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Driving D&I: Mashreq Global Network's commitment to empowering women employees

Driving D&I: Mashreq Global Network's commitment to empowering women employees

Among its efforts is a programme for women who are returning to the workforce after a hiatus for maternity, elderly care, family responsibilities, pursuing higher studies, or personal interests. Jayanthi Gopal, Head of HR, shares more.

Mashreq Global Network (MGN), a subsidiary of UAE-born financial institution Mashreq Bank, deems diversity & inclusion (D&I) as an integral part of its organisational ethos. In fact, it is closely aligned with the institution's commitment to nurturing and developing its human capital, as Jayanthi Gopal, Head of HR, Mashreq Global Network (pictured above), tells Priya Sunil.

"Mashreq’s greatest asset is its workforce. We are dedicated to providing a secure and engaged work environment where every employee can thrive. Our people-first work culture is shaped by our commitment to be an equal opportunity employer. Regardless of age, gender, race, disability, or religion, we are resolute in providing equal opportunities to all employees.

"This commitment to fairness and equity is the cornerstone of our work ethic model, ensuring that every member of our multicultural and ethnically diverse workplace has the chance to excel," she shares.

Having a diverse, dedicated team has, she adds, meaningfully helped the organisation promote engagement, encourage creativity, expand its talent pool, and boost productivity.

With a current workforce of more than 1,700 employees, including 35% women, MGN has been successful in championing its D&I agenda, she says, citing it as "a testament to the effective policies and practices that we have put in place to foster a diverse and inclusive work environment."

In this interview, she talks about her role leading D&I efforts at MGN, efforts the organisation has in place for women looking to return to the workforce after a hiatus or career break, and more, thus contributing to the overall employee experience.

Leading the charge as HR

Recognising the part that she, as the HR lead, plays in driving the DI&I agenda, Jayanthi shares: "In my current role, I am dedicated to upholding these principles and ensuring that every member of our workforce is empowered to contribute their best so that our organisation thrives as a result."

The biggest area of focus at the moment for the leader and her team is a commitment to increasing the female representation within MGN's workforce in India, to 50% by the year 2024, along with a strong focus on fostering a collaborative culture and investing in its people.

She elaborates: "We believe in equipping our team members with the knowledge, expertise, and tools necessary to navigate the evolving demands of our business successfully.

"By doing so, we ensure that our employees are well-prepared to deliver the best client experiences, further solidifying our position as one of the leading organisations in our industry."

Empowering women in the workforce

MGN's efforts to encourage female inclusion, empowerment, and establish equitable chances for advancement have led to significant strides towards the organisation's D&I goals, Jayanthi notes.

For instance, the team has observed a consistent increase in female participation across the workforce.

"As of 2022, we are delighted that women make up 34.4% of the total global workforce. Over the next two years, we hope to achieve close to a 50:50 gender ratio and double the number of women in top management positions."

One key initiative driving these efforts is the 'Reignite' programme launched this year, which aims to empower women professionals who wish to rejoin the workforce after a career break. This initiative, first launched successfully at MGN India, has now expanded to Mashreq's other global locations.

This programme was introduced for women who are returning to the workforce after a hiatus of 12 months or more, due to reasons such as maternity, elderly care, family responsibilities, pursuing higher studies, or personal interests. To ensure a tailored and meaningful experience for those who are eligible, the candidates are grouped based on their skills, experience, and the necessary training for their chosen roles.

The leader elaborates: "The programme is meticulously designed to facilitate a smooth transition to work through training, mentorship, and upskilling opportunities. With the help of our extensive network of professionals, Mashreq provides hands-on training and access to comprehensive leadership development modules.

"'Reignite' exemplifies our commitment to building a diverse and robust workforce by tapping into a motivated talent pool. This initiative, coupled with other development programmes for women and our focus on hiring women for senior management roles, underscores Mashreq's dedication to supporting women in their career journeys within the company."

Such efforts have "significantly enhanced" the overall employee experience, as Jayanthi affirms. These initiatives also go beyond the surface, empowering employees to feel genuinely valued, supported, and motivated to contribute their unique talents, she notes. The also provide valuable upskilling opportunities for all members of the workforce, fostering a more diverse and inclusive environment across the organisation.

In further efforts, MGN also has in place a programme that was designed to facilitate the re-integration of women into the workforce after a career break. "Many women possess the requisite skills but lack the confidence to manage their work and parental responsibilities simultaneously," Jayanthi points out. 

Therefore, to address such challenges, MGN has set in place various interventions including focus group discussions, mentoring, and coaching sessions with the aim to provide a supportive ecosystem for women to navigate the complexities of balancing their family life and work life, as well as enable them to take on higher roles and responsibilities within the organisation.

These initiatives, along with the organisation's other people-centric initiatives, "will drive long-term success and sustainability for the company by building a diverse and empowered workforce", the leader affirms.

"Mashreq has for long been an employer of choice – an organisation that values and invests in the well-being and professional growth of its employees. These initiatives come from our deep-rooted commitment to remain so."

Sharing her personal point-of-view, the leader reflects: "In this day and age, to be able to have a job that is fulfilling is a blessing. Not many people are blessed with having a purpose and fulfilment in their jobs.

"Talking about diversity and Inclusion, pushing hard the agenda for D&I, is not easy as it sounds. Breaking barriers, taking risks, and pushing the collective mindset of hiring managers and leaders is what keeps me going. We do not succeed all the time. But then if there were not challenges, there would not be a sense of fulfilment."

"Fortunately, I receive a lot of support from the leadership at Mashreq. All the way up to our Group CEO is committed to D&I and we are constantly challenged on the progress on the agenda," she adds.

Just being able to find fulfilment in driving the DE&I agenda with a lot of other committed people in the organisation keeps me going. I think that in itself is the singular benefit for me as an individual.

Speaking from experience

Rounding off the interview, HRO took a peek into how the leader's own career journey has played a part in her current D& I priorities. Read on for the excerpts below:

Q You have a wealth of experience in HR, with a background that includes roles in both India and Europe. How has your international experience shaped your approach to supporting D&I at MGN, especially in the Indian context?

Travel broadens your perspective. My first couple of years in London were somewhat of a culture shock to me and revealed to me my own unconscious biases and helped me reflect on how we are all shaped by our upbringing and circumstances. The nuances of D&I at workplaces certainly differs across cultures and the organisation’s mandate. But the organizations are made of people and the more diverse they are, they sub consciously bring in the much-needed spin off effects of diversity that is hard to measure but is surely seen and felt.

The ‘Indian context’ is a multi-thronged approach. Our family norms, social norms, and organisational norms when it comes to D&I are very different. We are still a largely patriarchal, hierarchical, and authoritarian society when it comes to family and social norms and therefore, our ethos that govern us outside of work are somewhat different from the ones that govern us at workplaces.

The push for D&I used to be perceived as something that came from multinational organisations. But we now see it in our own backyard.

Whether it be the female home grown politicians or the girl gang in ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) that was part of the team that launched Chandrayaan (the Indian Lunar Exploration Programme), we seem to be looking at gender diversity with more acceptance than we were 25 years ago. I do remember being typecasted as a ‘feminist’, like it was a bad idea to be outspoken in my first job. Times have changed and how. I admire the ‘woke’ Millennials today and their outspokenness. We certainly have come a long way not only at workplaces but also as a society when it comes to looking at D&I.

Q What is one step you are taking in your personal life, to drive the importance of D&I, or bust myths around the concept?

D&I to me personally is about diversity in thought, and diversity in perspectives. Gender diversity is getting a lot of limelight, but at workplaces if we go about hiring similar people especially women who exhibit the same qualities exhibited by so called ‘successful men’ in the name of leadership from an earlier era, we are doing more of the same. For example, aggression and long working hours which were typically male qualities were equated to ‘hard work’ and ‘success’.

Personally, I would look at aligning with more allies, men or women who promote diversity in spirit and thought.

Photo: Provided

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