Article: A month isn't enough!: Cognizant's Shameka Young on supporting LGBTQ+ rights beyond Pride Month

Employee Engagement

A month isn't enough!: Cognizant's Shameka Young on supporting LGBTQ+ rights beyond Pride Month

Acknowledging that the LGBTQ+ community continues to face discrimination because of how they identify or who they love - even today, Shameka Young, VP and Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I), Cognizant, says it’s critical that organisations continue the conversation beyond adding rainbows to their company logos or participating in pride parades every June.
A month isn't enough!: Cognizant's Shameka Young on supporting LGBTQ+ rights beyond Pride Month

There has been much progress in creating awareness and human rights for LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer and others) community in the workplace, and every June, Pride Month gives organisations an opportunity to celebrate this. However, despite all this, many community members continue to face hostility from co-workers and harassment and discrimination even today.

Acknowledging the challenges that remain, Shameka Young, VP and Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I), Cognizant, says it’s critical that organisations continue the conversation beyond Pride-themed advertisement campaigns, adding rainbows to their company logos or participating in pride parades.

In an interaction with People Matters, Young talks about systems and checks to curb discrimination in the workplace, and resources and guidelines that can help provide a safe and inclusive environment to the LGBTQ+ community beyond just hiring for a few roles and Pride Month celebrations.

How can organisations ensure a safe and inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community?

Belonging requires diversity and inclusion. Formal programmes for professional development and progressive hiring policies are a start. But the real magic will happen when you empower employees to shape and drive global, regional, and local resource groups. These groups should be both top-down – sponsored by executive leadership, and grassroots – championed by employees at all levels.

Resource groups welcome, nurture, and provide safe spaces to share interests and aspirations. Our resource groups are designed to help recruit top talent, offer personal and professional development opportunities, and engage and connect with one another. We strongly encourage allies to join to relay that critical element of support that is a foundational element needed to create a truly inclusive culture.

Sexual/gender discrimination is a challenge for LGBTQ people in the workplace.  What are your protective systems?

At Cognizant, we take great pride in creating an environment where everyone can thrive, feel safe, and be included. That means that we must treat each other with dignity, fairness, and respect. We value everyone’s unique contribution and promote an inclusive work environment. This creates diverse teams and a workplace where everyone can bring their whole selves to work and belong.

To achieve this, our Global Harassment, Discrimination, and Workplace Bullying Prevention Policy articulates our collective responsibility to work as one and create a work environment that is free of any behaviour which could be interpreted or perceived as harassment, discrimination, and bullying.

The Company’s Ethics and Compliance hotline allows our employees to report, anonymously or non-anonymously, any potential harassment or other unethical behaviour.

Why should we promote inclusivity beyond Pride Month?

Pride Month gives us an opportunity to celebrate our progress. But we should also acknowledge the challenges that remain.

LGBTQ+ people continue to face discrimination, violence, and other forms of persecution because of how they identify or who they love. Cognizant firmly stands against discrimination of all kinds. And in order to create conditions for everyone to thrive and foster a respectful and open-minded work environment, the dialogue and action must continue beyond the month of June.

How can companies continue to support LGBTQ+ rights/promote inclusion after Pride Month?

It’s critical to continue the conversation throughout the year.

Start by recruiting with diversity in mind and participate in LGBTQ+-specific job fairs.

Recently, we partnered with Pride Circle to do just that. In addition, our LGBTQ+ resource group provides a culture of support and community – for community members and allies alike. We also have a host of LGBTQ+ resources, guides, and programmes throughout the year that generate awareness, understanding, and acceptance.

And, equally important, is that we work hard to provide inclusive benefits.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, Diversity, #DEIB, #PrideMonth

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