March 2017

52 APAC / March 2017 , 1703AP19 HSBC’s Drive to Encourage Women Back to the Workplace in India Creating balance in the workplace, and building a diverse and inclusive working environment is not just good for business, it’s simply the right thing to do. Especially at HSBC, where a quarter of amillion employees, who speakmore than 100 languages, serve customers from around 4,000 offices in 70 countries and territories. Like its employees, HSBC’s customers are hugely diverse, and spread around the world, whether in fast-growing countries with young populations, or in more developed economies with ageing ones. HSBC’s purpose is to connect customers to opportunities and that means employing people who reflect the diversity of the communities HSBC serves. Good for business, good for performance In Asia-Pacific, a 2016 study from McKinsey showed that companies with greater female representation in the boardroom tend to be more profitable 1 . Yet women still remain under- represented in senior leadership positions across the region, with just two per cent of female board members in South Korea and Japan, and fewer than nine per cent in Singapore, China and Malaysia. By comparison, the ratio tops forty per cent in Norway, and twenty per cent in the UK 2 . What is HSBC doing about this? The Bank has publicly stated its aim to achieve greater gender balance, and to increase the number of women in leadership roles. In the UK, HSBC has committed itself to a 50:50 male to female ratio of senior positions within the ring-fenced bank. Kirsty Roth knows all too well the opportunity and the challenge, she leads the Operations function at HSBC, which employs more than 60,000 colleagues in 54 countries and 268 cities. More than two-thirds of those employees are located in HSBC’s 21 Global Service Centres in Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. Kirsty suggests that, “of course gender balance is just one focus area of diversity and inclusion for us at HSBC, but it’s an important agenda because an inclusive culture helps us to better understand and serve our customers, and also allows us to attract and retain employees from a wider talent pool so that we have a workforce that will help us see things from a broader perspective, and avoid Group-think”. Local diversity initiatives in India Subir Mehra, who heads up Operations for the Global Service Centres and leads more than 45,000 employees worldwide, agrees. He has been working with his leadership team to introduce practical initiatives across the GSCs in India that will help female graduates in to the workplace for the first time, as well as help them stay on once they’ve had a child. Not just that, Subir and his team are targeting women who’ve been absent from the workforce whilst raising a family, and helping them back in to employment. Focusing on 100 per cent female interns In 2016, Subir introduced an internship programme to enable undergraduates in India to enter the workforce and take up roles in the GSCs in the cities of Kolkata, Vizag, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai. Of the 130 interns who secured positions, three in four were female. This year, Subir announced plans that the target would be a 100 per cent female intake in 2017. This initiative was just part of a wider effort by HSBC to drive gender diversity across its GSCs in India. These efforts were recognised by NASSCOM, the trade association for the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry in 2016, with the GSC in Kolkata receiving the award for the ‘Highest Percentage of Female Employees in IT/ITES’ for the third consecutive year. Doubling maternity entitlement in India GSCs A growing number of educated women in urban India are taking career breaks, or removing themselves entirely from the workforce, to become full-time mothers. A recent survey by the Assocham Social Development Foundation found that twenty-five to thirty per cent of women had resigned following the birth of their first child. Providing support for women who are starting families is a big focus area for Subir and his leadership team. This is why HSBC doubled maternity leave entitlement from 12 weeks to 24 weeks across the GSCs in India last year, a measure that places the Bank in the top quartile of employers in the industry. In addition, female employees are now able to claim for childcare expenses. A spike in retention figures between the first and second half of 2016 among female employees having children shows this level of support is helping. Take Two - helping women return to the workforce But that’s not all. A new programme called ‘Take Two’ has been launched in the GSCs. This is a new internship initiative that targets women professionals with at least six years of work experience, who have taken a break from the workforce. The objective of the programme is Subir Mehra, Global Head of Operations, GSCs, speaking at the Take Two launch