Sharing The Secrets Of Driving A Diversity Centered Scenario At Accenture

“At Accenture, we firmly believe that diversity and a culture of equality are powerful multipliers of innovation - when people are valued for their unique perspectives and contributions, they perform to their fullest potential."


Recognized as “Champion of Inclusion” in the 2020 Working Mother and AVTAR Most Inclusive Companies in India Index for the second consecutive year, Accenture in India fosters inclusion and diversity in the recruitment, retention and advancement of people, and creates an inclusive culture through leadership, accountability, communications and employee engagement. 

Well, not just that, but the company is also known to have been promoting the inclusion of LGBTQ community amongst the corporate world since long, thriving upon the motto "to attract, develop, inspire and reward top talent." In a Q&A with BW People, Lakshmi C, Managing Director and Lead for Human Resources, Accenture in India elaborates on how clear goals, leadership alignment and tangible action have helped the company create an equal and inclusive workplace. She has also thrown light upon how have they been coming out with flying colours in making their organisation a truly diverse one.

We have extended maternal leave to all people who can bear and give birth to a child instead of just those who identify themselves as women, and surrogacy and adoption leaves have been extended to all people who are primary caregivers. Our bereavement leave has now been extended to include partners of employees who identify as LGBT+. "We have extended maternal leave to all people who can bear and give birth to a child instead of just those who identify themselves as women, and surrogacy and adoption leaves have been extended to all people who are primary caregivers. Our bereavement leave has now been extended to include partners of employees who identify as LGBT+. "

1. What are Accenture’s initiatives to build a diverse and inclusive workforce culture? And how is that Accenture is doing differently? 

At Accenture, we believe that achieving equality is the right thing to do, not just because it drives innovation and growth but also because it makes the world a better place. We take an intentional approach to equality, treating it as a business priority, backed by clear goals, leadership alignment and tangible actions. This approach has allowed us to set industry-leading benchmarks.  

Take gender equality for instance. In 2017, we were one of the first companies to set a bold global goal of achieving a gender-balanced workforce - with 50 percent women and 50 percent men - by 2025, a goal that we are well-positioned to achieve. We are also proud to have accomplished our commitment to growing the percentage of women Managing Directors at Accenture to 25 percent, globally by the year 2020. 

2. Can you elaborate on your hiring efforts to create a more diverse workforce? 

We have focused hiring initiatives for various segments. For example, we have dedicated recruiters who work with our hiring managers to increase the number of persons with disabilities (PwD) in our workforce. We work with specialized partners to identify talent and also have robust employee referral programs that encourage internal referrals of persons with disabilities. In partnership with the Leonard Cheshire Disability organization, we developed the ‘Jobability’ portal for India that matches persons with disabilities with jobs and even provides work-related advice. 

We have inclusive internship programs that focus on building relevant skills in persons with disabilities and transgender candidates, making them more employable. A majority of them are subsequently absorbed into Accenture.  

We have special campus connects, work with specialized partners, incentivize referrals of women candidates in our employee referral program and encourage our senior women leaders to leverage their networks to engage with and hire women candidates. We have a program called Career Reboot to enable women to seamlessly re-integrate into the workforce after a career breakthrough a structured journey with periodic leadership connects, domain training and ongoing learning interventions.   

Most importantly, we run regular sensitization programs for our recruiters and hiring managers as they are the first point of contact for candidates.

3. Kindly elaborate on your efforts build an inclusive workplace for the LGBTQ+ community? 

In order to create an equal workplace for all, we conduct sensitization sessions for teams to help people understand the nuances of gender expression and identity. At Accenture, our LGBTQ+ people have a safe internal platform to share their own stories and encourage others to confidently express themselves. Accenture was one of the first companies to introduce medical cover for gender reassignment surgery in 2016, offer other medical cover benefits as well as mentorship and counselling programs for our LGBT+ people. We have mobilized an ally network to create informed and vocal evangelists on the topic.

More recently, as a reaffirmation of our commitment to continuous progress towards making Accenture more equal, we modified our leave and life insurance policies to ensure all our people benefit equally. Our new parental leave policies focus on the importance of caregiving so that new parents get the time needed with their new child without being constrained by their gender. We have extended maternal leave to all people who can bear and give birth to a child instead of just those who identify themselves as women, and surrogacy and adoption leaves have been extended to all people who are primary caregivers. Our bereavement leave has now been extended to include partners of employees who identify as LGBT+. And the life Insurance nomination, which was previously restricted to spouse and family members, can now include any person nominated by the employee, irrespective of the legal definition of the relationship.

4. How focussed you were on D&I initiatives during the pandemic in comparison to the past ten months? 

Building an inclusive and equal culture is a business priority for us. The pandemic led to our people working under newer conditions and experiencing new kinds of pressures and therefore, needing the flexibility to work differently. We quickly shifted our focus to address these needs.

·For example, we introduced a Virtual Summer Camp for our parents with young children. The camp provided parents with resources to keep children between the ages of 5-12 constructively engaged through virtual hobby lessons, do-it-yourself tutorials, and other learning activities such as treasure hunts and puzzles.

  • We worked with our people with disabilities to ensure that they have equal access to technology and collaboration tools required for remote work. 

·We focused even more on mental wellbeing to enable our people to overcome feelings of isolation wrought by social distancing through periodic connects and dialogue on managing stress and anxiety, family & relationships, work life balance, fitness, parenting etc. We have enabled access to helplines, experts and physicians for our people and their families. 

Our ‘Hues of the Rainbow’ virtual platform enables Accenture LGBT community members to share their journey with the Allies network in India, address questions and discuss ways to overcome challenges.                                           

5. How has the pandemic impacted inclusion in the workplace on the whole? Given that the pandemic has transformed life and work across spheres, how do you expect diversity and inclusion efforts to evolve in the post-pandemic era?

The crisis has had a mixed impact on inclusion and diversity at the workplace. It has disproportionately impacted some pools of talent including a large number of women rendered unemployed in the retail, travel and hospitality sectors. There are also women who are now struggling to cope with the physical demands of simultaneously managing their homes while working from home.  
On the other hand, acceptance of work from home or a hybrid working as a viable model and an increased demand for gig workers can potentially open up opportunities for women who have dropped out of the workforce because of life stage conflicts, persons with disabilities who have difficulty commuting to work and talent residing in smaller cities with limited mobility. Increased use of digital and virtual will be a big leveler. Similarly, the proliferation of online learning models can potentially remove geographic barriers to learning and can offer more access to skilling opportunities, which were earlier concentrated in urban areas.
On the whole, while it is too soon to predict how things will shape over the long term, the opportunities presented by the pandemic must be maximized. And to do that, the industry, policymakers and society as a whole, need to come together to create enabling structures and attempt to change entrenched cultural attitudes – for example – those that expect women to entirely shoulder the responsibilities of running a home.

6. What is your approach towards building a gender-diverse workplace?

Our global goal is to become a gender-balanced workforce by 2025. For us, gender equality is a business priority. All our leaders actively champion this, and treat it as a priority for themselves.

We have several programs to enable women throughout their career and life cycle stages. Some examples are 

  • Our High-Tech Women (HTW) program which focuses on fast-tracking the careers of high performing women technologists into the role of Technical Architects
  • Our Returning Mothers program supports women and helps them seamlessly reintegrate back into the workforce through flexi work, learning interventions and mentorship from experienced women executives
  • Our Grow Women in Leadership program is focused on high-potential women executives to grow them into leadership roles through sponsorship, curated assignments, personalized coaching and networking opportunities 
  • In order to achieve gender equality, the participation of men is crucial - we encourage men in our workforce to be equality advocates. 

And all this is backed by an empowering environment where we actively listen for feedback, ensure all promotion and pay decisions are scrutinized for unconscious biases. This has enabled our women to tackle some of the biggest challenges they face due to life-stage conflicts and thrive in their career.

7. How did you enable your people with disabilities during the pandemic given the WFH scenario?

We have actively engaged with our people with disabilities to better understand their challenges and requirements as they worked from home. We have leveraged technology to get our people the help they need. Our ‘Disability Adjustment Request’ platform acts as a hub for all reasonable accommodation requirements of our people, providing them a very personalized experience. 

To help our people choose the right assistive technology and enablement devices, we also have an Accessibility Centre of Excellence which our people can visit to experience the technology or device before they decide to request for the same. An example of this is our in-house platform -Dhvani that enables voice-to-text and text-to-voice conversion and supports communication for people who have speech, hearing and language disabilities and has been integrated with all our virtual collaboration platforms. Additionally, all of our web and technology applications are built such that they are completely accessible for persons with disabilities.

8. What is the role of leadership in building diverse and inclusive organisations?

A culture of equality starts at the top, and rests on the belief that it is a business imperative that is treated the same as any other strategic priority. This will only be possible if leaders truly believe that a culture of equality matters in order for an organisation to adopt an intentional approach to equality. Leadership at the very top needs to set and publish benchmarks, and regularly assess progress towards equality. 


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