Serein drives better business outcomes through diversity by providing companies with prevention strategies and policies to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Award
Unfavorable diversity trends endure
Many corporations and governments have made progress toward increasing workplace diversity. Yet troubling trends persist. Women serve as heads of state in only 24 of 195 countries. Fewer than half of countries have anti-discrimination or other disability-specific laws. And more than 80 percent of venture capital firms lack even one Black investor.
These trends have concrete consequences. For example, healthcare professionals misdiagnose women’s heart attacks 50 percent more than men’s and facial recognition algorithms misidentify darker skin tones 20 percent more often than lighter ones.
As in government and corporate leadership, the gender ratio in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields skews toward men. Ishani Roy saw this play out in her PhD and postdoctoral studies in applied mathematics, where she was frequently the only woman in the room. “When I came back from maternity leave, I realized that very few women scientists stay in the workforce,” she says. “I decided to use my background in science and research to make the workplace more inclusive and more equitable, not just for women but for anyone from a minority group.”
When I came back from maternity leave, the same set of opportunities were not there for me as for my male counterparts. This was true for many women in leadership or scientific positions. It can happen to anyone who is taking care of elderly parents or just taking a break.
Data science informs inclusion
With this goal, Ishani co-founded Serein Inc. in 2016 with Chryslynn D’Costa. “Serein means ‘rain at dusk,’” she explains. “It's a beautiful word. We use science and technology to make the workplace more safe and equitable.” She calls Serein’s work “the science of diversity—because we believe we can use data, research, and science to create sustainable change.”
Serein’s technology platform analyzes published data from peer reviewed articles and builds what it calls the inclusion metric to measure and monitor an organization's inclusiveness, helping identify conscious and unconscious barriers to an inclusive culture. Based on this and on work with behavioral scientists, the company provides diversity, equity, and inclusion training; programs to prevent sexual harassment; and services around employee culture and wellbeing.
The company goes beyond gender to address the need for all forms of diversity. “In India, we wanted to create inclusive workplaces for women, LGBTQ employees, and people from different generations. We talk about inclusion for every group,” Ishani says. The goal is to ensure that everyone in an organization feels safe not only from physical harassment, but also verbal harassment such as sexist or homophobic jokes or misogynistic comments.
We stand out through our constant use of science and technology to make these diversity, equity, and inclusion interventions more sustainable and long term.
Workplace interventions ripple into the community and the world
It may seem counterintuitive that after reaching more than 350,000 employees at more than 350 companies with its trainings, Serien has seen the number of reports of sexual harassment rise significantly. However, as a measure of positive impact, Ishani says, it indicates that “a lot of people who previously kept quiet started coming forward to the committees we help form instead of having to go to the police or file a court case.”
The company has extended its work beyond India to 15 more countries including Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. “We have started working with countries in South East Asia, Africa and South America where we have seen the need. This can be done virtually on our technology platform. We have games and tools that let people log in from different countries and interact in different languages.”
Serein’s long-term plan is to achieve societal change through its workplace interventions. Armed with data revealing the state of diversity in organizations, the company aims to shift the statistics and make every workplace welcoming to employees of every background.
The judicial system can take a long time and there are societal pressures against talking about sexual harassment. A woman came to our committee and we were able to help adjudicate her case, as well as look after her mental wellbeing. And she was able to come back to the workplace to resume her career.