Mukta Arya is the Head of Human Resources, SEA and the Head of People & Talent Development, Asia Pacific at Societe Generale. In these roles, she is responsible for planning and managing all human resource programs and strategies for the entire SEA region, as well as implementing innovative and effective learning and talent development solutions.
Having covered a number of different disciplines during your 21+ years in Human Resources, can you tell us about your career progression into your current role?
I actually come from a family of doctors, which is why I opted for an MSc in Biotechnology, but I soon realised that dealing with people is where my passion lies, which is why I made a transition to the HR field and pursued an MBA in HR. Fast forward to 2006, I became the Head of HR for Societe Generale India before jumping at the opportunity to relocate to Hong Kong in 2010 as my first role abroad. I am now in a dual-hatted role in Singapore, overseeing HR for Southeast Asia and People & Talent Development for APAC, where I get to see a huge amount of diversity across 12 markets.
What advice would you give for employers who want to promote diversity and inclusion?
First and foremost, it is important to remember that diversity & inclusion goes beyond just gender diversity, it encompasses a lot of other things as well.
Sometimes being different can make people uncomfortable and it is important for employers to understand and be supportive of that. When I first moved to Hong Kong to set up the talent management function for Societe Generale, I was definitely out of my comfort zone. As I had only worked in my home country (India), my cultural background was quite different from Hong Kong’s. Luckily the company was very supportive; such support is critical but it generally takes time as cultural diversity is often an underrecognized topic.
Does Societe Generale have any diversity & inclusion initiatives?
Setting up the D&I Council in 2015 was a significant step for us. While we focus heavily on gender diversity, we also cover other areas of D&I such as LGBT+, differently-abled and cultural. We also have very supportive leaders; even in the more traditionally male-dominated spaces like Front Office you can find both male and female leaders who help drive D&I within the company.
Apart from that, there are high levels of internal mobility designed to ensure that we are accommodating those who need it and we have had some great success stories. For example, we announced specific measures recently in Singapore to facilitate a more balanced workplace for our female employees, namely an increase in maternity leave from 16 to 20 weeks, enhanced adoption leave, flexible work arrangements and development opportunities for female talent.
What advice would you give to other females who want to be successful in their field?
Continuous learning and improvement are critical. Success doesn’t happen overnight so it’s important to build a good foundation. Figure out what works for you and find a network that can help you with that. Networking may be difficult but it is important to build a personal network that is diverse, not just with other females.