Globally, India has become one of the fastest growing economies. Indian companies are now competing in a world interconnected with global companies that are increasingly taking advantage of workforce diversity, including the LGBT community. There is a war for the best talent among organizations. Companies that create an open, secure, inclusive and diverse space for employees will win.
Ask yourself, is your organization diverse and inclusive?
Speaking from a personal experience
Well, speaking from personal experience, just before the imposition of the closure, I had a meeting in Bombay. The boardroom consisted of “fifteen high-ranking corporate men.” My presence was necessary as I presented a list of potential speakers as part of my business I had founded. I also felt the need to share some options for diversity and inclusion speakers that included some speakers from the LGBT community. To his great surprise, the head of this particular group turned around instantly and said that we do not need “these speakers”, as we do not have this problem in our organization.
I could strongly feel the air of homophobia in that statement, along with the assumption that in this 2,500-employee company there wouldn’t be a single person in the LGBT community. It was equally shocking to learn that the company was nowhere interested in “D&I” initiatives and felt that there was no need to invest in a culture of diversity and inclusion.
Looking at it from a broader perspective, in a report shared by Best Employees to Work in the U.S., it is estimated that 4.5% of the U.S. population (11 million people) identifies as belonging to the U.S. LGBTQ community. With a large majority of this population (88%) in the workforce, more employees have driven LGBTQ-focused initiatives.
A recent Stonewall survey in the UK indicates that more than a third of LGBT staff (35%) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination. The figures will be much higher for India. In another survey by Stonewall, it says, “hiding sexual orientation at work reduces productivity by up to 30%.” Now, imagine that!
I strongly believe that LGBT employees working in organizations with employee networks, resource groups, and / or mentoring programs are between 7% and 16% higher on work experience scores. “Feeling safe at work is critical to being able to establish important relationships in the workplace.” Maybe this could be reason enough for organizations to really invest in making it inclusive and safe for everyone, isn’t this a basic human right?
Inclusiveness starts at home, in the community and not in the workplace
I am a queer woman. I came out totally weird myself at 50 years old. Because? Because I was homophobic with my own self, most of my life.
My traditional upbringing in a Mangalorean house was full of prayers and I believed that everything in the church teachings was sinful.
India is unique in that we all come from multicultural backgrounds, with diverse religions and belief systems. Often our families are unaware of the LGBT community or are given the frame of reference we have (our Bollywood cinema is an example of how the community becomes a caricature), we often make fun of anyone who is not heterosexual. We then bring these unconscious biases to our workplaces. If our workplace has policies around this awareness, we have at least some understanding and empathy, either out of choice or out of fear of the consequences we might face. However, in the end, it really is an individual: how we accept, respect, and value equity, diversity, and inclusion as an individual.
In my younger years, there was no information about being “gay,” “queer,” “lesbian.” The only people we knew from the community were “hijras,” who were ridiculed, from whom you were told to walk away. So I grew up homophobic.
Later, when the word “gay” appeared, it was always looked down upon and mocked by those we found effeminate around us, at our school, or in the workplace.
For me, that was life. There was always this division between “us” and “them”.
Until, I realized, that the “they” were also “me”.
I was in New Zealand in those days when I was first dragged out of my closet, in a country where there are strict anti-discrimination policies and laws to protect LGBT rights. Still, I suffered from a passive, subtle homophobia. It was in the way of giving work directly to your teammates, in the way of not including yourself in social events, of not promoting yourself, of underestimating comments around you, and of suddenly finding flaws in everything you did. .
In India it is even more difficult. As an entrepreneur, running my own business, I had the added pressure of making sure I wasn’t out of the corporate world, if someone didn’t give us a job because of my sexual orientation, they told me repeatedly. I wasn’t even out of my own co-workers, just in case they showed homophobia towards me. It wasn’t until my story came out in Humans of Bombay and Brut India, my co-workers received confirmation about my orientation and this also seemed to cause more discomfort than expected and it was 2020.
We need to merge our homes and our jobs. In one. That’s when acceptance will pass and inclusion will really be celebrated.
In the future, jobs will also have to manage reputation and risk in a global environment, where employees who are not sensitized or trained on inclusion can end up causing serious embarrassment and damaging their corporate reputation, losing customers. and business.
Organizations in India have begun to adopt best practices for diversity and inclusion in their organizations, recognizing that a diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace is directly related to better business performance. With the legalization of Article 377, there are more talented and talented people who are slowly starting to leave their jobs.
The estimated cost of homophobia, according to the World Bank Group, is $ 7.7 billion annually.
Now, how can we make our workplace more inclusive, here’s the checklist to make sure:
- Talk openly about LGBT people in the organization.
- Create anti-discrimination policies and discuss them throughout the organization.
- Create alliance and advocacy programs that “listen” and “act” in the event of homophobic or discriminatory comments based on anyone’s sexual orientation.
- Create a safe and inclusive environment.
- Don’t stumble upon microaggressions – don’t assume anyone’s sexuality, for example. Don’t ask women for example about their boyfriends or husbands.
- Sponsor Pride events beyond Pride Month. Continue dialogues around LGBT people throughout the year.
- Train leaders and raise awareness in the organization, starting by making sure the recruitment process is not based on a person’s bias.
- Boost talent and retain people based on skills and talent.