Indian workplaces: high on homophobia, low on openness, says report
HR/Diversity policies of the company matter to a great extent in attracting talent who identify as LGBT 65% said that they would consider such policies before joining an organization.
Aditya is a high achieving employee at a multinational bank in Delhi. Be it board meetings or consulting his many clients, he makes sure he evades small talk and questions about his personal life. The feeling of that and the energy that goes into that can be like dodging bullets at times but he knows that he will pay a high price if co-workers get ideas about his sexuality. His parents might have finally come around to accept him as is, but can he expect the same from his company in a heteronormative society?
The Indian think-tank MINGLE (Mission for Indian Gay and Lesbian Empowerment) recently conducted the second Indian LGBT Workplace Climate survey, with 100 LGBT respondents from various Indian and foreign MNCs in 3 sectors – IT, Banking & Finance and FMCG & Manufacturing. The aim was to assess the workplace environment vis-à-vis LGBT employees in corporate India, especially in the context of homosexuality being recriminalized by a Supreme Court ruling in December 2013.
The results were interesting, and sobering:
An issue of concern that came forward was that 40% reported having faced some form of harassment for being LGBT.
Disturbingly, more than half of LGBT Indians reported that they could be legally fired from their jobs for being LGBT and only a small minority of 4% are covered by same-sex partnership benefits.
The survey also showed that LGBT Indians are still not comfortable coming out at work – 44% are out to families, but only 25% to colleagues.
Interestingly, major drivers of employee engagement are dependent on whether employees are out, and feel supported. For example, 25% of “out” employees are happy with their performance evaluations compared to 3% of closeted ones. In general, openly LGBT employees – as compared to their closeted counterparts – have greater trust in their employers, greater satisfaction with their rate of promotion, feel more loyal to their organization and are more likely to continue with the same company for a longer period of time.
They have lower levels of stress and higher confidence because they don’t have to spend energy concealing aspects of their personalities that can render them vulnerable to homophobia, exclusion or being discounted for valuable promotions. It sure would be nice if our person, Aditya, could feel more easy in his skin at work. Unfortunately, a culture of complete silence prevails in most workplaces in India.
Udayan Dhar, who led the research team, and is Diversity & Inclusion manager at Godrej Industries, said “These results show our corporate bodies a glimpse of the workplace environment from the perspective of their LGBT employees- what 8 hours at the office mean for nearly 5-10% of their workforce.”
The report was officially launched on June 5th, at the Indian LGBT Youth Leadership Summit in Mumbai, followed by a panel discussion on the findings. Fabrice Houdart, who is a Human Rights Officer at UN HCR, said “The United Nations is resolutely behind LGBT rights because we consider it an integral part of basic human rights. I know some countries claim that it is not part of their culture or tradition, but we must understand that tradition cannot trump human rights.”
HR/Diversity policies of the company matter to a great extent in attracting talent who identify as LGBT – 65% said that they would consider such policies before joining an organization.
An LGBT inclusive workplace environment is not just corporate responsibility but also a clear business requirement, especially in an environment where the struggle to hire and retain good talent is getting increasingly intense. It should be kept in mind that more and more younger people – in India, as in all over the world – are not only more open-minded but also passionate about equality and psychological safety of workplaces. They are likely to care about the policies of the company that they intend to join and are digitally empowered to take certain actions.