Jayanthi J, Partner HR - PeopleZenn

Emerging from an army background, and after multiple leadership roles in the corporate world, Jayanthi is now heading her own HR Firm. In the era of Gen Zs, she shares her take on diversity

Jayanthi, tell us about your journey, your share of challenges how did you overcome them that shaped you to become one of the most recognized women leaders in the HR fraternity.

Being raised in an armed forces background with agrarian roots, I was exposed to various social settings and locations. This helped me navigate different kinds of situations. Qualified in HRM, as an HR Head in Deloitte, Fiserv, Shardul Amarchand my learnings came from various industries – hospitality, technology, consulting and Legal. I would say, as HR leaders, getting an understanding and looking at how to get business results by maximizing Talent function is the key. Striking the fine balance is what does the magic.
There have been role models and also those who may not have created the best of experience. I learned from both- which made me apply what works best and also pay it forward. Our environment conditions us, whether it’s your closer ones or institutions, across different stages of your life – about your worth and standing, Whether as a woman professional at the workplace or in other contexts. I was no different.
Continuous learning is critical- professional, personal, emotional and spiritual- improving in all quadrants will make you look back and say “oh is this what I did earlier” that means you are fine – evolving and growing. In my journey, I have consciously attempted to look at the half fill so that I am saved from the mind space of half emptiness. Just keep training oneself. Also, it is essential to focus on how do we create our niche, which makes us maximize our potential.

Describe what does #SheTakesTheLead means to you?

Irrespective of whatever challenges one faces, one needs to get going and take the lead on what she wants to do. To set your priorities and not be bogged down by environmental conditioning. This is applicable for any person, but here especially keeping in view the kind of hurdles and issues – cultural or social that a woman faces, #shetakesthe lead is apt.

We see bigger organizations are becoming active in their DI initiatives, but that isn’t the case with Startups. However, a lot of Millennials Gen Zs wants to work for Startups, what’s your advice to Startup founders in creating an inclusive workplace.

My clients in the growing organization space, are conscious about inclusion. In Startups, we primarily find generation Z, who are comparatively privileged because of their upbringing compared to the earlier crowd. Parenting and schooling are significant tools that help in building the right foundation for inclusion. Startup’s priorities are revenue and scaling up; some are sensitive about the culture they build and hence like to look at a good spread of talent – gender, ability, religion, region, etc.
Initiatives for promoting inclusion can be integrated into our daily lives as part of the routine and in an informal setting – meetups, potluck etc
As a conscious effort to have engaged employees by hiring members from different economic strata or abilities suiting the role, multi-generation as each generation brings its wisdom. This spreads their pool for hiring the best talent.

Do you believe that HR Talent Managers should be demystifying the concept of diversity, which is beyond genders, generations, preferences more? What positive impact can it bring in building the future workforce having diversity?

Right now, the word diversity is synonymous with gender diversity.
It is a known fact of how a diverse workforce gets you the best. Better and creative ideas are brought about by a diverse set of people with varied experiences. Productivity at the workplace is enhanced with diverse members as solutions arise as things are being looked at from different perspectives. The customer perspective from a larger pool is well appreciated. It leads to the acceptance of people around and less discrimination. More people are exposed to a different experience; learning is enhanced and helps to change mindsets.

Studies have shown that even if the entry job is 50:50 in terms of gender representation, in the IT sector, the ratio keeps shifting skewed for women when moving towards the leadership position. Being a gender specialist, how do you look at this scenario what better can be done having more women leaders than before?

At the outset, people who have the most considerable influence and are the sponsors on the policy decisions/SOP creators – senior management or leadership team. Hence more women need to be on the decision making roles Mentoring mechanism for women isn’t enough. Still, sponsorship brings the results, where senior members take responsibility for the women professional in their growth.
To address the sharp drop in middle management, wherein women start struggling with extended families and drudgery quotient (primary sources – household/errands etc), how does workplace take care of that. If we step back, can the workplace tutor the employees to start shifting shared responsibilities with the men, which will remind and nudge women at work as to how it’s the right thing and changing all cultural barriers. Women mostly keep vying to be the superwomen at personal and professional front – and are applauded for it. Is it always possible? People need to rethink.
As I said, it all starts young- the impressions and the understanding of your role and worth are built on what you see around and how you get treated. Our boys are brought up to be responsible men in the family. Nuggets on right parenting and working on the psyche of employees on how do they raise kids with an inclusive mindset and shared responsibilities are essential. Things cannot be changed overnight when you are dealing with attitudes/ social mores/mindsets, but these interventions will leave an imprint on the minds, and constant reinforcement through different modes will bring the shift.

Being a trained leadership coach and MBTI practitioner, did you experience any fundamental mindset differences between a man executive and a woman executive, especially the ones who are now leading some department at the workplace.

It depends on the kind of organization. In progressive companies, you are judged more as a professional and differentiated only when you allow others to differentiate. There could be some differences between the genders, which are more biological and environmental, which if given the right facilitation, can be taken care of and of; the output is of the same level.
What is important is a skill, ability and altitude, other variables ( security during stretched hours, maternity etc.) can be taken care in these advanced times. Men and women have strong skills/inclinations in multiple areas. What is essential is what qualities fit a given leadership role for its success. Some studies talk about what areas each of them are innately good at, and that may be basic observations and experiences.
If the department head for sales needs an aggressive person, it can be the one who has that quality. Invariably men are considered aggressive and hence preferred by many. But aren’t there so many successful dynamic women too who could fit the bill.
Stereotyping is an impediment, and remember, stereotyping is mostly acquired and learned over the years. How many times is a girl in her younger years told to lower her voice and be submissive? It all starts young, hence a lot of conditioning and sensitivity interventions are required to bring the shift.



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