In Conversation With Ketan Kapoor B, SME - DEI (Consultant), Persistent Systems

Ketan is a subject matter expert on diversity and inclusion. In this interview with BW People, he talks about employee sensitization towards people with disabilities, the approach to creating infrastructure, the shift in mindset required and much more.


Q. People with diverse segments feel apprehensive about accepting who they are and fear not being accepted amongst their peers at work. So what part the employee education and training initiatives play in facilitating the inclusion of workers from PwD groups? 

When you were ending your question you mentioned something called groups. Mainly when we say the word groups, we humans tend to unknowingly label people. We call this as unconscious bias. 

I will make it very simple for our wider audience and not go into complicated terms. We as humans tend to not understand how to deal with a bracket of people or marginal people. Humans have a reservation towards them, and it is natural. To forgo the reservation, we have to be comfortable in asking questions. Narrative matters the most in D&I. The beauty of diversity is that you might not know how to deal with them, and similarly, they might not know how to deal with you. Asking the right questions matters. 

Q. When you have a minority, how does the sensitization of the majority is to be done? The people who are coming from PwD groups, everyone will not be good or fare well and we must deal with the situations with sensitivity. Otherwise, it becomes very difficult when a person goes into a depressive mood. What is your take on that and how does a person enable himself? 

When we see a conventional set of people in society, the most accepted workforce. If we club all the marginal parts of society (be it LGQBT, veterans, disability or continental diversity), they might make the majority part marginal. 

The word which is required going forward is how to correctly deal with it. If we are trying something new, many times we may not be correct, there might be biases or errors. It's okay, we also do that in the case of able people.

But restraining yourself and not being a part of these workshops or just learning and not understanding correctly might not be right. 

So many of organizations have to understand that conventional ways to sensitise business might not work for everyone. You have to understand who are you making a part of it, are you trying for an equal employment opportunity or to understand the dynamics rather than just putting like a Lego block on a block that doesn't match. 

These days, there are several organizations globally admitting that they are not prepared to absorb people with disability, and the reasons are genuine. The organizations are not ready in terms of accessibility and the infrastructures aren't in place. According to you, what sort of accessibility and the bare minimum infrastructure they should maintain and how they should scale it up? 

Let me start with an example and how the society accepts or accommodates an infrastructure, then it goes out in your town or city as an entity plan. I believe you're from around the Delhi-NCR areas. There were huge lands which were used for malls when they came into existence in India. If you see if the mall's infrastructure, they started capturing the young couple audience by facilitating paths for children's prams, late-night dinner restaurants and baby changing rooms for breastfeeding mothers. This started becoming a culture for any upcoming mall. 

When there is consumption, there's demand. The ROI matters. The demand for a talent pool of PwD people is there. Many multinationals are talking about it. I'm happy to learn, but still, now we need to equate correctly. It has a few loopholes in it and it happens, there's nothing wrong with it. 

We as humans have adopted something based on consumption. When you start developing the whole ecosystem from inside, the building to town planning, the disabled people will be coming and putting their revenue and adding to the part of the GDP. So there's no bare minimum. It is an ongoing process, even if you fail. You cannot boil the ocean over it. You cannot accommodate everybody to that exercise. It cannot be customized to a larger pool but for the basic 21 types of disability which we recognize in India, there should be a few mandates. 

Q. Do you think organizational L&D programs can help in creating better possibilities to make the system more accommodating for people with disability? 

Yes. The L&D programs can create a lot of value. How they will be doing it, they have to be mindful of that. If they craft sensitization programs or other programs that will not work. They have to embed it in such a way that if initially, the freshers are joining, just add a paragraph while induction that we are a company that takes pride in diversity inclusion. You will find a lot of peers who are diversity champions, to whom you can go and get educated. 

The education system can add a curriculum at the senior management level, which should be a mandate. There should be something which makes people curious enough to understand diversity and they can take it up as a profession to make other people understand more in this space. 

Q. You have achieved a lot in your career irrespective of the challenges. How has the journey been? And what will be your message to the young who are starting their career? 

I understand when people ask me about unconventional challenges, about my inspiration, but what works for me is keeping things simple. The best solutions come from the most simple thought process. When we are talking about any infrastructure changes, planning or hiring, always keep marginal people in the thought process, take opinions from marginal people, they might give you solutions which might not be in your conventional books and always ask questions. 

Let me give you an example of keeping it simple. This was pre-covid, I was working and there was a man, a very senior-level person sitting beside me. It was a Friday evening so I was packing my things to leave the office. The man came to me and told me that he is following me on LinkedIn and that he gets inspired by seeing my posts. He questioned me as to how a PwD person goes on with everyday activities and does that with very minimal errors. 

We went to the conference room and sat at the edges of the big round conference table. He ordered coffee and I ordered warm water and tea. 

I questioned him by asking about the difference he sees in our sides of the table. He answered, I can see a difference only in what we have ordered and there is no other difference which I can see. 

To which I replied that the cups on your side are on the edge, and the cups on my side are placed one hand inside because my mind is trained to think of a zero margin error. I don't have the luxury to pick it up if the cup falls. This is the type of simplicity and accuracy, D&I will bring to your workplace.

Watch the full interview on the link below:

Note: The automatic transcription has been lightly edited for a better reading experience. Some names and parts of the transcription may carry inadvertent errors that we are in the process of editing. Thank you for your understanding.

The video was first published on Feb 14, 2023.

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