Cognizant to drive more gender and racial diversity initiatives in the coming year: CEO Brian Humphries

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MUMBAI: IT services provider Cognizant’s initiatives in diversity and inclusion next year will include appointment of more women in leadership roles and inclusion of people of various ethnicities and backgrounds, according to its chief executive, Brian Humphries.

Women make up about 35% of New Jersey-headquartered Cognizant’s 283,100-strong global workforce. However, not many women are in senior leadership positions and this would be a focus area, said Humphries at an analyst web conference on Friday.

He was speaking to the Phil Fersht, CEO of the global research consultancy HFS.

“We have a 100,000 female associates in Cognizant, but to be very honest, a lot of that is at the lower levels of the pyramid. That’s not acceptable,” he said.

Cognizant will be rolling out diversity targets from next year, he said.

“We are rolling out in the coming year diversity targets for an executive committee and their operating rules below them. We are continuing to add much more EC (executive council) member sponsorship and what we call ERG (employee resource groups) groups. We have added two in the last few months – Pan Asian ERG and Disability Person ERG as well,” said Humphries.

Recently, the company appointed Becky Schmitt as chief people officer, Shameka Young as global head, diversity & inclusion, and Ursula Morgenstern as the president of global growth markets.

“I am trying to also start by leading by example at the top of the company, with diversity not just in terms of male and female but also sexual orientation, nationalities and backgrounds,” he said.

On whether the focus on racial and gender justice, which dominated headlines in 2020, will continue, Humphries said the movements had ushered in change across companies permanently.

“I think it’s permanent. Companies, vendors like Cognizant are speaking more openly about it, about their expectations for us to show up as a global company, to show up as a representative of society,” said Humphries.

India’s largest technology exporter Tata Consultancy Services is also working to increase the number of female leaders at the top. In an interview with ET earlier, chief leadership & diversity officer Ritu Anand had said TCS is looking to increase the proportion of women holding managerial positions and that it was a board-level priority for the company.

India Inc’s spending on gender diversity has increased to 32% in 2019 from 23% in 2016, according to a recent study released by Avtar Group and Working Mother Media. The study said that on average, the percentage of women hired increased from 31% in 2016 to 37% in 2020. During the same period, the percentage of companies having formal programmes to identify and recruit women who had taken career breaks also increased to 65% from 30%.

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