Payal Aggarwal on how DEI is a way of life at AuthBridge

Fostering a diverse and inclusive (DE&I) environment is essential in today’s globalised workplace. Studies by We-Ace, for instance, reveal a significant 45% increase in inclusive hiring practices for women in recent years. This reflects a growing global commitment to gender equality at work. This recognition extends beyond gender, with research indicating that 85% of companies surveyed acknowledge the need to address broader biases and create a more equitable working environment.

However, achieving true DE&I goes beyond simply hiring a diverse workforce. It’s about creating a culture where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique talents and perspectives. This requires a commitment to dismantling unconscious bias, providing ongoing learning and development opportunities, and fostering a sense of belonging for all employees.

One organisation that exemplifies this commitment is AuthBridge Research Services Private Limited. Headquartered in India, AuthBridge is a company that walks the talk regarding DE&I. 

Payal Aggarwal, the company’s recently appointed Vice President of Human Resources, discussed AuthBridge’s long-standing dedication to creating an inclusive workplace.

Here are some excerpts from the conversation.

Diversity is the norm, not the exception

Payal emphasises that diversity isn’t an afterthought at AuthBridge. It’s woven into the very fabric of the company’s culture. This philosophy resonated deeply with her upon joining the organisation. “I recently joined Authbridge,” she explains, “I was pleasantly surprised to learn that our female workforce ratio is 40%. This is excellent news and a reassuring indication that we provide a safe and supportive environment for women to thrive and advance in their careers with us.” 

This commitment to gender equality extends to senior management, with a remarkable 50% of Assistant Vice President (AVP) roles held by women.  Furthermore, when considering leadership positions at the AVP level and above, including business heads and functional heads, the female representation remains impressive at 37%. While acknowledging these achievements, Payal outlines her ambitious goal of achieving 50% female representation across the workforce. 

Payal also recognises that DE&I encompasses more than just gender. She is actively exploring opportunities to integrate veterans into the AuthBridge workforce. “I have been considering the ways to create a more inclusive workplace and though it is relatively early for me, I am identifying opportunities to integrate veterans into our workforce,” she explains. Veterans bring a wealth of experience and skills to the table, and AuthBridge recognizes their potential to significantly contribute to the company’s success.

Supporting women re-entering the workforce

Recent research by Longhouse Consulting showed that approximately 80% of working women in India take career breaks, with 45% citing childcare and personal commitments as primary reasons.

Payal demonstrates a keen understanding of these challenges faced by women. Recognising the valuable contributions these women can make, she plans to develop targeted programmes to support their re-entry into the workforce. 

She shares, “One cohort that we want to focus on is women returning from career breaks. Several women who had to temporarily step back from their careers due to personal reasons deserve opportunities for reintegration into the workforce. It’s essential to provide support and resources tailored to their unique needs to facilitate a smooth transition back into the professional realm.”

Mitigating bias through rigorous hiring practices

Unconscious bias in recruitment often puts a dent in the hiring plans of an organisation and in truly nurturing a diverse workforce. One way Authbridge tackles this is through a meticulous system for analysing why candidates are not selected. This ensures that gender is never a factor in rejection decisions. They go beyond simply checking a box, recognising that some female candidates might be in a life stage requiring temporary support. These candidates could be strong fits in the future, so a rejection isn’t necessarily final.

To further ensure fairness, the company has a system in place for detailed feedback on every rejected candidate. Every Team Manager personally reviews this feedback to identify any potential bias creeping in. If there’s even a hint of a non-merit-based rejection, the hiring manager is consulted to understand the rationale behind the decision. Only rejections demonstrably based on performance and merit are considered final. Additionally, cross-functional interviews are conducted to ensure a wider perspective on candidate suitability and to prevent bias from any one department influencing the outcome.

Work-from-home policy promotes inclusion

AuthBridge embraces a work-from-home policy for specific roles, particularly within their operations team. This policy fosters inclusion by allowing employees from diverse locations across India to contribute and participate in the company’s success. “We have extended our recruitment efforts to candidates across various states, including Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities in India, where we have employees working from home. They are an integral part of our workforce,” Payal explains. This geographically diverse workforce enriches the company with a variety of perspectives and experiences.

While recognising the benefits of a flexible work-from-home policy, Payal also acknowledges the importance of fostering collaboration and innovation. 

“Work-from-home opportunities are indeed role-based, but we’re also encouraging more and more people to come and work from the office because we have realised at this stage of growth, we need a lot of cross-functional thinking, collaboration, ideation and implementation,” she says. 

By striking a balance between work-from-home flexibility and in-office collaboration, AuthBridge fosters an environment that is both inclusive and conducive to generating creative ideas and solutions.

DE&I as a continuous journey

For Payal, DE&I is not a destination, but rather an ongoing journey. “DE&I has to be a way of life,” she emphasises. She advocates for establishing clear governance and controls to eliminate unconscious bias and ensure all decisions are based solely on merit and performance. 

Additionally, AuthBridge prioritises ongoing learning and development opportunities for all employees. “We have also launched a structured and detailed induction programme called Pacesetter where anybody who joins the organisation goes through seven days of structured training,” Payal details. This comprehensive programme equips new hires with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in their roles, reinforcing a sense of belonging and confidence from day one.

Payal acknowledges the strong foundation AuthBridge has already established in terms of diversity but she also embodies a growth mindset, constantly seeking new ways to enhance the organisation’s DE&I initiatives.

Overall, AuthBridge serves as a compelling example of an organisation that prioritises DE&I. Through a combination of strong leadership commitment, well-defined policies, and ongoing initiatives, it fosters a culture where diverse perspectives are valued, talent is nurtured, and everyone has the opportunity to thrive. 

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