About five years ago, I took up responsibility for the Hitachi Consulting Core program in India, a program designed for new college graduate hires. My charter was primarily to hire high-quality talent into the India delivery team. We covered the length and breadth of the country – visiting campuses from the snowy mountains of the north to the hot and humid plains in the south, the vibrant cities in the west to the cultural hotspots in the east. We found the best minds in the colleges and universities of India and brought them on board. As we hired new graduates each year, we realized that we had contributed substantially to making Hitachi Consulting a well-balanced organization in terms of gender.
This was not a planned effort. Gender was never a focus. We did not set ourselves targets to hire more women – it just happened naturally. The bright talent we were looking for just happened to appear in more women than men.
Looking back, I can see a few traits that the people we chose had in common. Academic achievement, of course, was a basic criterion, and in general the women outperformed men on this by a wide margin. Their logical and analytical ability in thinking of solutions for societal problems, and their innovative approaches, stood out. They showed a lot of potential to achieve success in their careers. Most importantly, they all had a hunger to achieve, to demonstrate to the world that they were as capable as anyone else.
We did encounter some resistance. Some people thought that these women would not stay long with the organization, or that they would not travel from farther parts of India to work in Hyderabad. This proved not to be the case at all, and I am happy to report that many of the brightest hires that continue with us are women.
Ancient India held women in high esteem. During the Vedic period, women enjoyed an equal status with men. However, this changed after the various conquests of India. The position of women in society deteriorated. They were consigned to household chores, and restrictions were imposed on their dress, their movement and their overall freedom. This improved somewhat during the British rule, when many social reforms were brought about for the betterment of women.
Today’s India is very different from the one 75 years ago. Women in India now participate fully in areas such as education, sports, politics, media, art and culture, service sectors, science and technology. And the corporate world in India – a traditional bastion of men – has undergone a sea change. Across industries, many women have risen to the top. Although the gender ratio is still skewed in favour of men, there are innumerable examples of women who have broken through the glass ceiling and gone on to achieve bigger successes. In fact, India has the highest percentage of successful women entrepreneurs in the world, according to a recent article in SiliconIndia.
My hope is a society that does not stand in the way of these talented women, so that they can meet their challenges and thrive. When balance is achieved, everyone benefits. My experience hiring the best talent for Hitachi Consulting has made this clear, as does this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, #BalanceForBetter.
Pic: Off-site training with the Consulting Core group in 2014.