Article: Cognizant’s DI leader on essentials to enhance LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts


Cognizant’s DI leader on essentials to enhance LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts

Sreedevi Palit, Director of HR and India Leader for Diversity & Inclusion at Cognizant, advocates for proactive and empathetic LGBTQ+ inclusion in workplaces, emphasising the value of active listening.
Cognizant’s DI leader on essentials to enhance LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts

For organisations seeking to enhance their LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts, embracing a proactive and empathetic approach is essential, says Sreedevi Palit, Director – HR and India Leader – D&I at Cognizant.

Sreedevi believes that by actively listening, seeking feedback, and understanding the specific needs of LGBTQ+ employees, companies can create a more inclusive and supportive environment. Here are the edited excerpts.

What specific programmes or resources does your company offer to foster an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ employees?

Our LGBTQ+ associates bring important perspectives, creativity, and talent to our organisation and our support extends beyond the observance of Pride month. It is reflected in our ongoing initiatives, programmes, and policies which are designed to foster an inclusive workplace where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued.

We follow a gender-neutral approach to policies. Specifically, our insurance policies provide coverage for same-sex partners, including, comprehensive medical benefits to LGBTQ+ associates for gender reaffirmation surgery. Gender-neutral facilities are also available at our centres.

We have taken proactive steps by developing Gender Transition Guidelines to assist leaders, colleagues, and the HR team in supporting a transgender individual's transition process. Our efforts extend to training hiring managers and implementing diverse hiring panels to ensure a welcoming experience from the first interview.

Embrace, our global affinity group for LGBTQ+ colleagues sponsored by Executive Leadership, provides a safe and supportive environment for gender non-conforming, transgender colleagues to express themselves authentically and grow to their full potential. The group facilitates events, awareness sessions, and toolkits to educate associates and foster idea-sharing and networking opportunities. Additionally, training programs on allyship and psychological safety are integral to minimizing bias and enhancing inclusion across our organization.

Can you share any examples of partnerships or collaborations that have been particularly impactful in promoting LGBTQ+ rights and inclusion?

This June, we proudly embraced the theme ‘Together for Each Other’ and initiated Pride festivities with a series of flag-hoisting ceremonies across India to celebrate our strong LGBTQ+ community and their allies. The flags serve as a powerful reminder to all our people that Cognizant is an inclusive organization in the truest of sense.

We partner with Pride Circle and other grassroots organisations to address employment barriers, promote sensitisation on LGBTQ+ rights and provide community support through events such as Rainbow Bazaar which brings together our associates to support LGBTQ+-owned small businesses.

What challenges have you encountered in implementing LGBTQ+ inclusion initiatives, and how have you addressed them?

Cultural and social barriers, and ingrained stereotypes, pose significant obstacles to the broader acceptance and equitable perception of LGBTQ+ individuals. Education about gender identity and the LGBTQ+ spectrum has been key to addressing bias and breaking myths. Our affinity group, Embrace has been pivotal in creating a culture of open communication supporting LGBTQ+ rights.

How do you plan to continue evolving your approach to LGBTQ+ inclusion to ensure it remains relevant and effective in a changing social landscape?

We recognise the importance of intersectionality and the experiences of LGBTQ+ people. We plan to strengthen our partnerships with grassroots organisations to address some of the unique challenges faced by this community in an evolving landscape. We will continue to have regular focus group discussions with LGBTQ+ associates seeking their feedback to continually address areas of improvement.

What advice would you give to other organisations looking to enhance their LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts?

 For organisations looking to enhance their LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts, our advice would be to actively listen, seek feedback, and understand the specific needs of your people. Education is a baseline requirement to address bias, break myths, and create a culture of open communication. An employee resource group dedicated to supporting the community provides a safe space for LGBTQ+ employees to be their authentic selves. Be an active ally, and advocate and celebrate the success of LGBTQ+ employees.

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Topics: Diversity, Culture, #HRCommunity, #PrideMonth, #PrideAtWork

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