What Makes A Workplace Truly Pride-Inclusive? Their Leaders and Allies

When leaders actively participate in significant moments, it provides better visibility to the cause.

5 min read

Imagine a workplace where every individual feels valued and empowered to express their true selves.  

This is no longer a utopian ideal; it's a growing reality that's changing India Inc. Many organizations have embraced diversity in all forms to promote inclusivity and equality in their workplaces. That’s because inclusivity isn't just about being morally correct; it also helps an individual thrive. Creating such an environment can help them reach their full potential. 

For the LGBTIQ+ community, this inclusivity is particularly significant. By creating an inclusive culture, companies can ensure that LGBTIQ+ employees feel safe, respected, and valued. This support further adds to their confidence, leading to better productivity. Moreover, when LGBTIQ+ employees see themselves represented and supported, it sends a powerful message of acceptance, both within the organization and to the broader community. 

But what else creates a safe place for LGBTIQ+ individuals to realize their full potential? Let’s find out. 

A Strong Ally 

Allies play an important role in the fight for equality. They contribute to creating an inclusive environment by standing against discrimination and promoting a culture of acceptance. A strong ally can influence policies to create inclusive benefits that support its employees. 

Accenture, for instance, has taken notable steps in this direction. They encourage their employees to engage in discussions that can raise awareness and sensitivity towards LGBTIQ+ issues. With over 116,000 allies worldwide and around 48,000 in India alone, Accenture's ally network is pretty solid. They also offer professional development programs like LGBTIQ+ Leaders Learning and Hues of the Rainbow, where the voices and impactful stories of the LGBTIQ+ community are amplified to address questions and encourage others to confidently express themselves. These platforms are also used to address mental wellness concerns faced by the community.

These sessions not only help members of the LGBTIQ+ community to speak their mind but also is meant to inform and educate others who may otherwise find it difficult to understand the challenges faced by the community. This, in turn, creates and engages more allies.

Follow the Leader 

Leaders set the tone for the organization, and their actions can significantly impact workplace culture. As per Accenture's Getting to Equal report (2020), more than 70% of respondents agreed that it's important to have leaders who share their backgrounds and experiences in top positions. Thus, for leadership roles, it's not just years of experience that matter but also having diverse ways of thinking. Diverse thinking helps attract a wide range of talent and creates well-rounded ideas that are important for solving complex problems for clients, business, and employees.

When leaders actively participate in significant moments or share their personal stories, it provides better visibility to the cause. Such actions not only help break down stigmas but also encourage other employees to embrace their individual selves. Leadership engagement, when it comes to LGBTIQ+ inclusion, can send a strong message throughout the organization that inclusivity is a priority and that everyone is valued for who they are.

In 2021, Accenture made strides when they launched an Employee Resource Group (ERG) for its LGBTIQ+ employees called the Fierce Colors of Pride. This ERG became a safe space for the employees to vocalize their experiences and voice their opinions to shape the inclusive policies and benefits that Accenture offers them. Accenture also signed the 'Declaration of India' pledge to advance LGBTIQ+ inclusion at the Workplace Pride India Conference in March 2024. Here, Accenture's India Pride Sponsor, Zahara Fernandes, emphasized the importance of business partnerships with civil societies to advance LGBTIQ+ inclusion in workplaces and society. Venkatraghvan CA, another one of Accenture in India's HR leaders and a role model, has been actively advocating and supporting their people from the LGBTIQ+ community.

Policies and Programs 

One way to support any cause is by amending and implementing policies. Inclusive policies and programs can create a supportive environment for LGBTIQ+ employees. These may include anti-discrimination policies, equal access to benefits, and transgender-inclusive healthcare. 

Shoaib, a transgender woman who proudly serves as a Customer Service Associate at Accenture, stands as a compelling example for companies striving to amplify diverse voices within their ranks. During the pandemic, she rejected job offers from top corporations because they wanted her to change her gender identity. Accenture’s inclusive policies, which include up to 100% coverage for gender reassignment surgery under the Accenture Mediclaim benefits, really helped her out.  

Accenture has further enhanced its inclusivity by diversifying its medical and caregiving benefits. These include extended medical insurance benefits to partners of LGBTIQ+ employees, coverage for gender affirmation surgery, hormonal therapy, and facial reconstruction for transwomen.

The Broader Impact 

Economist MV Lee Badgett mentioned in an interview that India loses more than 1% GDP by excluding LGBTIQ+ persons. This shows that inclusivity not only helps employees flourish but also enables employers to expand their scope of success. Inclusive workplaces set a positive example for other organizations, encouraging them to adopt similar practices. This ripple effect can lead to more widespread acceptance and support for the LGBTIQ+ community across different sectors and regions.  

Accenture in India’s collaboration with Solidarity Foundation on Project Vayati is a great example of such impactful initiatives. This project aims to reduce the gap between the LGBTIQ+ community and mainstream society through livelihood training, sensitization, raising awareness about the community, and providing mental wellness support to LGBTIQ+ community members. By addressing these two crucial development goals—livelihood and mental wellness—they are enhancing the quality of life.

It is important to make a positive impact on the larger ecosystem and communities we live in. By doing so, we can empower people and create more job opportunities.

Accenture has actively supported business led by diverse segments. Through Diverse Supplier Development Program (DSDP), they emphasize on supplier diversity and encourage partnerships with businesses owned by LGBTIQ+ professionals, women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups. For instance they have collaborations like Pride Café (an F&B partner for Pride season events), Pride Circle (a hiring and training partner) and PeriFerry (an employment and training partner for transgenders). This way DSDP is not only helping Accenture and its clients with strategic sourcing but also creating more businesses, jobs, and economic growth.

Further extending their support to the cause, Accenture joined as a founding member of the Partnership for Global LGBTIQ+ Equality (PGLE), collaborating with prominent multinational companies and six NGOs, alongside the World Economic Forum and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Beck Bailey, Accenture's Global Chief Diversity Officer, serves as the co-chair of the PGLE Steering Committee.

While Accenture has made notable progress, it's important to recognize that true inclusivity requires continuous efforts and commitments. Organizations must continually reassess and refine their approaches to ensure they are meeting the needs of all employees. As the conversation around LGBTIQ+ rights evolves, it’s crucial for India Inc. to remain committed to creating an inclusive environment that celebrates diversity and promotes equality. Organizations prioritizing LGBTIQ+ inclusivity can enhance employee well-being and satisfaction while driving innovation, collaboration, and an overall success.

[This article has been published by The Quint in partnership with Accenture as part of the #PrideMeansMore campaign.]

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