More than just a day: How Cognizant took IWD beyond pleasantries and publicity. 

Every year on the 8th March, the world takes a breath to recognise and celebrate the achievements of woman and the impact their work has had on a range of different fields, on International Women’s’ Day (IWD).

However in recent years, the discourse around IWD has seemed increasingly limited. Sure, organisations love to cater a morning tea with purple cupcakes and schedule a social media post exalting the achievements of the women in their organisation.

But who cleans up after the Morning Tea? What happens on the 9th March? And how do these activities help to deliver any real change to the women working in that organization and within the broader industry?

While celebration is important – and we should always strive to recognise key achievements in these fields – it’s just as important that we use days such as an opportunity to re-assess where we are at with our diversity policies and determine what more we can do to keep progressing with them.

According to an article in the Guardian, Women’s economic opportunities were disproportionality impacted by the Covid response measures of the past two years. And it has recently been announced that more than a third of all Australians live in a ‘childcare desert’, with women most likely to sacrifice their work or hours to take on childcare duties.

It’s clear there is still much to do to continue to progress the opportunities for women in the workplace. And in the talent short market that we currently work in, can organisations really afford not to nurture and provide opportunities to attract this key demographic into their teams?

Leading the way for change: Cognizant’s commitment to women in tech

Recognising that women’s development and progression requires much more than just one day a year, tech firm Cognizant decided to expand out their International Women’s Day activities into a year-long program.

Embracing the 2022 event theme of #BreakTheBias, Cognizant developed a series of events to take place throughout March, the month of International Women’s Day, conducted several local activations within ANZ that focused on positive micro behaviours.

Cara Perks
Aditi Jain

Cognizant’s Cara Perks, Talent Acquisition Manager – Quality Engineering & Assurance and Corporate and Aditi Jain, Sr. Manager – Talent Acquisition played a pivotal part in rolling out the campaign for Cognizant’s 1,400 employees across 5 offices in Australia and New Zealand. They sat down with us to take us through the program.

Could you detail for us the activities you undertook for IWD?

Our International Women’s programming built off of the extensive global programming, all of which was planned with the intent of making it engaging, educational and interactive. We featured a mix of panel discussions, a keynote address from Alison Levine, panel discussions on Allyship, round table discussions, experience sharing, quizzes and prizes, fun events, and sweet treats!

Some local ANZ highlights of the week included:

  • Our “IWD Panel event” on Tuesday 8th March attended by more than 250 ANZ team members and hosted by consultants across the organization. The event covered networking, #BreakTheBias discussions, and a chat with Carolyn Smart, GM, Transformation & Change Leader at Telstra, Marcellina Mardian, MD for at Code like a Girl, Eri Asakawa, Cognizant Delivery Lead Japan, and Emily Grinton, Lead at Servian
  • A “How to Break the Bias and Be a More Inclusive Leader” event on Thursday 10th March with Juliette Bourke, Harvard Business Review author and adjunct professor UNSW Business School, was a live event and attended by more than 150 team members
  • A presentation on Friday 11th March by Professor Debbie Haski Leventhal, Author, TedX Speaker and leader spoke about finding your purpose to more than 150 team members

Each of these events included Q&A’s which prompted very insightful and impactful discussions.

Where did the idea to run such an extensive campaign for IWD come from?

The idea of localizing our International Women’s Day programming emanated from between our internal AWE squad (Australian Women Empowerment) and D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) People Squad.

Teams were created to source presenters, design content, and a few practice runs were held to ensure success of the events.

IWD is just one day of the year. What are your plans to continue this work for the other 364 days of the year?

Celebrating IWD as a day is important to remind us to keep driving equality, and that this must be an every day commitment we make to our associates.

During the week we spoke extensively about micro-behaviours and highlighted the opportunity for each of us to adopt positive micro-changes that will help us all break the bias. We launched a micro change survey which is where associates are invited to commit to a micro change, with team members following up with them each quarter to see how they’re progressing

We also launched a program for allies and mentors to engage in a mix of formal and informal catchups between the allies and mentors on a regular basis.

What role did (and do) allies at Cognizant play in the overall success of the campaign?

Allies play a crucial role in the overall success of our IWD activities. An informal poll of our associates clearly confirmed that everyone is responsible for taking action on women’s issues and that most associates think that more education and awareness will enable us to further address gender stereotypes and breaking the bias.

We have several allies that continue to work hard by attending events listening to women’s stories, assisting with ongoing IWD commitments and events throughout the week and continuing to promote gender balance through hiring and promotion within Cognizant

What impact does this work have for the talent team? Do you see any flow on impacts from these activities for your recruitment campaigns?

Cognizant is committed to providing Equal Employment Opportunities, and we are fortunate to have strong female leadership across our organisation.

We have already seen improvement in the hiring across ANZ, with one of our business units hitting 70% diverse hires in 2021. We have been working with organisations who train returning parents on cloud technologies, and we welcome fresh diverse talent through graduate and trainee programs. Change takes time, but we are making progress across Cognizant and continue to #BreakTheBias.

Cover Image: Shutterstock

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