N. Chandrasekaran, MD and CEO, TCS, says his women employees are one of the most valuable assets of his 3.35 lakh strong workforce. In a conversation with Ajita Shashidhar, he says that he goes all-out to ensure that the company works around their constraints so that the women employees don't have to give up their careers.
Q. You have the largest woman workforce in the IT industry. How important is gender diversity for TCS?
A. We are proud that we have achieved the milestone of 100,000 women employees. A company like TCS, which is at the forefront of technology and has a lot of intellectual professionals, gives ample scope for women. We have been increasing our workforce year after year. Diversity is a broad subject and we are looking at it from the point of view of gender and nationality. Also generation diversity is fast becoming important in today's context because of the demographic profile we have in this country. From a gender perspective, we have been averaging at around 33 per cent. We are trying to promote gender diversity across the board. It's not just at the entry level. We would like to see more and more women taking up senior roles. That has been an area of concern primarily because women do face issues especially in India as they have to take up family responsibilities too. During the growing years of their children, they tend to give up their careers.
It requires a lot of empathy to create an environment in which they are able to pursue their career. Fundamentally, as firm and I also believe that having a mix is extremely important. My focus has always been to give flexibility. When I say flexibility, it is just not about timing or location, it is about how we create an overall environment, where we are able to give opportunities that they can take up at different points of time. There are times in their career when they want to be mobile, there are times in their career when they can't be mobile. So, how do we accommodate all this? It is actually not very difficult, primarily due to the nature of our business. I do believe that the world is so connected today than ever before, so it is just a mindset. Most of the jobs in our industry is intellectual kind of work, so, it's not that difficult to encourage and help the women to shape their careers.
Q. The industry perception is that while you may have a one-lakh strong women employees, there aren't too many women in key leadership roles.
A. Though the diversity quotient is 33 per cent, a good number, at the senior levels, it is in the range of 12 to 13 per cent. Obviously, that number needs to go up. Almost 90 per cent of TCS revenue comes from international clients and many times it involves a lot of travel. Many women are hesitant to travel too frequently. But there are very senior positions available in the company which can be done with less of travel. There are delivery managers, quality managers, people who drive practices, offerings and so on and they are all women leaders. I don't like to put rigid guidelines. So, when I see women with lot of potential, I talk to them. Whoever has constraints, if they reach out, we definitely find ways to work on those constraints. It is more of a dialogue that is needed. There have been situations when I myself have reached out to our women employees who have high potential and I have tried to find an answer to their constraints, so that were able to pursue their career without compromises. We have a number of women in senior leadership positions, but I would like more and more of them.
It's about creating a holistic environment where all my managers are at it. I am hesitant to put a metric, because if I put a metric, then people will read the metric and put a tick mark. So, it takes a little bit longer if you drive it without the metric, but it is more lasting. So, what we are trying to do is drive this culture so that managers at every level are trying to create diverse teams, multiple dimensions of diversity, but definitely gender diversity.
Q. How many women leaders do you have at the senior-most level?
A. In the senior-most level, we have around 4-5 women. Our Deputy Head of HR, Ritu Anand, Vijaya Deepti, who heads our insurance product, Aarthi Subramanian takes care of governance across the board, Sukanya, who handles our travel and hospitality business, and Michelle Lemmens, who is the centre manager of our all-women BPO in Saudi Arabia. She asked for the job when she was in Australia and she has done everything from recruiting the first associate to scaling it up to 300 associates in a year. It's a pretty remarkable thing to do.
We are a company which believes in meritocracy. All these people are phenomenally capable people, have deep expertise in running the business, whether it is in operations, customer orientation, domain knowledge or delivery excellence, people skills. We are not trying to meet a metric, rather we are trying to promote people with lot of capability. There are a lot of women out there who have the same level of capability as men. I don't see gaps. It's just that some are able to pursue their careers much more vigorously than others. So what is it that we have to do that more people pursue their careers. If we can address that issue, I think we should definitely have almost equal number of women as the number of men. That should be achievable. If we have 33 per cent women at the company level, there is no reason why we shouldn't have 33 per cent women at the senior-most levels.
Q. Do you foresee your successor to be a woman?
A. I guess it is too early to say. But it is all about equal opportunity. In our company, we focus on an empowered management structure and empowered teams. We have lot of phenomenal people and we grow all of them. At the right time, the right person will be identified, but there is an equal opportunity for women.