It has been four years since the reading down of Section 377. LGBTQ+ voices in India no longer have to obscure their identities.
But many still live double lives. Some are afraid to “come out” to their families. Others are wary of the implicit discrimination or the “jokes” they would have to face at their workplace.
Organisations in India, like Accenture, have become bona fide allies of employees from across the spectrum. They have been a step ahead in transforming their work culture to ensure every employee feels safe with a sense of belonging. Some have supported their verbal commitments with policy changes.
Accenture carries the baton of implementing gender sensitisation programs, running counselling sessions for the employees and their families, and rolling out policies that support the emotional, physical and mental well-being of their LGBTQ+ peers. Indeed, we have come a long way and as Paras Tomar, at Rainbow Summit: Pride Means More Than Representation, rightly noted,
There was a time when homosexuals used to be afraid of their identities. Today, homophobic are hiding their prejudice.Paras Tomar, Entrepreneur and Founder of Nuskhe by Paras.
While these measures may appear trivial or rather obvious now, many organisations still struggle to weave DE&I efforts into the fabric of the work culture. But it is necessary. Studies have noted creating an equal and inclusive workspace boosts employee morale and productivity. Cornering or ostracising some employees is counterproductive for both the individual and organisation. It fences out diverse perspectives and risks creating a quiet quitting cycle, where employees only perform as much as they are assigned.
Many workplaces approach Diversity, Equality, and Inclusivity (DE&I) efforts as a mere scaffold during Pride month. These take shape in various forms through Pride marches and events during June, a tick-box hiring exercise, labelling themselves inclusive for “appointing” identities at top positions without truly empowering them with actual powers, etc.
Team leads and managers should be credited and acknowledged for their intent to conduct inclusive activities. But corporate India must also identify that such initiatives do not necessarily liberate the LGBTQ+ community from their overall struggle to belong. Ritushree Panigrahi, Lawyer and India's First Transgender Woman Stand-Up Comic, highlighted at our Pride And Progress panel discussion,
“I earned a 7-figure salary as head of legal at a leading Mumbai bank. Yet, more than 30 housing societies refused to rent me an apartment because of my gender. Why?”Ritushree Panigrahi, Lawyer and India's First Transgender Woman Stand-Up Comic
It is a clarion call for all organisations to step up their DE&I efforts and support under-represented voices beyond the office cubicles. These initiatives must go beyond performative solidarity at the workplace during Pride month. Workplaces must look beyond their diversity scorecards and work towards rooting out systemic inequalities beyond June. As Kalyani Roy, Managing Director, Accenture Technology, India, pointed out at our Pride And Progress panel discussion,
“June ends but our Pride commitment must not. We should focus on bold leadership that consistently implements DE&I policies for a safe environment for LGBQT+ peers both at workplaces and beyond in our communities.”Kalyani Roy, Managing Director, Accenture Technology, India