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Diverse Teams: Sunita Cherian on inclusion as a business driver

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Sunita Cherian is Senior Vice President Human Resources at Wipro.

What does diversity hiring mean to you?

To me, inclusion is all good, and it is good for the business. Diversity hiring allows us to build teams which resonate with the diversity of our clients, and at the same time, create opportunities for competent professionals who may otherwise run the risk of being marginalized. With our clients spread across industries, countries, cultures and technologies domains, having a diverse workforce is a key competitive advantage – a must-have and mainstream business driver rather than an aspirational initiative.

Even within focus diversity segments like gender, persons with disabilities, culture, LGBT, it is important to hire for “thought diversity” - hiring a diverse set of people of different ages, perspectives, ideas and personalities - people who bring heterogeneity in the teams. We may also need to go beyond the visible facets of diversity to tap the “softer” or the “deeper” ingrained ones. This results in diverse teams delivering better.


Wipro is an equal opportunity employer and hires based on principles of meritocracy and building a more inclusive work environment, by breaking unconscious biases that may hinder fair and unbiased decision-making. Also, we place our talent above everything else to ensure that the best potential in any individual doesn’t go unrecognized.


What are the best diversity and inclusion practices of Wipro?


Our Inclusion and Diversity Strategy spans beyond Diversity of Identity, toward Inclusivity for all. Our focus is to become more “Inclusive” than merely representing Diversity through numbers. We do this by constantly building Inclusion as a Way of Life within our culture while focusing on policies and processes that create and reinforce Inclusion.

Our formal definition of Inclusion reads: “Inclusion is about integrating diversity effortlessly into every day working, encouraging all to participate and to be their authentic selves. An inclusive workplace respects uniqueness among individuals and nurtures an overall sense of belonging. We celebrate and learn from diverse ideas, backgrounds, perspectives and experiences. This provides us with an opportunity to realize our true potential at work and beyond. The essence of co-creating, guided by our values, defines inclusion and diversity at Wipro.”


Wipro is built on an unflinching commitment to our values, better known as the “Spirit of Wipro.” These values are the cornerstone of our inclusion and diversity (I&D) practices. Our initial focus was on gender inclusion. Thereafter, we expanded the scope to persons with disabilities; nationalities; underprivileged communities; suppliers; and more recently, LGBT groups. Across the spectrum, we remain focused on building a plurality of ideas and on the elimination of unconscious bias.


Walking the Talk- The 3 C model:


  • Commitment: Our CEO serves as the Executive Sponsor of the I&D Council. The Council includes the Global I&D Head, Senior Leaders/Executives from diverse groups -gender/geographies/ethnicity.  I&D is a key point of agenda for our Board Reviews
  • Collaboration: I&D Council leaders anchor individual inclusion pillars and collaborate across Businesses/Units/Geographies. Frequent reviews ensure progress of these goals
  • Continuous Improvement: We set high benchmarks for inclusion, and continuously evolve them. Key indicators impacting diversity representation/unconscious bias at various stages of the employee lifecycle are monitored by the Board as well as the I&D Council. Quarterly Diversity Score Card Metrics are published to the I&D council for review of metrics like e.g. Hiring, Key Business Roles, Attrition, Gender Pay Parity, Promotions, and Rating Spread.  Root cause Analysis and suitable recommendations are made in case of any % dip in these indicators.


Which diversity and inclusion campaigns are you most proud of?


We have run several campaigns around each pillar of diversity. All of them helped us progress well. To my mind, the following are noteworthy for the way they helped us set a course or create momentum:


Awareness of Unconscious bias & #BreaktheBias Campaign


We have in place a mandatory E-Learning Module on Unconscious bias, to understand unconscious biases, its effects on day-to-day working, becoming self-aware and taking action to #BreaktheBias. The module draws attention towards common biases towards women, persons with disabilities, LGBT and cultural diversity. Scenario-based #BreaktheBias Quiz series was a huge success, where with each response, employees get an explanation if it was a biased/unbiased option and how to avoid unchecked assumptions.


A “Life – Stage” based approach - “Women of Wipro” (WoW) 


Programs for women employees in Wipro is not a ‘one-size fits all’, but is tailored to nurture, and groom women at each stage of their life & work. Recognizing that at different life stages, the needs & expectations of women employees are different, Wipro adopted a life-stage based approach to the WoW program. The early career stage, where the emphasis is on building perspectives/fuelling aspirations, the middle stage blends in Flexibility Initiatives while the Leadership Stage is about strengthening a seasoned professional to lead with confidence.


Pride Celebrations & Disability Day celebrations across the globe in June & December 


This has not only made more people aware and join the resource groups as allies, but there is also a general sense of appreciation and camaraderie that these celebrations have brought in across the globe. The posts on yammer and the blogs on these events have received very encouraging feedback from employees globally. 


What are the challenges associated with diversity hiring?


Some of the challenges related to diversity hiring are those stereotypes/unconscious bias which hinder merit-based decision making.  A few examples here are:


  • Hiring “Clones” in your team or people who think “Like-You”- Hiring managers may not be open sometimes to hiring people who think differently than they do. But such a difference in thinking is what really helps create a vibrant work environment and build more creative solutions/innovative approaches to problems we need to solve each day
  • Women on a family way /just returned from maternity break not being considered for challenging /stretch roles. Biases that women are not as good with technology/leadership roles as men
  • Bias based on the sexual orientation of people – unwilling to hire people from the LGBT community
  • Lowering expectations from certain groups of people e.g. fresher /millennial hiring – not hiring for talent but for years of experience /bias based on the school/university of candidates rather than the competency
  • Not willing to hire persons with disabilities as most hiring managers are not aware of how well they may be able to integrate them into the team, hence shy away from hiring them


It is very important to establish with the hiring team and consultants, and with the managers and operational teams at work that this is not a charitable obligation. It is the selection for diversity within a competent pool with the required qualification and not just diversity hiring. Also, it is important for the candidates to understand that they are here because they have what it takes, and not because we are “diversity hiring”.


Do you use any diversity hiring tools or software?


We have leveraged technology not only to aid us in the hiring process but also in creating online platforms to sensitize managers. Some examples follow.

  • Online Unconscious bias Programs (Hiring Certification Program - Our recruiters/hiring managers are trained/certified through an online e-learning module. This module is hosted on a platform, which can be accessed anytime and anywhere. The module helps sensitize the managers /recruiters in carrying out inclusive interviews, while being made aware of certain hiring biases that may hinder objective decision making. Each hiring manager /recruiter has to mandatorily be certified on this module
  • Enhanced Internal tracking systems - Interview Pipeline is required to reflect a mix of diverse candidate profiles.  Our internal systems are enhanced to track diverse profiles at the application stage itself
  • Accessible career website - Our career website is now 95% accessibility-compliant for job seekers with a disability. Features like ARIA Implementation, Keyboard Accessibility, Focus Indicator Outline, Tabindex has made the website accessible for persons with disability
  • Social Media - We have created multiple advertisement campaigns on LinkedIn and other social networking sites to highlight our diversity hiring initiatives and attract diverse talent through the general application and targeted networking process