Serein

What Wolves can Teach Us About Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging

Naureen Bhullar

- April 25, 2022

I decided to read Elli H Radinger’s book, “The wisdom of wolves: What wolves can teach us to be more human” as I was motivated by my father’s intrinsic fascination about animal behaviour and its similarities with humans and his admiration for this brave animal. Wolves symbolize loyalty, strong family ties, communication, intelligence and teamwork in the Native American tradition

On the other hand, just like minorities and marginalized communities in the human world, Radinger draws a parallel with the bad press wolves have received at times, including the “big bad wolf” from Red Riding Hood due to the limited knowledge and deeply ingrained prejudice against the animal. Some of these fears have been attributed to their preying on farm animals like sheep. Most of the wolf symbolism in western tradition, including the Bible, Greek and Roman mythology, Shakespeare, and Aesop’s fable has been overwhelmingly negative as they are portrayed as “evil” or “tricksters” and the scientific study of this species has found this depiction to be completely inaccurate. While the truth is that wolves have co-existed with many species for eons and they are not even among the top 20 animals responsible for greatest number of human deaths, which has man at number one and dogs at number four. They have been hunted to extinction in several parts of the world due this prejudice and unfounded fears.

Due to my interest in diversity, inclusion, and belonging, this book about wolf behaviour opened my eyes for the specific lessons wolves have to offer for humans from the DEI perspective. Radinger has examined their behaviour in the wild (primarily in the Yellowstone National Park in the US) for more than 25 years. She cautions against the stereotypes associated with wolves, grown from observations of their behaviour in captivity, which differ completely from their behaviour in the wild. Humans in prisons behave quite differently from humans in their typical habitat without restrictions.

Similarities with humans

The close parallels between wolves and humans are noted in their emotions, personalities (Type A and Type B), child-rearing styles, and collaborations in wolf packs. They express grief by howling for days after losing their loved ones and some even reported to die from a broken heart. They have been known to sacrifice their own lives to save their families during wolf fights for their home territories. They look after their injured members, with the sick and old fed till they recover. They almost never abandon their elderly and treat them tenderly, bringing regurgitated food to the infirm from their hunts, just like they do with their young infants. Not all wolves pair up either. There are aunts and uncles who take care of their siblings’ children just as the siblings take care of their younger siblings. It is similar to joint families in several human cultures, without the compulsion of everyone to pair up and reproduce. The wolf pups learn and follow the “Golden Rule” in their play with their peers, siblings, and other pack members, when they test the limits of their strength in non-hunting situations and learn to treat others as they would like to be treated themselves. Evolutionary biologists believe that animals who play fair and learn such codes of behaviour for their group are more likely to flourish and survive.

Radinger believes that wolves and humans understand each other better than other primates like chimpanzees understand humans or vice-versa. Chimpanzees don’t help in taking care of the young ones of others (siblings or otherwise) or look after their old. There is a reason that wolves’ descendants (dogs) formed a close relationship with humans several millennia ago and not the monkeys.

What can humans learn from the wolves? 

Wolves show behaviours that reinforce the benefits of gender equality, gender-agnostic leadership and diversity in general (across other demographic characteristics like outward characteristics and age).

Gender & Leadership

Gender equality in wolves is common with tasks divided according to the abilities and skills of individuals and it is not gender specific. Female wolves often make the most important decisions for hunting and habitats for the wolf packs. The term alpha males and alpha females are outdated in field research. “Pack leaders” is the more accepted term and can be either males or females. Leadership is not associated with aggression. It involves empathy from the pack leaders and an emphasis on keeping the pack united and in harmony to ensure the well-being of everyone. This ensures the success and survival of the wolf packs. Female leadership in humans has often been linked to empathy and a personable approach. This was also evident among human female leaders during the COVID crisis and research showed that women leaders may be better in the term of crisis and they were rated more highly on overall leadership effectiveness.

Benefits of diversity

Having an older wolf is seen as an advantage that makes a pack more successful due to the past knowledge and experience the senior wolves bring to their decision-making. They know when to avoid conflict and subsequently increase chances of survival of the pack. They are “highly prized” members of the family.  

An unusual and mutually beneficial relationship that I learnt from this book was the close association between wolves and ravens in the aptly titled chapter, “Almost best friends: How in spite of all your differences, you can be a perfect team”. They differ from each other starkly but help each other reach their goals and often co-exist mostly amicably but with playful teasing interspersed. 

This relationship reminds us of the workplace where people from different backgrounds come together and are able to work in collaboration towards common goals successfully especially in knowledge-oriented tasks. This highlights the advantage of diverse teams over homogenous teams as the ravens’ specific ability to spot potential prey for wolves from the skies and signalling to them gives both the benefit of getting their food together in a quicker and more efficient manner, which the two species alone may not achieve in the same time period. Their external characteristics are extrinsically tied to their internal traits, and this is what Scott Page describes in his book, “The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy”. Cognitive diversity comes from our identities, life and work experiences, and educational paths. Often, we hear company and HR leaders valuing cognitive diversity over identity diversity (gender, race, sexual orientation, region, language), when the fact is that identity diversity is strongly correlated and also has a causal link with cognitive diversity in many cases.

WWWD- “What would wolves do?” 

In the epilogue of the book, Radinger finds herself asking this question whenever faced by an uncertain situation. She emphasizes the greatest lesson wolves can offer in almost any situation – love of family, to never give up and to never stop playing. And most importantly, adapting to a new situation. This adaptation is crucial for diversity and inclusion as well as more and more people from underrepresented and marginalized groups (across gender, race, sexual orientation, region, class) enter the workforce and the majority group members learn to adapt their language and workplace structures to ensure the feelings of true belonging for everyone to reap the benefits of diverse identities and cognitive repertoires.

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Abhishek Ghattamaneni

Head - Financial Strategies

Abhishek is a seasoned professional with a wealth of experience in finance and corporate governance. With over 15 years of expertise as a qualified Company Secretary, he has made significant contributions to the finance departments of companies within the real estate and startup sectors.
 
Having worked extensively with organisations operating across multiple countries, Abhishek brings a deep understanding of international taxation to the table. Notably, he achieved an impressive 42nd rank in 12th grade under the AP Education Board, demonstrating a strong academic foundation to complement his professional achievements.

Rhea D’Silva

Designer

Rhea is the aesthetic and creative eye behind Serein’s marketing and sales collateral. She manages website content and social media content calendar. She works closely with Serein’s content experts to design catchy invites, toolkits, and company culture reports.

Rhea creates animated content for Serein’s learning platform. She is focused on understanding the user’s need for engagement and learning to create impactful content. 

Rhea holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media from St. Xavier’s University, Mumbai where she majored in advertising.

Dr. Ishani Roy

Founder and CEO

Ishani founded Serein to provide a data and research-based approach to solving DEI challenges at the workplace. She advises company leaders, startup founders, and venture capital firms on industry best practices to increase diversity and design a DEI roadmap.

Ishani is a recipient of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award 2023 for the global impact of her work in the DEI space.

Before founding Serein, Ishani was a scientist at GE Research working in the Aerospace Lab. She holds a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from Brown University on developing mathematical models to solve Astrophysics problems. She did her Post-doctoral studies at the University of Oxford and St. Thomas Hospital in Biomathematics.

Chryslynn D’Costa

Co-founder and CPO |

Chryslynn leads the product development of Serein’s DEI SaaS tool. She designs learning content and strategic insights for companies to measure their DEI growth, and achieve bias-free recruitment and psychological safety.

Chryslynn is a regular columnist with publications like ‘LiveMint’ and ‘The Hindu’ where she writes about unconscious bias, prevention of sexual harassment, and company culture.

Before Serein, she was a Gandhi Fellow working in rural Rajasthan to address educational leadership and gender equity in government schools. She graduated from Azim Premji University in Bangalore with a Master’s in Education where she specialised in gender and sexuality education.

Bianca D’Costa

Head of PoSH: India, Global

Bianca leads the compliance partnerships and workshops on anti-sexual harassment, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws in India, South East Asia, Europe, and the USA. She has 100+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations in the workplace.

Bianca designs gamified learning modules for a unique and impactful learner experience on topics like gender inclusion, PwD inclusion, LGBTQIA+ inclusion, and regional inclusion among others. 

Before Serein, Bianca worked in hospitality for 5 years with Emirates Airlines. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from St. Xavier’s University, Mumbai. She is presently pursuing a Master’s degree in Gender and Sexuality in Global Politics from SOAS University of London.

Aparna Pandurangan

Head of Operations

Aparna is leading the finance and operations at Serein. She has also been responsible for Serein’s online platform, customer management, and marketing.

She works closely with Serein’s 500+ long-term partners to ensure they are compliant with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) law. Aparna is a workshop facilitator on topics like the prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace in languages like Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada.

Aparna Pandurangan holds a degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Anna University, Chennai. 

Faakirah Irfan

Head of Legal

Faakirah is a legal professional and expert facilitator on topics like anti-sexual harassment, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws in India, South East Asia, Europe, and the USA. Faakirah has conducted 100+ training sessions on the prevention of sexual harassment for employees and internal committee members.

She has 150+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations in the workplace. Her legal research at Serein includes policy analysis, human rights, women’s rights, and document drafting.

Faakirah is an experienced legal professional. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in law with a focus on women’s rights and policy analysis from the University of Kashmir. She holds a Master of Law degree specializing in alternative dispute resolution from O.P Jindal School of Law.

Dr. Ruchika Sharma

Guest Consultant: Gender

Ruchika assists with research and facilitation of sessions on domestic violence, sexual harassment, employee well-being, and women’s leadership. She is a feature writer for Serein’s blogs where she writes about gender, women’s history, domestic violence, and sexual harassment awareness in the workplace.

Ruchika is a published author with books like ‘Concubinage, Race and Law in Early Colonial Bengal: Bequeathing Intimacy, Servicing the Empire’ published by Routledge, Taylor, and Francis publications. She has been teaching History at the University of Delhi for over a decade. She has a Ph.D. in History from the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Arathi Kannan

Head of DEI: India, Global

Arathi leads the design and execution of DEI measurement tools for global partners. These include Serein’s Diversity Index, the scope of unconscious bias in recruitment and promotions, and the scope of unconscious bias in external messaging. 

She has also designed a standardized tool to review company policies and products through an inclusion lens. Arathi leads workshops on inclusion, unconscious bias, domestic violence, mental health, and well-being. 

Arathi is a published researcher with Master’s degrees in Applied Psychology and Criminology from Bond University, Australia. Her experience includes working with people from different backgrounds, including refugee groups.

Thejaswini CA

LMS Platform Associate

Thejaswini is responsible for the operations and maintenance of Serein’s in-house e-learning platform. She assists customers to deliver learning content and assess employee engagement through Serein’s tracking system. 

Thejaswini is also engaged with finance and other operations to ensure Serein’s 500+ long-term partners are compliant with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) law.

Thejaswini holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Application from Field Marshal KM Cariappa College, Kodagu.

Bhavini Pant

Safety and PoSH expert

Bhavini serves as a PoSH external member for 30+ companies in industries like education, healthcare, IT, Pharma, and more. She has 70+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations in the workplace and supporting partner organizations on the legal procedure and best practices for workplace safety.

Before Serein, Bhavini worked as an archivist at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, and as an editorial assistant for IIT Bombay’s PR and Alumni Associations department.

She has a Master’s degree in Education from Azim Premji University where she worked extensively with the management on anti-sexual harassment legal implementation. Her work involved the interpretation of the law in a university as a workplace and an educational institution for adults. 

Siri Prasad

Safety and PoSH Expert

Siri Prasad is a Safety and PoSH Expert at Serein and serves as an External Member of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for Serein’s clients. Her work is not limited to, but includes advising in legal procedures, best practices for safe work cultures, and reviewing of PoSH policies and labor law compliance.

Siri is a Gold Medallist and holds a BBA, LLB (Hons.) from Christ University and a Masters in Science (International Employment Relations) from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she also served as the EDI Officer.

Rishab Prasad

DEI Specialist

Rishab is passionate about creating long-term partnerships with Serein’s customers. He is responsible for marketing, operations, customer onboarding, contract writing, and relationship building. Rishab uses his directing and filmmaking skills to design engaging content for Serein’s social media platforms.

Rishab holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics with Honours from CHRIST University, Bangalore. He has directed more than nine short films on topics like stigmas of menstruation, widowhood, and adoption.

Kirtika N

Safety and PoSH expert

Kirtika is an expert speaker and workshop facilitator on topics like sexual harassment awareness, bystander intervention, and anti-harassment redressal mechanisms. She has developed learning content for investigating committees on topics like witness cooperation in a workplace sexual harassment inquiry proceeding. 

Kirtika serves as a PoSH external member for 30+ companies in fintech, healthcare, business management, gaming, and more. She has 50+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations at the workplace and supporting partner organisations on legal procedure and best practices.

She has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Montfort College, Bengaluru, and has experience working as a trainee counselor.

Sharanya Venkataraghavan

Safety and PoSH expert

Sharanya serves as a PoSH external member for 15+ companies in e-commerce, fintech, healthcare, SaaS, and more. She supports partner organisations on legal procedures and best practices to build safe work cultures.

She has been involved in the review of PoSH policies, labour law compliances, and research regarding the risk of secondary victimisation of complainants under the PoSH Act.

Sharanya graduated with BBA, LLB (Hons.) degree from Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She has experience in PoSH and employment law with notable law firms like Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas and Co., J. Sagar and Associates, among others.

Nandini Abraham

Statistical Analyst

Nandini conducts extensive industry-specific research on DEI trends in India, South East Asia, Europe, and the USA. Nandini is responsible for developing statistical models for DEI assessment on Serein’s DEI SaaS Tool. She designs measurement tools for DEI benchmarking, inclusion assessments, and employee experience surveys.

Nandini is passionate about creating engaging and impactful reports, toolkits, and playbooks for Serein’s customers.

Nandini holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, Mathematics & Statistics from St. Joseph’s College, Bangalore.

Nithya R

HR and Compliance Lead

Nithya drives operational excellence within the HR function. She ensures that Serein maintains the highest standards of HR practices and ethical conduct. Her role extends beyond traditional HR responsibilities as she also serves as an External Member of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for Serein’s clients, specialising in preventing workplace harassment through the PoSH vertical.

Nithya has graduated in Commerce from the University of Lucknow and has rich experience in hiring and retaining the best talents in the industry with companies like BukuWarung and Belong.co.

Sri Padmavathi C

Finance Consultant

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Sri Padmavathi C specialises in providing accounting consulting services to companies. She helps in assisting & maintaining Serein’s Books of Accounts, GST, TDS, PT filing, financial statements preparation & audit review.
 
She holds an MBA with Finance Specialisation from Annamalai University, and has also has done CA articleship under CA Tom Joseph’s guidance.

Anisha Debnath

PoSH and DEI Workshops Facilitator

As a PoSH and DEI Workshops Facilitator, Anisha is primarily responsible for conducting sessions and facilitating conversations that enable building of safe and inclusive workplaces for all. Anisha also undertakes in-depth research into various Diversity, Equity and Inclusion issues that plague our work cultures today. All of this research goes into designing bespoke sessions and curating interactive learning experiences for several of Serein’s partners. 

Anisha has a background in History, especially in the history of gender and early feminism in colonial South Asia. 

Anisha has a Bachelor’s degree in History (Hons.) from Gargi College, University of Delhi. She has also studied for an MPhil in World History from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Aseem Deuskar

Inclusive Workspace Architect

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Aseem is an Inclusive Workspace Architect dedicated to reshaping workplace diversity and accessibility. He is skilled in conducting comprehensive accessibility audits and implementing inclusive design solutions.


Aseem is passionate about creating environments that foster equal opportunities

He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning.

 

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