Three months ago, as we ushered in a new fiscal at Accenture, I took some time off to reflect and recharge. I reflected in particular, on the unprecedented year we had experienced as a human race and drew hope as well as strength from how the whole world came together breaking all invisible barriers to respond with agility.

It also got me thinking about how the pandemic has deepened some of the pre-existing inequalities and how, despite the strides we made as a community towards creating a more equal world over the years, we probably reversed the progress made in many ways.

The pressing question is – where do we go from here and how do we collectively reverse some of this inequality brought about by the crisis?

Rebuilding a stronger foundation for an equal world

At Accenture, for many years now, we have been on a journey to intentionally and sustainably create a strong culture of equality. And for us, this commitment starts at the very top with our leaders being vocal and visible champions of promoting a culture where everyone can advance and thrive.

This is fundamental to who we are and stems from our conviction that inclusion drives innovation and fosters creativity. But above all it is just the right thing to do.

Today, as a society and community, we must collectively recommit to rebuild an even stronger foundation for an equal world that can withstand the setbacks and reverse the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on marginalised groups.

Accelerating equality

Organizations need to amplify their efforts to rebuild lost ground. In my last article, I shared how only a fourth of the people with disability are employed in India, and at Accenture, how we are committed to building a diverse and equal workforce recognizing this as a business imperative. 

Today I want to share with you about a unique program we launched in 2019 to accelerate equality for all in our community too.

The program known as ‘Inclusive Internship’, focuses on building a skilled talent pool of persons with disabilities (PwD) and transgender candidates. This program provides them a much-needed jumpstart to launch their career journey through a combination of learning experiences over a six-month period. These learning experiences help them build professional and functional skills through on-the-job learning opportunities, that not only augment their overall work experience but also make them industry ready.

We need more organizations making these investments. This will help us create a diverse talent pool consisting of motivated individuals with relevant skills who bring fresh thinking and innovation to the table.

The benefits of this program are several. It inspires our own people to challenge their biases as they work with interns from diverse backgrounds and in turn enables social transformation, while creating a richer, more diverse talent pool for organizations.

Equality is for all 

Given our success of converting interns from among PwD and transgenders candidates to full-time hires, this year we expanded the scope of the program to include women engineers from economically weaker sections (EWS) of the society – a group typically underrepresented in the tech workforce.

This adaptation of the program, called ‘Aarambh’, or ‘The Beginning’ is focused on building technology skills and offering employment opportunities to women from EWS and PwD candidates who are unable to find formal employment otherwise. The program comprises a robust training program with regular assessments over a 12-week period. It has so far yielded promising results. While the goal was to help them become employable at any company (not just ours), most of the interns were offered full-time jobs at Accenture itself. In the process, they’ve become role models for their communities, and regardless of where their careers take them, they will always have their Aarambh experience as a foundation.

We are committed to expanding the scope of this program to intentionally hire and provide career development opportunities to diverse and underrepresented groups who otherwise have limited prospects for formal employment.

Preparing the workforce of the future

If we could replicate similar, inclusive initiatives across organizations and across industries – it would allow us to break many barriers faced by underrepresented groups of our society. At the same time, as an industry, we will be able to improve access to relevant skills and alleviate unconscious biases. In doing so, we would not just drive business growth and financial outcomes, but also create collective value and meaningful change for society at scale and build a better future world, with equality and inclusion at the heart of our societies.

Lakshmi Chandrasekharan

Managing Director – Human Resources Lead, Accenture, India

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