Akila Krishnakumar on Leadership and Diversity
Akila Krishnakumar is one of the leading women in technology. She was the head of one of the first international product development centers in India and led it over two decades into an engine of technical excellence. Widely regarded as one of the top women CEOs in the country, Akila has broken new ground by becoming a founding partner of Social Venture Partners, a powerful platform for philanthropists to contribute in collaborative solutions to tackle our community’s social challenges.
In her many years at the helm of a fast evolving tech organization that underwent several transformations as a result of acquisitions, Akila has mentored many top-notch professionals, inspiring managers to be authentic, caring, detail-oriented and to have extraordinary ownership.
Here she shares her thoughts about leadership and how organizations should approach diversity:
On the reality and importance of diversity
No two employees are alike in education, experience, social and family milieu. Two women are much less similar – only because a few more factors come into play. It is a fact that we already exist in a very diverse work-space. Thriving and succeeding in a diverse workplace is a steep hill to climb for everybody, irrespective of what sets them apart from the majority.
So how can organizations help – First, they need to start by focusing on humans. And focus on the oneness instead of the differences.
On the other hand, managers SHOULD focus on the differences. Quietly and one person at a time. They should have a mentoring plan for everyone on their team – women and men. They need to develop an innate understanding of how far and how high each of them can go and help them get there.
How to use metrics for diversity
As to metrics – If you really want to see how you are doing, track these:
– How many women apply,
– % that get selected,
– performance profile of women employees( is it still normalized or are there some different patterns here?),
– compare that with career progression of women etc.
Message to organizations – Be strongly inclusive, without focusing on diversity. Hold your managers accountable to the success of high potential women on their team.
Message to managers – Personalize how you manage gender diversity – one woman at a time. Don’t generalize solutions.
You don’t treat a flu epidemic by administering everybody with the same medicine. You still look at the patients, one at a time, before prescribing. Quite similar.
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