The past few years have seen the growing acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community in the corporate world, as it takes a more intentional approach to equality.
While there is still much more work to be done in efforts to foster a safe and inclusive workplace for the community, it is a multi-year journey that the companies want to continue investing in while also celebrating their minor milestones along the way, which only helps to raise awareness.
As we conclude the Pride Month dedicated to the recognition and celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and the support of LGBTQ+ rights across the world, People Matters spoke to various industry leaders on hiring LGBTQ+ talent beyond tokenism, what the LGBTQ+ talent brings to organisations, why organisations should invest in diverse talent, and the approach they need to take to better understand and align policies to the community's needs.
Diverse perspectives powerful multipliers of innovation and growth
Industry leaders say corporates are focused on attracting, hiring, and retaining LGBTQ+ talent segment not only because inclusion is a milestone to be achieved but also because these diverse perspectives create more room for innovation and growth.
“Diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and opinions help us grow and innovate, making diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) critical to the success of our business. The more diverse we are, the better we can reflect our approximately 100 million customers, build empathy and create products and services that solve their unique problems,” says Jharna Thammaiah K, Director and India Site People & Places Leader, Intuit.
“Innovation thrives in a workplace where people can bring their whole selves to work to do the best work of their lives,” she adds.
To support its LGBTQ+ community, Intuit provides gender-affirmation surgery reimbursement which is over and above the regular insurance coverage, and supplements it with hormone replacement therapy reimbursement. It also offers Group Medical insurance coverage to same-sex partners of employees.
“Intuit also provides counselling services to employees who either identify as LGBTQ+ or have loved ones who do,” says Jharna, adding that company has a range of development resources to help grow and improve the craft of being an inclusive leader.
Hari Vasudev, SVP – Retail Tech Platforms and Country Head, Walmart Global Tech India, says in today’s world, the workforce trusts and values organisations that provide an inclusive and safe environment. They thrive in a place that celebrates their uniqueness and makes them feel like they belong.
"To cultivate a deeper sense of belonging and engagement, organisations are increasingly embracing a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion. Leaders are more intentional about nurturing a culture where people feel accepted and valued—which serves as a catalyst for higher engagement, productivity and innovation."
Vasudev believes organisations that invest in diverse talent gain a wide range of skills, knowledge, experiences and creativity.
"Varied perspectives play an important role in providing deeper insights to businesses, such as understanding diverse customers and their unique needs. Organisations are proven to be stronger when people are included, heard, and empowered and it’s great to see leaders prioritise DEI like never before," he adds.
Sankalp Saxena, Nutanix SVP & Managing Director, India Operation says a workforce and a culture that celebrates and supports diversity are proven to lead to better innovation for businesses.
“This enhances productivity and brings in unique and distinct perspectives that spark creative thinking... At Nutanix, we strongly value our differences and believe that diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives make us a more innovative and resilient team,” he says.
The company’s programme ‘Qutants’ (queer Nutanix employees and allies) is a global group that helps connect diverse employees, rallying together all members regardless of location to provide professional connections worldwide. The group connects through social events, group meetings, and awareness campaigns, where members are encouraged to be involved in giving back to local and global LGBTQ+ communities throughout the year.
“When people feel like they belong and are valued for their unique perspectives, they bring their authentic selves to work and are able to grow and flourish. Diverse perspectives are powerful multipliers of innovation and growth,” says Lakshmi C, Managing Director, and Lead - Human Resources, Accenture in India.
The company leverages strategic external partnerships, Pride employment fairs, and employee referrals to attract the right LGBTQ+ talent.
“Where there are skill gaps, we invest through a six-month-long inclusive internship programme to help them bridge these gaps,” Lakshmi says.
The company has been on a journey of inclusion for several years now and periodically reviews its policies and benefits to meet its people’s evolving needs and emerging market trends. In 2016, Accenture was among the first companies in India to introduce medical cover for gender reassignment surgery for its employees. In 2021, it modified its parental leave policies, such as maternal, paternal, adoption, and surrogacy, to focus on the importance of caregiving versus gender binaries to support its LGBTQ+ people.
“Further, our people can choose who they nominate as the beneficiary of their life insurance policy including their LGBTQ+ partners. Recently, in 2022 we extended our medical insurance benefits to include facial reconstruction surgery for our transgender people and also made enhancements to ensure that the partners of our LGBTQ+ people and their families are included,” Lakshmi adds.
‘LGBTQ+ community is talent rich’
Anjali Byce, CHRO, STL, says the LBGTQ+ community is a large demographic which is talent-rich.
“Building diverse teams results in a true representation of the society we operate in. The natural by-product is multiple perspectives, creative solutions, and new ways of problem-solving; which in turn results in creating an innovative, efficient, effective, and customer-centric organisation,” she says.
Byce strongly believes that true support for the community is more than just a rainbow-hued post on social media. “As a part of our people-focused initiatives and culture of CARE, we have built a strong ‘listening’ organisation. This enables us to create policies that are as global as possible but equally tailored to special needs," she says, adding that their leave policies support surrogacy, IVF, and adoption, seek to empower employees globally through DEI initiatives, and provide avenues for better understanding, accepting, and co-existing with the vibrant LGBTQ+ community.
Nancy Hauge, chief experience officer at Automation Anywhere, says a diverse workforce brings forth wide-ranging perspectives promoting “better thinking and innovation”.
“As the LGBT+ community continues to face societal challenges, including mindset barriers and cultural prejudice, organisations must drive sensitisation and provide a safe and open environment that sends an explicit signal about inclusion to the entire workforce. This includes allowing employees to self-identify as LGBTQ+, supporting LGBTQ+ issues in the community, creating a strong culture of inclusiveness, encouraging internal LGBTQ+ networking, and standardising/and improving parental leave policies,” Hauge adds.
Better aligning policies to diverse talents needs
Rachel Scheel, SVP, Global Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Sustainability at Criteo, says diversity brings strength, creativity, and purpose to an organisation, and it should become the norm rather than a one-off initiative.
“The key first step is having an active and engaged Employee Resource Group for your LGBTQ+ employees and their allies. At Criteo, our Pride Community has over 250 active members, creating a safe place for LGBTQ+ talent to connect, build networks, and develop internal relationships with the community and members,” she says.
The next step, she says, is understanding and establishing a baseline of where a company’s culture is currently, and then creating actions and goals tied to what is important to employees and opportunities to strengthen inclusion throughout the employee experience.
“Keep testing whether these practices are working and employees feel that they are authentic is more important. At Criteo, we’ve been activating these initiatives through the direct feedback from our employees in our bi-annual Voices Survey,” she adds.
LGBTQ+ inclusion is a journey of progressive realisation and adoption, not an overnight change, says Lynette D’silva, Head of Regional HR- India & APAC, Amdocs.
“With a diverse workforce, establishing an inclusive mindset of leaders is key to creating the right culture in the organisation. It is crucial that organisations understand that being recognised, identified, and respected for who they are is what employees expect from their employers and co-workers. While policy changes are important, organisations need to work towards bringing a change in attitudes of existing employees, with LGBTQ+ awareness and sensitivity training,” she adds.
Pranali Save, CHRO, Icertis, says thoughtful action that fosters a sense of belonging, encourages people to share their diverse perspectives and experiences, and drives innovation based on their unique contributions to the workplace is a positive way to create a safe space and celebrate all employees for all that they are.
“At Icertis, we build on the foundation of our FORTE values – Fairness, Openness, Respect, Teamwork, and Execution – to ensure that Icertians from all backgrounds feel empowered, heard, and fully supported. We bring this to life through initiatives such as conducting unconscious bias training for all executives and managers, expanding our domestic partner definition for insurance benefits in India, and improving healthcare access for current and future LGBTQ+ Icertians. In furtherance of our commitment to creating a culture of equality, we recently joined the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion initiative and pledged to advance diversity and inclusion at the workplace,” she says.
Having an inclusive workplace that protects employees from discrimination is not just the right thing to do – but is also the best business decision, says Ruchi Bhalla, Country Head - India Delivery Centers and Vice President, Human Resources (Asia Pacific) at Pitney Bowes.
“Educating employees about the LGBTQ+ community to create awareness about our own biases is the first step. Starting from basics such as setting up gender-neutral restrooms, to making all policies gender-inclusive to creating a community of role models and training leaders to communicate with empathy...,” she adds.
Over the past few years, Pitney Bowes India has launched several programs such as Blind Applications for candidates applying for roles, allowing them to omit their first or last name and gender from applications.
It also updated its Parental Policy to include paid parental leave for same-sex or adopting parents and those who become parents through surrogacy. “Our Global Inclusion Network, PBPRIDE, works towards generating awareness around LGBTQ+ matters through meaningful dialogue, support, and action. We also run specialised training for managers to highlight bias and include LGBTQ+ sensitive language, to make all employees feel welcomed and an equal part of the organisation,” Bhalla adds.
Central to SAP Labs India’s inclusion and diversity agenda is a bias-free hiring process that allows it to attract, develop and retain the most talented and creative employees regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical/mental abilities.
“Our hiring processes are agnostic of a candidate’s gender identity or sexual orientation and we’ve been making steady progress in hiring talent from the LGBTQ+ community and providing them with the necessary support and resources to become the best version of themselves,” says Sindhu Gangadharan, SVP & MD, SAP Labs India; Head, SAP User Enablement.
The company has introduced the "Ask Pride@SAP" tool to allow its LGBTQ+ employees and allies to ask questions anonymously without coming out. Similarly, it conducts regular LGBTQ+ Inclusion sessions to help raise awareness of the community and also encourage the use of gender-neutral language at work.