At ThoughtWorks one of our values is Social Responsibility. It gives me great pride to recognise some of the work we do outside the company to make a difference in the smallest or the biggest ways that we can. That said, as most children raised in good old Indian families will tell you, I've always believed that "Charity begins at home.". Which is why I feel more drawn towards things like recruiting exceptional women; or Roy's vision of having more African Americans in the firm; or recruiting exceptional knowledge workers with disability. And while I know that while this could be repeating myself to the extent of sounding stupid; I think as an organization, we dont do as much internally as we try to do externally.
Now these are my views and I could be extremely naive to miss some really obvious considerations, but there are two definite areas that I feel we could do much better in:
a) Encouraging more Indian women to contribute to Open Source projects: Now, traditionally Indian ThoughtWorker women havent been great contributors to Open Source projects. A part of me wants to compare the general TW India women population to that of the men and wonder what's different. I'd like to believe that its definitely not the talent or the passion but more the social orientation of women in Indian society. Traditionally, Indian girls or women are expected to be back home at a reasonable hour, either because their parents get worried or because they have responsibilities back home or because late office hours and the return back home from there is simply not safe enough. This puts Indian girls at a serious disadvantage as compared to men. Now one can argue that a high speed Internet connection at home should solve the problem. Yeah right; but not if you've got to help mom make chappatis or if you have a seven month old kid thats bickering away. Being a woman in an Indian household isnt easy.
What can TW do?: Now this is pure conjecture and again I dont mind if this is dismissed if I am not making the right assumptions. Can we offer to given Indian women paid time to work on Open Source projects? How about you can work just six hours a day on a billable project if you contribute the remaining time to an Open Source project of your choice? With the thoughts that are in my mind right now, I'd like to think that this would make a world of difference in helping Indian women take ThoughtLeadership. More women could see women contributing to OpenSource; more women could get passionate about technology by looking up to role models they can identify with; more women can be ThoughtWorkers; more women can help us in our small mission - to revolutionize the software industry. If not anything, as an Indian society we owe this to our women, and in that offers like these could greatly support our value of Social Responsibility.
b) The second area I'd like to think about is supporting people with disabilities. In my experience I've met multiple people with disabilities who are exceptional at the work they do. All they need is an inclusive work environment. Now I'd like to take a pause at this. I've heard a lot of arguments about "treat them equally". Unfortunately, what many of us need to realise is that creating inclusivity is the first step to create equality. For eg: asking women to work late hours and having them fend for themselves when it comes to going back home. "Well, men go home by themselves; we consider women to be equals so they should be able to go home by themselves too!" Well, that to me is lame. Women traditionally have been victims to assault, rape, snatching and men haven't. To turn a blind eye to that isn't equality. To be able to safeguard against that risk and providing the support to do so is a step towards creating equality. ThoughtWorks India has done some amazing work with Kilikili to create inclusive playing spaces for children with disabilities. I'd like us to be able to create inclusive work spaces for potential employees with disability. This includes having restrooms that people with disability can use; this includes creating ramps to enter buildings where we have offices (if there isnt one already); this also includes providing the support to get to office and back home and to training venues. Its important that this is looked at from the perspective of creating equality and not as special treatment. India is an extremely inaccessible country if you're disabled. As ThoughtWorks, if we can provide that bit of extra support, we truly support our purpose of being "a home for the best knowledge workers."
Disclaimer: These views are mine alone and in no way are a reflection of what the company does. I could be making wrong assumptions and naive suggestions. None of this should be taken as gospel. These are just my thoughts of what I think ThoughtWorks could do to support its value of Social Responsibility.