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
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
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
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