June 1969, Stonewall Uprising in New York paved the way for the Pride Month which is celebrated across the globe. It sparked the modern gay rights movement.
My early understanding and awareness of LGBTQ community came through the films which I watched. Boy’s Don’t Cry, The Watermelon women, Philadelphia, Milk are some of the movies which triggered my curiosity to know more about the community and challenges and biases faced by them.
In 2021, the world is seeing a shift. The Voices are loud and clear. Change is making its way and to give the necessary thrust India Inc has joined hands and taken lead to make an effort to be equal and inclusive.
Pride Circle, an organisation working in space of Pride inclusion mentions that LGBTQ inclusion in workplaces is gaining traction. Srini Ramaswamy, Co-founder, Pride Circle shared an extensive road map of the work they have done with the Indian corporate and also shared the way forward.
According to Ramaswamy, any organisation’s journey can be divided into three buckets:
- Beginning the Journey
- Started and now need direction to move forward
- Leading the way with bold initiatives and Thought Leadership
In 2019, Pride Circle organised the first LGBTQ Job Fair, RISE which saw participation from 35 companies. It was a proud moment for my start-up, The Unhotel Co to share the platform with some of the leading global organisations and to be the first one to offer an appointment letter.
The participation by diverse set of companies over three editions of RISE is a proof that organisations in India have a strong buy in for LGBTQ inclusion. Pride Circle has facilitated over 200 job offers for LGBTQ talent across roles and industries. In 2019, Godrej launched Project Rainbow, a focused hiring platform for LGBTQ candidates who want to apply for internships or full-time employment positions at the company.
In June 2020, the US Supreme Court also upheld a 1964 Civil Rights federal law, clarifying that it prohibits job discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status. Even before this landmark ruling, many private corporations had already been enacting their own inclusive policies and Hiring Diverse Talent is now extremely critical.
In India, companies have become more open to LGBTQ employees since 2018, after Supreme Court abolished a colonial-era law that criminalised same-sex relations.
Further, companies are increasingly participating in audits to measure their progress for LGBT+ inclusion. Pride Circle has also launched the country’s first LGBT+ inclusion Index called India Workplace Equality Index (IWEI).
IWEI is a driving force for LGBTQ workplace inclusion. It helps the organisations map their journey, create benchmarks, and evaluate yearly goals for LGBTQ Inclusion.
Many Indian companies are also taking steps to create a strong employer branding. They have taken consistent and concrete steps to communicate to potential talent that their respective workplace is inclusive and believes in equal job opportunities for people from the community. Roundtables, Twitter Chats, Inclusion events, LinkedIn Lives, Book reading, Film festivals are some of the common practices adopted by the companies. Parmesh Shahani, author of book, Queeristan heads Godrej India Culture Lab, an experimental space in Mumbai that hosts events on LGBTQ issues.
Showcasing allies and creating brand ambassadors have helped organisations create a buy in and amplify their focus on LGBTQ inclusion. These brand ambassadors and Allies go through training program to get sensitised and become aware of challenges faced by community members.
To promote allyship, early this year Pride Circle published equALLY: Stories by Friends of the Queer World, a first of its kind anthology of powerful personal stories of 45 individuals who have stood up, spoken up for the LGBT+ community and created safe spaces at homes, schools, colleges, workplaces and in society.
Everyone has ‘ally’ stories to tell, and Pride Circle recognise that with each retelling, these stories create stronger connections, inclusion and bring about change. The change we want to see in a world where no one has to sacrifice their family, freedom, safety, or dignity because of who they are or who they love.
So, while the 2020 edition marks a beginning, with every fresh edition they will encourage more individuals to come forward with their ‘ally’ stories and add to the building blocks of a decidedly Indian approach to mobilising LGBT+ allies.
Extending Medical Health benefits to LGBTQ partners have been one of the major policy changes which companies like Mahindra Logistics have undertaken. Accenture was the first company in India to introduce medical cover for gender reassignment surgery. Parental leaves and Parental benefits are being included for employees for the community. Policies play a significant role in bringing a long-term systemic change.
The Primary Goals
Sensitising the employees to shed their inhibitions and normalise working with LGBTQ co-workers is one of the toughest goals for organisations. BeyonDiversity, another organisation working in space of Diversity & inclusion runs multiple sensitisation programs for leading companies. Innovative and interactive sensitisation interventions and customized support helps in change of mindset and attitude. It’s a slow process but constant reinforcements and varied communication touchpoints helps in creating the desired shift.
The stories of success will fast track the journey of Inclusion. We need more Allies, Pride Ambassadors, communication bombarding to spread the message far and wide. The pandemic has also set the trend of #WFH. With this, we are seeing a trend of people moving back to their respective towns and cities. Smaller towns, familiar neighbourhood might pose another barrier to disclosing their identity. India Inc would need to work with society and communities outside their organisations to build an equal and progressive workplace and society.
Shilpi is a Leadership Coach and has been working in space of DEI for last 10 years. The views expressed are the author’s own.