," said Jyothsna Hirode, senior manager, India diversity. Over 26% of IBM's India workforce is women as compared to over 28% in IBM globally, Hirode said.

Diversity is said to have a played a key role in IBM's growth as a global corporation, which is aiming to earn around 30% of revenues from markets outside North America, Western Europe and Japan in the next four years.

"IBM expanded minority markets dramatically by promoting diversity in its workforce. The result: a virtuous circle of growth and progress," the Harvard Business Review wrote about the firm's turnaround in the mid 1990s and early part of the 2000.

Diversity encourages new perspective and different kinds of thinking, E Balaji, said CEO and MD of recruiting firm, Randstad in India and SriLanka. Even firms, which used to traditionally hire engineers, are now hiring English literature and philosophy graduates because it brings different viewpoints and helps innovation, he added.

"Many international firms have diversity metrics. But if a firm wants to hire more women, over and above these metrics, it could also be for reasons such as perhaps women don't tend change jobs as often or have better customer engagement skills.

This could be relevant for industries such as IT where attrition is high. Certain industries have also seen more success with women such as the customer service industry," Balaji said. In Randstad, for instance, 70% plus staff are women.

"But this is just indicative, there could many other industries -- outside of staffing -- where women have an edge," he said, "More women are also joining senior management in IT firms now. There are more female VPs and GMs compared to before because engineers who graduated in the late 1980s and early 1990s now have about 20 years experience and are moving into management."

Rometty, who took over as president and chief executive of the $ 100 billion plus software and services firm in January, is also a leader in diversity initiatives including IBM's Women in Technology Council and the Women's Leadership Council, and is one of the senior sponsors of the Women's Executive Council, according to IBM's website.

A hard nosed businesswoman, Rometty is credited with having successfully handled many complex assignments including the integration of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting with IBM, architecting IBM's growth markets strategy and developing global delivery hubs in India and China.

A 'Diversity in Action' report brought out by the country's software industry organisation, Nasscom along with PwC, pegs the number of women employed in large IT firms (of 20,000 - 70,000 people) at 24%-30%, and in back office firms 35%-42%.

One of IBM's focus areas is not only hiring of women to promote gender diversity but to also groom them into leaders, said Hirode, who doesn't expect any significant increase in the percentage of women because of these initiatives.

"Women pay attention to detail, they are more collaborative and nurturing. These are qualities you need in an organisation, and when translated to the workforce goals, there are huge benefits. In comparison, men tend to be more competitive and solo performers.

Also innovation usually happens on the fringes. So more diversity brings more innovation," said Anupam Prakash, global partner of HR consulting firm, Mercer, about the value it can add to an organisation.

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