Growing up, I perceived the world through binary lenses - male/female, black/white, right/wrong, and so on. However, as time went on, I realized there were infinite shades to everything we perceive. While I had heard of the LGBTQ+ community and knew individuals who identified as such, it wasn't as visible to me in India a decade ago. But during my time in Singapore, I witnessed people living boldly, embracing their true selves, particularly those from the 'Pride' community.
Fortunately, I had colleagues, friends, and acquaintances who openly identified as Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, or Queer, enriching my life with vibrancy and joy. It was inspiring to witness their fearlessness in being true to themselves, despite the challenges they faced due to their uniqueness.
Our world is rapidly evolving, and so is the corporate landscape. Organisations worldwide are consciously working towards greater awareness, sensitivity, and inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community.
In India, it is heartening to witness the growing acceptance of the diverse range of identities within humanity. Several companies have implemented specific policies to attract and support transgender employees. They offer comprehensive insurance coverage for LGBTQ+ individuals and provide parental/adoption leave. Moreover, they allow employees to designate their partners as family members in insurance policies.
In addition to traditional male and female restrooms, these forward-thinking companies also incorporate gender-neutral facilities. While these measures may seem simple, not all companies have embraced them, and swift adoption is worth considering.
Although progress is being made, many parts of the world still attach stigma to the LGBTQ+ community. Education and sensitisation are crucial in:
- Understanding the historical context
- Grasping the intricacies
- Accepting and embracing this reality without judgment
To be truly inclusive, we need to create gender-balanced workplaces. This need not just mean for males and females, but for all employees irrespective of their background or preferences. For example, if I were queer, would I get as many responsibilities and opportunities as a straight person? Would I be allowed to upskill myself, would I be considered for mentorship, etc.?
These may seem inconsequential, but it is important to bring awareness and work with HR, rewards, legal, and diversity and inclusion teams to ensure no person feels left behind because of who they are.
A lot of people don’t necessarily want to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community, but if they haven’t had enough exposure, they may just not understand how to engage and end up making interactions awkward and probably hurtful. With awareness and policies that foster a culture that is supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, team members not belonging to the community may also benefit, understand nuances, and help the former with their career and professional growth.
Youngsters today will be the leaders of tomorrow. May it be through corporates, homes, overall society, or shows on OTTs, there is certainly more awareness and openness among youngsters for concepts that were probably alien to me in my youth. But I’m grateful to companies like mine which are putting in teams, policies, and ERGs [Employee Resource Groups] to help create awareness for the Pride community and the need for a level playing field.
It is imperative to equip the younger generations with awareness of the different shades we are and make sure they have a better worldview of things. I have a young child and if he were to identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community, I would want him to have the same level playing field as any. I would want him to be treated with respect, have the same opportunities to excel and have the same freedom to choose a future that is right for him. If we put ourselves in the shoes of others, it is easier to understand some of the struggles and be empathetic. I believe we should pass on a better world to the future generations, and it’s our job to also educate and equip them to build a future where everyone is equal.
The evolution of corporate culture towards LGBTQ+ inclusivity, not only in India but globally, is a testament to our collective progress toward a diverse and accepting world. Embracing Pride paves the way for a future where everyone can bring their authentic selves to the workplace and thrive, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.