The whole of June has the honour of being Pride Month 2020, a time of equal rights and celebration of sexual diversity and gender variance. More so, it’s a time for straight allies who support LGBT+ inclusion at work and society.
How did Pride Month begin?
The month of June was chosen for LGBT Pride (a positive stance towards queer communities) because of the Stonewall riots in New York in June 1969. The first major protest for the rights of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people broke out when the police raided a popular gay nightclub there.
Weary of being constantly targetted by cops, gay clubbers threw bottles at stunned policemen and took the surprise protest to the streets. The demonstrations continued for days on end, and went on to spur the Gay Liberation Front and other civil rights organizations supporting the queer communities.
A year later, there was a march from the same spot in Stonewall to 6th Avenue that became the first official gay pride parade. And so it was that June became the global Pride Month in memory of that uprising.
Pride Month 2020 in India
A small yet established set of LGBT+ allies in corporate India includes companies like Godrej, Wipro, Salesforce, TCS, Capgemini and Tech Mahindra. Some of them are participating in the #21DaysAllyChallenge which Pride Circle is running as a campaign for Pride Month 2020. Pride Circle is an organisation established in India to bring about more workplace inclusion for the queer community.
Speaking of safer workspaces in India, employee benefits is where the LGBT+ workforce gets a raw deal. Some companies are taking the lead in making offices safer and more inclusive with benefits in insurance, leave and relocation. TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) is one of the few firms in our country to extend health insurance to LGBT employees.
At Tech Mahindra, same-sex couples can avail of 12 weeks of paid leave for adoption and three days of bereavement leave. The company formed the platform Kaleidoscopes to share stories of community members. Lalit Hotels has the highest number of LGBT+ employees in the hospitality sector in India. It has a slew of attractive policies for LGBT+ employees and their families.
Wipro and Godrej are two shining examples among the LGBT-friendly companies in India. Here’s why:
The LGBT+ inclusion programme is a core pillar of the firm’s diversity programme. Wipro offices have gender-neutral restroom signage. Recruitment teams use gender-neutral language. The management is tracking LGBT+ inclusion and training employees by including LGBT+ framed questions in their monthly unconscious bias quiz. The firm has also started to engage externally, attending Pride parades for the first time in 2018.
In 2011, supported by the Godrej family and the senior leadership team, Godrej Industries Ltd. and Associated Companies (GILAC) funded and housed the India Culture Lab, a public platform to foster a wide range of conversations on contemporary India, including around LGBT+ people.
In parallel to launching the India Culture Lab, Godrej updated their policies to include anti-discrimination, equitable benefits for same-sex couples and gender reassignment provisions for trans employees. They have produced videos with LGBT+ individuals discussing Godrej’s anti-discrimination culture.
Godrej has made external statements of support for the LGBT+ community, including branding their logo in Pride colours and sponsoring events like the Kashish Queer Film Festival. The firm collaborated with the UN to host the India launch of the United Nations Standards of Conduct for Business on tackling discrimination against LGBT+ people.
Best Practices by LGBT-friendly Companies
Policies and processes form the base from which a company’s workplace and culture is formed, and they can establish the moral compass that steers the actions of employees in the office. Companies that are leading on LGBT+ inclusion all have non-discrimination policies.
Many of these companies have gone further than this, focusing on implementing gender-neutral language in all corporate materials, introducing equitable benefits for same-sex couples and requesting that all suppliers and business partners don’t discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Industry initiatives: Wipro, in addition to updating its Code of Business Conduct and Supplier Code of Conduct to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, has introduced gender-neutral language on restroom signage.
Hiring LGBT+ talent
Many leading companies have begun to refocus their recruitment efforts to ensure that they are actively attracting and hiring LGBT+ talent. This helps to build a diverse workforce and enhances a company’s competitiveness, forming a virtuous cycle in which more diverse talent are attracted to join the company.
Industry initiatives: Many companies are participating in or holding LGBT+ focused recruitment events to better target and engage with the LGBT+ community. Uber, Accenture, BNY Mellon and The Lalit actively participated in India’s first LGBT+ job fair last year.
Making all employees feel included
Several companies that are leaders on LGBT+ inclusion have also taken steps to ensure LGBT+ employees feel included in the workplace. This affiliation creates a platform that brings LGBT+ employees together, making them feel welcomed, supported and connected within their companies.
One initiative gaining popularity is an Employee Resource Group (ERG) that represents LGBT+ employees. An ERG has the support of a senior executive, along with a budget to organise events aimed at connecting and supporting LGBT+ employees. Many of the best ERGs welcome non-LGBT+ ally employees to join the network to demonstrate firm-wide support for the LGBT+ community.
Industry initiatives: Infosys Gays Lesbians and You (IGLU) is the firm’s LGBT+ ERG that facilitates dialogue on processes and policies that affect LGBT+ employees. Wipro has a global LGBT+ network called “Wipro Pride”. Tata Steel launched Wings, its LGBT+ ERG, in 2018.
Expanding cultural mindsets
While the above initiatives contribute toward a pro-LGBT+ workplace environment, many companies do more to build an overall mindset of inclusion. Inclusive companies regularly host LGBT+ sensitisation training and sexual orientation and gender identity workshops for employees.
Senior management plays a big role in setting the tone and moulding their organisation’s culture. The actions that senior executives could undertake ranges from engagement with and participation in LGBT+ ERG networks, being role models by being out LGBT+ individuals themselves and making statements of support for LGBT+ inclusion.
Industry initiatives: There are many companies who have created a special Diversity and Inclusion Officer position to focus full-time on building and maintaining an inclusive workplace. A number of Indian companies, including Dr. Reddy’s, Godrej, Infosys, Mahindra & Mahindra, Reliance Industries, Tata Steel, Tech Mahindra and Wipro, have appointed specific employees focused on diversity and inclusion.
Bold external actions
Companies have started to look beyond their four walls to take external actions that promote LGBT+ inclusion in the communities they operate in. These actions can be challenging and complex, but often change the nature of the conversation surrounding LGBT+ inclusion in society.
Industry initiatives: Along with many other multinational companies in India, Flipkart, Godrej, Infosys, Swiggy and Zomato changed their social media handles to Pride colours or released public statements of support to celebrate the overruling of Section 377 in India in 2018.
Why be an LGBT-friendly company?
While all aspects of inclusion are necessary for a company to truly thrive, LGBT+ inclusion is the frontier for inclusion and diversity. Companies that support LGBT+ inclusion clearly signal that they are leaders in diversity and inclusion, which in turn sends a clear message that everybody is welcome. Here are more reasons:
a) You will attract and retain talent
As companies begin to globalise, they compete with global companies for the best talent. LGBT+ inclusion is a key factor that top talent look for when selecting a place to work. For instance, in a global study of allies who support LGBT+ inclusion, 72% said that they would be more likely to accept a job at a company that is more supportive of LGBT+ employees.
b) It’s good corporate governance
Mounting evidence shows that LGBT+ inclusive policies are a signal of stronger corporate governance. This has been picked up by established institutional investors, which are increasingly focusing on diversity and inclusion issues within investee companies, and particularly at the board level. Many of the world’s biggest asset owners and managers are focusing on board diversity, including public pension funds and institutional investors such as BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street.
c) Your brand will shine
LGBT+ inclusive companies can position themselves as global and progressive companies, which improves their brands, at home and around the world, especially for the global “millennial” generation.
A survey conducted by Accenture found that millennials are more likely to choose one brand over another if that brand demonstrates diversity and inclusion in terms of its promotions and offers, its in-store experience, its product range and its environmental awareness.
If you haven’t joined the inclusive group of LGBT-friendly companies in India, Pride Month 2020 might be the moment to consider becoming an LGBT+ ally.