More than half of Indian firms, or 53%, do not have career-development opportunities for people from the LGBTQ+ community, reveals an exclusive study on equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) by HR consulting firm Randstad India, in partnership with global talent mobility solutions firm Randstad RiseSmart and online media company Women’s Web.
Titled ‘Inclusion without Exception’, the study revealed that 60% of MNC leaders are LGBTQ+ immersive in terms of inclusion goals in their leadership. However, only 9.5% of the surveyed organisations have made extremely significant efforts to be LGBTQ+ inclusive (of which majority were MNCs), while 21.4% took only average efforts and a vast majority - 69.2% took very limited efforts to be truly inclusive in their organizational approach.
Close to 70% of the study respondents felt there have been no significant efforts in the direction of LGBTQ+ inclusion in their respective organizations. Among those respondents who believe changes have been significant, 70% work with MNCs.
When it comes to consciously hiring people from LGBTQ+ community, the survey shows that a very small fraction (23%) is actually putting in such efforts, mostly from the MNCs (62%). Moreover, most of these hiring take place at the junior (33%) and middle level (31%). The study also revealed the top four levers of motivation for MNCs towards their diversity and inclusion targets include commitment at global level, higher budgets for inclusion, role models in leadership and attracting better talent.
Additionally, 36% of the surveyed organisations mentioned that they turn to external communities for inclusion support while 40% indicated that they already provide training for reducing hiring biases towards LGBTQ+ workgroups. While this is a welcome change in the right direction, on the flip side, 53% of the surveyed organizations stated that they do not have career development opportunities for people from the LGBTQ+ community.
The survey also revealed that the level of comfort that people from the LGBTQ+ community have in declaring their identity continues to be low (34%). 44% of the surveyed organisations stated that no sensitisation programmes are being run for employees which could be a reason for the hesitance to bring their true self forward and lack of awareness on part of employees. This is despite the fact that 46% of the respondents have stated that their organisations have communicated that its policies are LGBTQ+ inclusive to all its employees; clearly, there continues to be a gap.
Inputs for the study were gathered based on one-on-one interactions with LGBTQ+ members and other stakeholders at the workplace, like HR and D&I leaders across all levels, members of support groups, policymakers, community leaders and colleagues.
“While diversity at work can be achieved by making changes in the hiring strategy, nurturing inclusion is a wider concept that involves the inclusion of people at all levels, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and ability. Although the majority of India Inc is in the reinforcement stage of creating a truly inclusive workplace, I believe that by creating the right role models, leaders walking the talk, investing in the right infrastructure and by establishing legal frameworks and policies, we could fast track positive changes in this direction. Inclusive organisations have the talent edge, they enjoy increased employee engagement, improved customer delight scores and willingness of partnerships,” said Viswanath PS, MD & CEO, Randstad India said while presenting insights from the study.
Viswanath added that leaders must educate and position themselves as true champions of inclusion at work. “D&I training programmes alone will not create a sustained behaviour change, instead, the ED&I commitments should be an org-wide, coherent, strategic approach. This unique report from us is an attempt to help employers deep dive into the real issues of inclusion through the lens of the LGBTQ+ community and other stakeholders, enabling them to take innovative decisions,” he said.
How Included Does The LGBTQ+ Community Feel In Reality?
Despite positive changes, a majority of the study respondents from the LGBTQ+ community felt a total lack of vision/ policies for the community at their organisations, or that these are limited to HR. Some of the respondents also believed that organisations focus only on equality, not on equity, thus minimizing the community's unique challenges. Further, the respondents stated that even in places without overt discrimination, there is a spectrum of behaviour that ranges from borderline toxic to 'neutrality'/indifference to making the other feel comfortable
Allyship In Practice: Workplace In Focus
Respondents believed that there are more allies, at an overall level, at least in MNC organisations. However, there are concerns about performative allyship that people offer to get visibility. Signs perceived include not standing up to bias and not building trust by sharing of themselves too.
“While external allies matter, there is a disproportionate impact of the immediate team and manager, and hence an urgent need to build allies within teams. Women are perceived as natural allies. While this does not mean allyship programs need to target only women, there is scope for making women-centric programs more intersectional,” says the study.
Understanding Challenges: Employees In Focus
The study respondents from the LGBTQ+ community shared some unique challenges that they faced while searching for jobs:
- Trans: Low access to education; few open to hiring/treated as charity; few white-collar roles; blue-collar jobs follow 'default male' template. Need support for transition, washroom access.
- Queer/Gender-Fluid/Non-binary: Low success in interviews if they don't follow a gender binary appearance
- All: Anxiety that identity/preference may cause subtle shunning. Need support for partner benefits
Understanding Challenges : HR Leaders In Focus
As inclusion is not merely an activity but an attitude shift to be adopted for the long-term success of the organisations, many HR leaders are facing a few key challenges today, as per the study findings below:
- Readiness of HR teams to take up the challenge of differential hiring, and management of employee life cycle of community members.
- Readiness of functional teams within the organisation to include LGBTQ+ members with complete acceptance.
- Readiness of employees to sign up as allies and display allyship through actions and behaviours at work. Unbiased representation in performance management and career progression discussions.
- Finding the right talent for hiring for specific positions.