As we close the month of celebrating Pride, organisations need to reinforce their strategies for the long term and create meaningful change. While this time has been essential to reinforce the conversations around identity, inclusivity, equity, and belonging of the LGBTQIA+ community within the larger diversity framework, a lot still needs to be done.
From conversation, the next step needs to be implementation. From leading transformation, we as HR leaders, entrepreneurs, CXOs and big corporations need to imbibe these changes in the spaces we cohabit with our colleagues physically, virtually and even a mix of both. The benefits and the positive outcomes must reach the LGBTQIA+ community throughout the year.
By talking to champions of diversity-driven initiatives, with a special focus on the LGBTQIA+ community, People Matters learned about several innovative practices being run across India. We’ve found ways to benchmark progress and diversity gaps, strengthening allyship beyond tokenistic efforts, co-creating a culture of psychological safety and empowering the leadership to instil the change at depth and to the last mile. Here are some of the best practices that we uncovered.
Recognising where your diversity agenda stands with strategic data insights
“When it comes to data measuring our inclusion efforts, it is time to think beyond the platitudes of hiring numbers from the community. Especially in the digital age, where the potential for sourcing a multitude of data is relatively simpler, various other metrics help an organisation benchmark its LGBTQ+ efforts. For example, the policies, the awareness programmes, and the focus groups conducted to educate the workforce about common stereotypes and subconscious biases should all be quantified to determine and benchmark the organisational inclusiveness,” advised Dnyan Shah, Senior Vice President & Global Head HR, Mphasis.
Patrick Woo, Director- Human Resources (APAC), Steelcase, also attests to this by pointing out how a regular and intentional analysis of meaningful data can help organisations identify gaps and continue to refine roadmaps and strategies and foresee and circumvent roadblocks. It also helps an organisation better focus efforts on areas most impactful and concerning to employees and prospective employees from the LGBTQIA+ community.
Strengthening allyship by leading sensitisation training, initiating ERG groups and inclusive policies
Amit Kalra, Head, Swiss Re GBS India, shares an important observation, “The most critical step is to lay the groundwork for both emotional and physical infrastructure to support essential needs of our communities. Education and awareness are also the routes to creating an ecosystem of acceptance. We have imbibed gender-neutral policies pertaining to language, dress code and even washrooms. Our belief is that the only way to become true allies to the community is to lead by example and take proactive steps to internalize, normalize and celebrate all our differences.”
Shilpa Sinha Harsh, Senior Vice President – Global Corporate Communications, CSR and D&I, from HGS, talks about how they have launched a dedicated PRIDE@HGS Employee Resource Group, which stands for People Respecting Individuality, Diversity and Equality in the workplace. The aim is to provide a safe environment for LGBTQIA+ inclusion dialogues, initiate discussion on issues, challenges, and best practices, and suggest innovative solutions to address their concerns and create better awareness about HGS’s LGBTQIA+ friendly policies and practices.
Additionally, they provide maternity and childcare policy benefits to the community and adoption leaves for all employees irrespective of gender. Furthermore, their medical insurance policy recognises and covers same-sex partners as well. Gender affirmation surgery and supporting your employees during transition is also a corporate imperative.
Similar practices are also being implemented at Fiserv, Johnson & Johnson and Parexel through their LGBTQIA+ ERG Unity, Open&Out, and Parexel Pride, respectively.
“We bring together LGBTQIA+ associates and their straight allies to drive conversations, build awareness and strengthen support and respect. Additionally, the group conducts programs where associates can share perspectives and support each other. The focus of Unity, with its allies and members, is to enable workplace inclusion and build a safe space where everyone can belong,” shared Arun Sharma, COO, Fiserv Global Services.
Sarthak Ranade, Managing Director, Janssen India, Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, highlighted, “ Open&Out, our global Employee Resource Group (ERG), is actively working to counter homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia at the workplace. Various inclusive policies have been designed to provide LGBTQIA+ individuals with a sense of security and belongingness. Johnson & Johnson is taking the lead by offering Mediclaim benefits to same-gender partners and other benefit inclusions. The culture of allyship and equal opportunity has brought everyone at Johnson & Johnson even closer, encouraging every individual to be their authentic self.”
Parexel India also runs, in addition to training during the New Hire Orientation, a series of courses to strengthen allyship with the LGBTQIA+ community. “One of these are Safe Zone which is a 3-hour facilitated course offered regularly to staff and explores core concepts of LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace, such as sexual orientation, gender identity, and the intersectionality of differences. Participants gain an understanding of common terminology, and challenges facing the LGBTQIA+ community through active dialogue and engaging in facilitated discussions, and consider opportunities for allyship in supporting change,” shared Jahanara Rahuldev – DEI Lead and Vice President, FSP Biometrics, Parexel India.
Empowering leadership to own the agenda for inclusivity and be accountable for the outcomes
“Leaders must be effective to acknowledge, comprehend, celebrate, respect and strengthen the inclusivity in the workplace and portray the same in their actions,” emphasised Sekhar Garisa, CEO, Monster.com.
At Steelcase, Woo shared, “Within Steelcase’s Leadership Pillars, which is an internal guide to defining the expectations of our leaders, there is a call out to diversity, empathy, fostering belonging. Leadership always starts at the top, and our Senior Executive Team have KPIs set against diversity, equity and inclusion targets, i.e. accountability for DEI progress in their respective areas. Strong leadership for DEI is not just an encouragement, but an expectation.”
Redefining safe spaces to co-create a culture of psychological safety at the workplace
“A safe space is only considered safe when it consistently demonstrated over time to be so. Individuals must be able to see they are empowered to be their authentic selves and to see and feel they are supported by the company and colleagues, not only for singular moments but for time and time again,” advised Woo.
From gender-neutral washrooms to testimonials of colleagues ‘out’ at work to regular sensitisation training, all of these make a difference. As Kalra says, “Every little bit you do as an individual today to support the needs of those around you pushes the needle a little bit further, and that will count in the long run.”
The question of safe spaces can also get tricky because one needs to consistently re-define it with the changing contexts and needs of your LGBTQIA+ employees. Moreover, it’s never a one-time process and is dependent on mechanisms that not only make way for feedback but consistently work towards closing the loopholes. Finally, leaders, allies, and colleagues must come together to co-create an ecosystem with their LGBTQIA+ peers so that they feel recognised and celebrated and safe being their authentic selves.
As corporations remove the rainbow colours from their logo tomorrow, it will be an important moment to reflect not on what has been done but on what more could be done to celebrate diversity, lead inclusivity and equity and create a workplace that welcomes everyone. The responsibility, accountability and vision to co-create this transformation lies in coming together and working towards grounded, meaningful, sustainable change.