Indian IT services giant TCS has acknowledged a “setback” in its efforts to promote gender diversity, after its 2022/23 annual report revealed that more women were leaving the company than men in the wake of its return-to-office policy being introduced.
Back in January, TCS joined the ranks of tech companies ending remote working in 2023, with employees now expected to report to the office at least three days a week.
It's a move that appears to have had the unintended consequence of prompting an increase in the company's attrition rate amongst female workers, compared to their male counterparts, where historically it had been lower.
“Reset the Domestic Arrangements”
The discrepancy was highlighted in the firm's latest Integrated Annual Report, which was released following the end of FY23. In the comprehensive review, TCS chief human resources officer Milind Lakkad notes an overall attrition rate of 20.1% for the 12-month period ending March 31, 2023.
While the company stops short of revealing specific data for its male vs female attrition rate in the last financial year, Mr Lakkad calls the trend “unusual” and notes that: “Historically, women's attrition at TCS has been similar or lower than men's attrition.”
He added that the experience of working fully remotely during Covid-19 may have prompted a shift in priorities among the organization's female workers – though we would hasten to add that a reluctance to go back to pre pandemic work/life norms is more of a universal theme in our experience.
“There might be other reasons, but intuitively, I would think working from home during the pandemic reset the domestic arrangements for some women, keeping them from returning to office even after everything normalized,” he commented in the report.
TCS Stands Firm on WFO Benefits
Despite this, Lakkad insisted that TCS' return to office policy was necessary to help new hires and more junior members of staff “understand the company’s culture and for better collaboration among workers.”
He went on to acknowledge the news as a “setback to our efforts to promote gender diversity” but said the firm are “doubling down” on efforts to increase gender representation.
“In our external hiring, women make up 38.1% of our net hires this year, versus 35.7% in our workforce,” Lakkad revealed.
Gender Diversity and Big Tech's Big Problem
Based on the company's track record, there's good reason to believe Mr Lakkad when he suggests TCS are concerned by the surge in attrition among women on the payroll. This is because the organization is one of the leading lights for gender diversity in the Indian subcontinent.
According to a December 2022 Hurun report, TCS was the largest employer of women amongst India's 500 most valuable companies. The rankings were based on data showing women as comprising 35% (210,000) of the firm's total workforce of 613,974.
Therein arguably lies the problem. Most of us would probably agree that in an ideal world, workforces would be distributed much more closely to 50/50 for gender and other forms of diversity. However, reality tends to paint quite a different picture and statistics generally show women as representing a third of the employee strength at big tech outfits.
By way of an example, Microsoft's 2022 Global Diversity & Inclusion report revealed women to make up 32.7% of its global workforce. Interestingly, that figure surges to nearly 40% as soon as you leave North America.
Look at other forms of diversity, such as representation among ethnic minority groups, and the numbers fall to single digit levels – 6.6% US Black and African American representation at Microsoft, though we could pick practically any tech bellwether.
The figures may be moving in the right direction, but whether in India or the US, diversity is still one of big tech's biggest problems.