What kind of society do we want to envision? Do we want to see people from all genders, castes, religion, sexualities in positions of power? Because, mind you, the policies of the country are in fact decided by the people in positions of power. If the people in positions of power are mainly dominant castes, then they will surely be inhibited by their dominant caste-consciousness, and many a time make policies which don’t affect their privilege, ensuring that the status quo persists.
All it takes is some serious effort and research to understand how systems that promote diversity can be envisioned.
One can start by reading the Diversity Index Report that was submitted to the Ministry of Minority Affairs.
It takes inspiration from a variety of affirmative action policies in different parts of the world as mentioned in the report –
For example, the report quotes the Multiculturalism Act of Canada, which aims to –
“Encourage and promote a coordinated approach to the implementation of the multiculturalism policy.” The Minister in-charge is supposed to devise programmes to “encourage and assist the business community, labour organisations, voluntary, and other private organisations, as well as public institutions for ensuring full participation in Canadian society, including the social and economic aspects of individuals of all origins and their communities, and in promoting respect and appreciation for the multicultural reality of Canada”
Similarly, Malaysia affirmative action program recommends that 30% of all businesses must be Malay owned, in addition to subsidies for Malay business. This scheme also apportions, via state purchase, shares of Malaysian corporations to a trust fund, on behalf of the native Malays.
The report of the expert group on Diversity Index suggests, “There is enough evidence to suggest that current economic and social systems perpetuate patterns of group-based disparities in all spheres of life: education, occupation/work, income/consumption, health indicators. Indeed, the continued presence of social and economic discrimination aggravates these disparities across several countries in the world.”
“Ultimately, the idea of diversity must take root in the minds of the decision makers at all levels.”
Inspired from the rigorous analysis of the socio-cultural and economic state of Muslim communities in India by the Sachar Committee, the expert group came up with a simple formula to measure the diversity of a space.
It also emphasises that any particular institution has a very limited role to play in changing the inequalities in the society as a whole. But, what it can do is that it can create policies to ensure that there is diversity among the candidates joining the institution by having certain affirmative action policies.
It provides for a formula to measure diversity within the organisation.
Let’s say, a university named “ABC” offering a master’s degree wants to measure the diversity within the university.
Let’s say, the ones eligible to apply for this master’s degree in ABC are the ones who have a bachelor’s degree in India. We will call it the ‘eligible population’.
Let ‘x’ be the proportion of the master’s students currently studying within ABC who are from a scheduled caste (SC) background.
Let ‘y’ be the proportion of the scheduled castes in the eligible population.
(Essentially this is the proportion of students from scheduled caste backgrounds having a bachelor’s degree amidst all the bachelor graduates in the country who can potentially be considered for admission at ABC)
And let ‘z’ be the proportion of scheduled castes in the country.
Then, the diversity gap (DG) or absence of diversity for scheduled castes according to the report would be –
DG = (y-x) * z/y
Thus, if the SC students are under-represented in ABC, then DG will be greater than zero. If SC students are over represented in ABC, then DG will be less than zero.
You might ask, what would happen if x>y? Wouldn’t it make the DG negative? Yes, it would. The report suggests that in such cases wherein DG is negative, one can take the value of DG as zero.
The DG of university ABC will have a minimum value of zero and a maximum value of z.
Let’s say 24% of the population of India comprises of ones from SC background. Let’s say, only 4% of the population of India are the ones who are from SC background and also have a bachelor’s degree.
Finally, in the university ABC, 0.5% of the students studying for a master’s degree are from SC background.
You might ask how do we measure the eligible population. The report recognises the difficulties in figuring out the exact eligible populations at times, and suggests using proxies based on whatever secondary data is available.
Then if we calculate the Diversity Gap (DG) –
DG = (4-0.5) * 24/4 = 3.5 *6 = 21% = 0.21
Let’s call it DG1 instead.
Now, the report suggests to do the same across –
1. Religious dimensions – Hindu, Muslim, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, other religions
2. Caste dimensions – SC, ST, OBC, and others
3. Gender – Male and Female (Limited when it comes to gender)
Now, if we calculate the same for the ones of ST background (DG2), OBC background (DG3), Muslims (DG4), Sikhs (DG5), Buddhists (DG6), Jains (DG7), transgenders (DG8) and so on and so forth, we have the diversity gaps across religions, castes, and genders.
Now, if we want to calculate the diversity index (D) of the university –
D = 1 – (DG1 + DG2 + DG3 + …..)
Further extensions of the formula –
The report also suggests the ways in which these formulae can be used.
For instance, if the employees of ABC university can be divided into 4 categories –
Class A – High level management (board, founders)
Class B – Mid-higher level management (deans, principal)
Class C – Mid-lower level management (administrative staff)
Class D – Guards, Sweepers, etc
Then one could actually calculate diversity gaps and diversity indices across class A, B, C, and D so that one gets a clear picture of what kind of identity dominates what kind of work.
To go a step further, the report also suggests using weights while calculating the diversity index. For example, if the caste-dimension has a weight of 0.5 and religious dimension a weight of 0.3 then the diversity index would be –
D = 1 – (0.5 * sum of diversity gaps under caste dimensions + 0.3 * sum of diversity gaps under religious dimensions)
What this would mean is that if there is perfect diversity in a hypothetical situation, then diversity index D = 1.
This provides for a gradual path of change for any organisation or university.
In initial years, the organisations would try to utilise this index to narrow the gap between the eligible population and the percentage already in the institution.
In the later years, the country has to move towards a situation wherein the shares of underprivileged groups in the eligible population are identical to that of their shares in the total population.
The reports suggests to utilise the diversity index in the following areas –
Lastly, the report doesn’t stop at just suggesting a formula to measure diversity. It asks for a policy in the country which specifies incentives and disincentives based on the diversity index of a university or a private organisation.
The report suggests incentives in the form of larger grants to educational institutions that have higher diversity and are able to sustain it over time. The report also suggests to have a diversity linked incentive system for public and private sector institutions wherein funds, tax concessions, subsidies are linked to this diversity index. Only public and private institutions which are diverse can avail these subsidies.
It suggests denying different concessions given to private institutions or housing societies as a penalty for not implementing or maintaining diversity. The report also suggests bringing out an annual report wherein the status of organisations with respect to diversity indices are highlighted and publicised for public scrutiny.
To enable this, it suggests establishing Diversity Commission, State Diversity Implementation Boards at national and state levels, which could set the norms, specify incentives and disincentives, monitor the implementation of the Diversity Index, and publish an annual Diversity Index implementation report giving the district, state, and national level data.
All the while emphasising that this has to be a participative implementation right from the time of inception wherein all the members from a variety of social and professional spheres are to make efforts towards having this implemented.
Groups like Network Capital or the new private universities and fellowships of India, and many private sector organisations could actually start utilising such formulae and also research on the variety of ways in which one can measure diversity. A parallel step along with this would be to understand the ways in which discrimination across caste, class, gender, religion lines happen in their day to day functions and come up with strong anti-discrimination policies.
It can be as simple as ensuring that the meeting point is not always an expensive pub.
This is a long arduous road. But if we truly want to network or function without perpetuating the same inequalities wherever we go, then it is high time that we become more reflective regarding our actions.
It’s high time we put effort into understanding how to make spaces more inclusive and diverse instead of sitting on our lazy privileged asses.