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LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the workplace in India today.

“Many multinational companies are ramping up their LGBTQIA+ recruitment as they

seek to be inclusive like their headquarters'', say HR professionals in India. Indian

companies have now started joining the bandwagon and have been reaching out to

consultants like myself to get more LGBTQIA+ workforce. Why? Is it to make their

organisation look more “Inclusive” or do they really care about the greater good of

equality and inclusion keeping all members of society treated as equal?

I was specifically asked by a large multinational pharmaceutical company to search

for LGBTQIA plus Talent for all their open positions, “We have been mandated to

do so by our leadership” is what she told me when I asked. So I can safely say that

this is perhaps something that has been discussed at an Executive Level and has

been mandated to the Talent Acquisition Team.

We love a great challenge at Diversity Solutions, so we decided to do the

assignment and get as many LGBTQIA++ candidates to this company as possible.

I'd love to go through some of the challenges faced in the workplace today from my

perspective of working with LGBTQIA++ human resources and Training.

1. Industry? - Now I am really sad to say, most of the LGBTQIA+ people I

contacted were not “out” at work. They pretended to be straight, some even

were married to keep the charade going and they refused to even consider

being out at the job. The ones that were out wanted jobs in the

entertainment, media and fashion industries. The few that were willing didn’t

quite fit in the Pharmaceutical industry. The FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer

Goods) Industry has several senior level management and leadership that

identify as LGBTQIA++, however most are in the closet. The first question I

got asked, “Do I have to tell everyone at work I am gay/lesbian?”. That is a

difficult one to answer as each one has to make this choice themselves and

they should come out at a time they feel comfortable. It would be unfair to

expect someone to come out for the sake of seeking employment with a

company.

2. Family vs Work - A lot of the LGBTQ+ people I spoke to agreed to be out at

work, but didn’t want the news of them being part of the LGBTQ community


to reach their families. I was saddened by this, I thought people should find

solace with their families and be able to talk and come out to parents and

siblings and not colleagues. I guess colleagues become a second family over

a period of time so I understand this. This really made me wonder, are we a

society that will be okay to be ourselves with strangers, however we can’t be

ourselves around families and the ones we love?.

3. Company Policies vs Management - The company may have an open mind,

however “Managers” may not. This kept resonating as I spoke to people,

they feared they may be discriminated against in promotions and future

growth. Sometimes a manager may just change and a new unsupportive

manager may look at things differently. This was indeed a big fear factor

among candidates. “Will I get promoted to the CEO of the company

someday?” , “Companies don’t want to show gay people in leadership

positions”, these were some of the comments I got.

4. Government vs Companies - Section 377 was taken away in September

2018 through the intervention of the Supreme Court, LGBTQ+ marriage is still

not legal in India. “Will companies treat my partner as a spouse even though

we are not married?” asked a Sr. Executive who obviously didn’t have a

marriage certificate to prove he was married. Many MNCs offer spouse's

insurance and other benefits, some of the Indian companies I have worked

with have an inclusion policy, but I’ve found they still have a long way to go to

get the benefits at an equal level. There are exceptions to this of course,

forward thinking Indian companies like Infosys, Tata, Godrej, Mahindra etc

take several Diversity and Inclusion initiatives.

5. Gender neutral Spaces - My transgendered friend Laxami told me that using

restrooms at work was her biggest challenge. A lot of companies in India

have started Introducing “Gender Neutral Restrooms''. This would be the next

change that would help the community.

6. Bullying at work - Are there “Zero Tolerance policies” for bullying at work in

place? I couldn’t safely tell the candidates I was talking to that I knew the

repercussions when someone bullied at work as I didn’t know how companies

in India dealt with bullies, especially those that came from the leadership

ranks.


7. Support Systems and Ally Groups - It was refreshing to see that Millenials

and the younger generation were really into creating groups or Allies of the

community, I believe this will help us in the future as these are people that

will make important decisions on equity and Inclusion. Every large

organization must have a support system to enforce and empower the

community’s agenda.

8. Sensitization of Employees towards the Community - I have been

approached by a few companies to conduct sensitization workshops and have

also offered a few companies this during the month of pride to run this

workshop as a reminder of what the community means and needs. I am

happy to see a lot of MNC companies have training programs in place.

Companies like Godrej, Tata, Mahindra also have a huge D&I focus and

conduct these workshops.

9. Diversity at work - Speaking of Diversity, a lot of companies just relate this

to the “Male/Female” ratio in an organization. True diversity is in all facets,

“Race, Religion, Caste, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Disabilities etc..” So

when a company says they take “Diversity and Inclusion” seriously, you need

to know their true intent. Many forward thinking companies have started

including people with disabilities and the LGBTQ Community. Are these

companies ready to make their workspaces safe for these communities? For

Example, - Do the offices have a ramp for wheelchair access? Can the

restroom accommodate wheelchair users? - Do the companies have a anti

bullying policies in place to take severe action including termination of

employment to those that violate this policy?

10. Discrimination - Are we there yet?, 81 countries prohibit discrimination in

employment because of Sexual Orientation today, As a country we have

started taking baby steps. We are on the right path and will get there soon.

This pride month of June has seen a refreshing change as companies change their

logos to include rainbow colors. I see social media lit with all the colors of the

rainbow. This is all wonderful, However we need to understand that LGBTQIA+

community support should be shown everyday and not just in June. This is a great

start and as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, I am happy to say I can see a better

day coming for us all.


Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you do have any questions or you'd like

to set up a meeting or call, please feel free to connect with me on Linkedin. At

Diversity Solutions we provide solutions to make workplaces inclusive, diverse and

productive.

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