Diversity as a business priority: now, and through the year
We are in the middle of International Pride Month celebrations. Social media, corporate logos, entertainment platforms, advertisements and even cab service providers ensured to display the splash of Rainbow! Post the decriminalisation of section 377 in 2018 a sizable percentage of the Indian corporates entered the arena to include the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, et al.) community in their diversity narratives.
Businesses who were skeptical earlier now wanted to tap the purchasing power of the LGBTQIA+ folks working mostly out of the metropolitan cities. Events were organised, sponsored by big multinationals to celebrate Pride month, which in turn became all jazz and fun. Every year in June we witness a sudden overflow of Pride merchandise, events, talks, seminars, discussions! Almost everyone turns into allies and engages in the Pride initiatives.
While we witness all the passionate dialogues in support of the community, are there any follow ups post those conversations? Does the LGBTQIA+ community continue to thrive in their respective organisations post the June drum roll?
Let us try to look into those aspects in the form of some questions.
- How many of the corporates in India who participate in the June celebrations have their employee benefits policy (insurance + medical) take into account the LGBTQIA+ community?
- Are there enough sensitization sessions/training on the LGBTQIA+ community?
- Do we make our peers aware of the usage of pronouns and why it is important?
- What about unconscious biases? Especially when we hail from Indian social systems.
Aren’t all of the above questions elements of the diversity, inclusion principle? And when corporates sign up to uphold the diversity factor as a DNA of the culture, shall we not first look intently at the basic aspects of diversity, inclusion and belonging? Many corporations jump into the Pride celebration bandwagon but how many of them have their LGBTQIA+ inclusive policy.
And with the exit of June and the rainbow fades away!
The reality is that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a supportive company. Especially if we talk about medium or small size corporations. In such places, the LGBTQIA+ folks continue their ordeal and are not only subject to judgements, but they cannot bring their true selves to the workplace. The apprehensions of getting judged, discriminated, and fear of getting isolated run deep in their minds. Outside the workplace, the folks anyways struggle and fight for their preferences and one more additional battle does tax the psyche.
Borrowing the terms from our Six Sigma tools (used widely in all corporates) – we know the ROOT CAUSE of the problem but are we really working towards the IMPROVEMENTS and CONTROLS? Some of us are moving at a snail’s speed.
Let’s look into this a little deeper from the perspective of attracting a diverse workforce and how it may benefit the business. A diverse workforce onboards people from all walks of life– all backgrounds, genders, ages, races, religions, abilities and socioeconomic statuses. Thus, we witness the gradual transformation of the organisation offering diverse perspectives - more creativity and improved performance that results in increased productivity. With this, the firm becomes more global and its brand value goes up. Any corporation encouraging such culture becomes a sought after place to work. In the post pandemic scenario the hybrid work model has become a parameter for attracting and retaining employees. Hence the future workforce will surely measure any business on their culture and how well the system makes employees feel safe and secure.
In India, the popular rather accepted connotation of diversity is hiring women candidates and most of the statistics revolve around that. But the times are changing, and business analysts would like to measure a company on the LGBTQIA+ policy, and the hiring of LGBTQIA+ folks along with other categories. A truly inclusive culture can foster when awareness on the existence of diverse communities is perceptible at the very entry point of the organisation, and where the prospective employees or candidates interact with the representatives. Initiatives in removing biases, prejudices and preconceived notions must be the focus area.
These will work as a catalyst in retaining the talent pool from the LGBTQIA+ community and attracting more people. We do work for the moola, but it is not the only factor. Employees leave a company not just for financial reasons but also if the ecosystem does not allow them to thrive.
Hence, merely introducing policies or benefits for the LGBTQIA+ employees will surely be not enough – establishing mechanisms or systems which continuously keep a check on the biases and prejudices will ensure that employees feel belonged. The company, rather the C-suite community should become the champions to drive this effort of making the business diverse and inclusive. As the saying goes “When everyone is included, everyone wins."