A diverse, inclusive workforce is good for business, says Nidhi Gokhale, Head of HR at Sandvik Manufacturing Solutions. But you need to walk the talk to make real change happen.
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) has never been more important to businesses than right now. Around the world, companies are pledging to create workplaces that include everyone, regardless of gender, race, age and or orientation.
You've been in HR and with Sandvik for ten years. Why did you choose a career in HR and why at Sandvik?
I graduated with honors in physics, but, in the first year of my master's, I realized this was not the career I wanted. My father once told me to make a career out of your strengths and what you love. I decided to complete a master's in HR. I moved to Pune, India, for my studies and it was here that I eventually started working for Sandvik.
One day, during my masters, a guest lecturer came to speak to us from the nearby Sandvik plant. He’d been with the company for 35 years and I remember wondering how a company had got someone to stay for so long. After my masters, I applied for a one-year internship at Sandvik and, here I am, ten years later!
A truly diverse company is one that encourages open thinking and creates a culture of inclusion.
Why do companies need to take D&I seriously?
Research shows that more diversity in executive teams and leadership roles has a direct impact on a company performing better – both when it comes to creating a more inclusive culture but also for productivity and profitability. We can see that younger generations actively seek out teams of people from different backgrounds. Their approach to innovation and problem solving is to bring diversity into the team because they know it will lead to a better end result.
Why is D&I important to Sandvik?
At Sandvik, we believe a diverse workforce is better suited to serving our customer base around the world. In today’s globalized, digitized world, a diverse, inclusive workplace is central to a company´s ability to attract, develop and retain the talent it needs to compete in the future.
It’s important to understand that true diversity means respecting all the differences that define us as individuals – from gender to age, cultural and national backgrounds, orientation, ethnicity, as well as differences in education, experience and skills. A truly diverse company is one that encourages open thinking and creates a culture of inclusion, in which all individuals feel respected, are treated fairly and have the opportunity to excel.
The greatest challenge in D&I is making it a central part of the business strategy, not just an afterthought.
Having worked in both India and Sweden, how do the two compare in terms of D&I?
Both countries share a similar challenge: how to attract more women to traditionally male jobs, but there is more of an uphill battle in India due to cultural constraints. In India, we opened a daycare center at Sandvik in Pune to attract female employees. When I first returned from maternity leave, my son Hridaan used to spend his days at the spacious, cheerful daycare center. Meanwhile, in Sweden, the Female Leader Engineer initiative encourages newly graduated women to meet and learn from their peers. Research shows that young women are more likely to consider working for an organization when they have gender role models.
What is your greatest challenge?
The greatest challenge in D&I is making it a central part of the business strategy, not just an afterthought. It isn’t enough to talk about diversity, it needs to be embedded in everything we do, from how we attract people, to how we develop, manage and retain them. At Sandvik, I can confidently say that D&I is an integral part of who we are as a company.
One of Sandvik’s sustainability goals is for 33 percent of managers to be women by 2030. Why have you set this goal and how will you achieve it?
When it comes to gender diversity, studies show that you need about one-third representation in a group before you stop feeling like a minority – so our current levels are not enough. The proportion of women in our global workforce is 19.6 percent currently, while the women in managerial positions increased in the last 5 years from 16.5 percent to 18.5 percent in 2020. We are also seeking to broaden the ethnic and cultural diversity of the executive teams. We currently have 19 percent non-Europeans on the division management teams. So even though the numbers have been gradually improving every year, we need to speed up the process. We’re working with greater intensity and more targeted interventions globally, and driving this as part of our business strategy.
Tips to young women on International Women's Day
Feed your passions: This enables you to be more focused and enjoy every other aspect of your life
Ask for help: Regardless of whether you are starting a new position or if you are a working mom with kids at home or looking for inspiration on what to do next, I have learned over the years that asking for help is a strength, not a weakness
What makes you feel the greatest sense of pride in your work?
Although we have a long way to go, I’m proud of the growing numbers of women in our organization. We have reworked our recruitment processes to make sure the wording in job vacancies is modern and inclusive. For instance, we avoid gender-specific pronouns as much as possible. I’m proud of our 18-month Global Graduate Program, which helps attract young talent, as selected graduates develop an in-depth understanding of our businesses through various rotations in their home country and abroad. I’m proud of our other D&I initiatives like the nano-learning we recently rolled out and our Global Leadership program ‘Bridge’ that focuses on leading across boundaries and increasing cultural diversity awareness. On a personal level, I’m proud to work with so many amazing people from all over the world. It’s so much more challenging, stimulating and fun to be a part of a diverse and inclusive environment.
You started at Sandvik ten years ago, where do you see Sandvik in ten years?
At Sandvik, we offer a world of opportunities. Our diverse business and global network enable us all to take control of our career development and thrive to the best of our potential.
I strongly believe that we will continue to grow and deliver value to our customers, suppliers and shareholders while having a globally diverse workforce from a wide range of cultural, geographical and professional backgrounds and with modern, agile and sustainable ways of working driving the shift in the industry in which we operate.