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Daughters educate dads on diversity in the workplace of future

Before David had a heated discussion with his teenage daughter about gender pay gap, his self-image of a feminist dad was never challenged. The reality of the situation struck him deeper when his daughter confronted his on-the-fence arguments with facts and figures. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) statistics, she argued, none of us might see gender parity in our lifetimes. It was a teachable moment for David as a father and prompted him to step off the fence and land on the side of gender equality. As a leader in his organization, David today is a boisterous advocate for creating gender parity in compensation as well as opportunities.

David isn’t the only one who is learning a lesson or two from his daughter. “Gender norms are changing, and old parenting models are being disrupted. All along, I truly believed myself to be a feminist dad until I had a reality check with my 15-year-old daughter, who certified me as a ‘modernist,’ or at best an ‘equalist’ dad!” rued Madhusudan Menon, AVP & Business Head, who is a father to his teenage daughter, Maitreyi.

The question is, can these sincere and committed cheerleader dads be game changers in driving increased gender diversity in corporate boardrooms of the future? Apparently, yes. Feminist dads make effective campaigners of gender issues at the workplace while engaging potential male allies in progressive conversations. “Feminist fathers will definitely play a crucial role in aiding the journey for their daughters to take charge, establish their individuality, and own the majority seat at any table, whether a corporate boardroom or otherwise,” Menon adds.

Several studies have found that male leaders, who are also fathers to daughters, tend to be more supportive campaigners of anti-discrimination policies, and often reject traditional gender roles. Researchers have also found that companies run by CEOs, who are dads of daughters, tend to have smaller gender pay gaps.

This is not to imply that men without daughters are incompetent as leaders. All men, with or without daughters, have a stake in advancing gender equality. But fathers of daughters are often more sensitive in recognizing the need for advancing gender equality at workplaces and are well-positioned to pick up the baton and start running.

Kapil Jain, SVP & Global Head of Sales and Capability agrees and believes that “as dads, we need to be clear and strong about what we want for our girls. I am sure, when we collectively believe and act on it, we will see a sea-change in the future of the workplace.” Jain, who is a father to two daughters – 26-year-old Pranati and 25-year-old Ayushi – has approached parenthood from a progressive mindset from the very beginning that somewhere also shaped his vision for a diverse and equal workplace.“My daughters have always had the freedom to make their own decisions with no restrictions, whatsoever. My wife Ruchika and I have ardently supported them in all their decisions,” he says.

Organizations are increasingly realizing this inter-connection between personal beliefs of a leader and workplace equality. What an organization stands for is the sum-total of beliefs the leadership nurtures collectively. A strong nudge towards diversity, equality, and inclusion in the corporate world is thus quickly emerging. Reducing the wage gap, elevating women to leadership roles, tackling unconscious gender bias, are some of the measures that organizations are instating as part of their strategic business decisions.

“Corporates need to constantly ensure that we make the workplace amenable for women in different phases of their lives such as career-breaks for childcare. As leaders, we need to embrace the challenge to take that extra effort to bring women employees up to speed when they return to work, instead of dismissing them, saying ‘they have fallen behind’ or ‘are now laden with other responsibilities’,” Binny Mathews, VP & Business Head, who is a father to 19-year-old law student, Monica, implored.  

Infosys has several support initiatives focused on rehiring ex-Infoscion women, mentoring and training programs for women leaders, along with gender agnostic policies that empower everyone equally. Such initiatives will surely see the number of women in leadership roles grow substantially. “Equal opportunities at home will naturally mean equal opportunities at workplaces,” Mathews added.  

Male Champions of Change (MCC) strategy established in 2010 by the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, was founded on one such vision of extending positive personal conduct of a male leader towards gender issues, to workplaces. The Strategy, now known as the Champions of Change Coalition, has gained international recognition as a high-impact model for engaging men of power and influence in driving progressive gender equality. The UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment also highlighted the Strategy as an opportunity for global scale-up among enterprises to achieve true diversity. The Dads4Daughters Implicit Bias Test modelled after Harvard University’s Implicit Association Test is another tool standing testament to the above soft findings. By measuring how strongly we automatically associate various attributes with males and females, the test helps us recognize how gendered beliefs can affect our workplace decision-making, even when we are genuinely committed to women’s advancement.

Thanks to such global campaigns and their campaigners that gender equality at the workplace today is a flourishing debate. When being a feminist dad is a conversation starter at workplaces for gender equality and diversity, change is not far behind. So, here’s a shout-out to all the dads (of daughters) who are knowingly or unknowingly doing their profound best to bring impactful changes in favour of diverse workplaces. May their tribe increase.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Infosys BPM.