About three weeks ago I was delivering a workshop in India – there must have been about 60 people in the room. Almost all of them locals.
My co-facilitator was doing an exercise that invited people to self-identify themselves along various dimensions of diversity (e.g. been in the company for less than 5 years, consider yourself a millennial etc.). After listening to the statement that is read out, individuals decide if the statement is true of them and then make a decision/choice to self-identify and stand up if they choose to do so.
Well, we got to the statement “have been raised by a single parent or am a single parent”, and as I was role-modelling participation, I decided to stand up (I actually tick both boxes of that statement). And I looked around and I was the only one. And I could feel a palpable spike of nervous tension in the room.
Wow… it can’t be that in a room of 60+ people, all middle managers, that no-one else was raised by a single parent or is a single parent. So I did me some research and found that the divorce rate in India is among the lowest in the world but rapidly rising especially in metropolitan areas. And yet, single parenting isn’t only an outcome of divorce, it can also be due to being widowed or that a parent was absent for various reasons.
This was interesting to me as a D&I manager. Single parenthood might be a dimension of diversity that is very invisible for many companies and society at large. And hence, unconsciously, we are not providing the support and culture that people might need, not to mention the stereotypes that would get in the way of people’s career development and progression. Well, I am “out” as a single parent in Microsoft and I have a fantastic team and managers that support me probably about 1000% which is great and I know quite a few other single parents who enjoy the same level of support. So, now I have to noodle on how to make that level of support and culture the same for everyone in the same situation – glad to have more to do in my role!