We recently celebrated the 1st anniversary of the programme and spoke to one of our interns, Keren Mathews. She has successfully graduated from the program and now works with our Consumer Experience team. Read on to learn about Keren’s journey with us.
Inclusivity and accessibility at workplaces are improving slowly and require awareness and concerted efforts. What has your experience been like in the past?
Yes, they are improving for sure. In the past, accessibility was never in my vocabulary because there was not much awareness. During Covid, while studying, I asked my teachers to switch to Google Meet since captions were available and accurate. Accessibility through captions in online meetings are so important, and it helped me a lot throughout my university during the pandemic.
Through Unilever’s Saksham program, I saw the live implementation of inclusivity and accessibility in a workplace, and it became a whole new world for me. This makes me feel optimistic about an equitable and inclusive future.
Tell us what your first day at Hindustan Unilever was like.
It began with a warm welcome session, followed by introductions to my buddy and a tour around the office. I was nervous, but the warmth of people eased me. I interacted with many people and had a sensitisation session with my batchmates and the SAKSHAM organisers which was an eye-opener. They helped me understand the importance of being vocal about any issues I face.
While it is important to be independent, it is also equally important to reach out for help. I understood that accessibility is new to people around me and the organisation and that we all are learning in this process.
Saksham recently completed its 1-year anniversary. Can you share your experience with us?
I’ve felt grateful for a safe atmosphere. Of course, I faced challenges, but I was able to tackle these with continuous open dialogues with my colleagues and SAKSHAM batchmates. We have a monthly meeting where we discuss our roles, and difficulties, and gain tips about almost anything. Along with the SAKSHAM team, I also met the top leadership and have had enriching sessions with them. I learned about their vision which made me ponder over my purpose, principles, and wellbeing. Overall, the programme has helped me become confident and empowered me. I feel heard, seen and included.
What support did you receive that helped you to perform at your best?
My colleagues in the office played a huge role in normalising accessibility. They make sure to inform me about important points and are aware of my needs. For instance, during online meetings, they speak slowly or record the transcription on my request. Since I am monolinguistic and speak only English, they translate for me in case they speak in a regional language. Normalising accessibility will be a continuous learning journey, but I am also trying to accelerate this in my capacity by being proactive and reminding others about it.
In your opinion, how can organisations best enable a culture of inclusivity?
Empathy should be a culture first, and only then can inclusivity be understood, and accessibility be implemented. These three are all interdependent. Hiring employees from diverse backgrounds, increasing awareness, and celebrating diversity will help this journey. This requires meticulous planning and voluntary effort to truly enable a culture of inclusivity. The onus lies with each one of us.
A message for our readers.
Scott Hamilton said, “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” Let us be kinder to each other, enjoy a healthy work culture and grow.
Over the last 12 months, SAKSHAM has become more than just a programme. It is a testament to our commitment to diversity and inclusion.