Pride Month is being celebrated across the globe in June to mark the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the US. While the world has become more aware and accepting of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community, a lot needs to be done to embrace diversity in workplaces.
Nearly half of all the respondents, 48 percent to be exact, reported no discrimination at work. However, a few pockets of disagreement persisted as 27 percent of women, 23 percent of disabled, and 21 percent of employees belonging to the LGBTQ+ community said discrimination exists, according to the survey shared by Indeed with CNBCTV18.com
Meanwhile, 41 percent believed change is incremental and would happen over a horizon of more than a year.
Individual experiences changed over time and geographies
“You cannot separate who you are as a person from what you do as a professional, so bringing the whole person to work is more productive,” says Pooja Jana (she/her), androgynous queer and senior data engineer, Wells Fargo India and Philippines.
Jana joined the company in August 2021 and says there is a vast array of programmes when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). She feels safe and secure knowing she works where there is zero-tolerance for any kind of discrimination.
But Ketty Avashia did not feel as welcomed when he entered the workforce in the late 1990s when the mention of “LGBTQ+” was a big taboo.
“It didn’t feel safe or comfortable to publicly embrace my identity. So, I tried to navigate that world as a woman,” the 44-year-old transman, who is vice-president and platform integration lead at Wells Fargo India and Philippines, told CNBCTV18.com.
“If you were different and did not conform to the socially accepted hetero-normative behaviour, chances of being sidelined in the professional and personal world were real,” he said. “It would manifest in many ways, including not being put in client-facing roles or having your contributions go unrewarded. Early in my career, I faced a situation where client appreciation for my work as a programmer did not make it into my appraisal, and I received less-than-positive manager feedback.”
Following this, Avashia moved to the US in the mid-2000s, where for the first time, he could express himself without much blowback. “I could embrace my identity for the first time publicly. It was so liberating.” He returned a few years later to increased social acceptance across the board in India, too.
The 2018 Supreme Court ruling
September 2018 marked a watershed moment for LGBTQ+ rights with the Indian Supreme Court’s landmark judgement. On September 6, 2018, the top court decriminalised homosexuality and overruled its own 2013 decision and partially struck down Section 377, a controversial British-era law that banned consensual gay sex. The ban is irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary, the court noted.
“Following this, today’s Gen Z LGBTQ+ tech workforce has witnessed a tectonic shift in how it defines itself and what they expect from their workplace. With higher levels of acceptance today, Gen Z, who will soon make up a majority of the workforce, will only amplify the gains made so far in the DE&I space to create a workplace culture that is even more inclusive and accepting of multiple facets of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE),” said Avashia.
Did the pandemic bring any change?
COVID-19 has made employers tweak their policies more in favour of the LGBTQ+ community than any other category of employees, the Indeed survey claimed. According to the report, 52 percent of all employers, including 94 percent of small-scale organisations, say that their modified policy gives the LGBTQ+ a fairer representation than earlier.
Seventy percent of employers surveyed believe that the policies they have instituted are intact and do not need further improvement and only 23 percent (nearly a third of which are small businesses) think there is scope for their DE&I policies to be made more effective.
However, 34 percent of employees surveyed claim that the pandemic has not impacted how their organisation manages diversity and inclusion. In fact, nearly a third (31 percent) of employee respondents said their organisations had gotten worse at it.
BFSI (40 percent), automobile (38 percent), consumer durables (35 percent) and healthcare and pharma (33 percent) sectors, across Bengaluru, Delhi/NCR, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Pune contribute to this sentiment, according to the survey.
What must companies do?
Earlier this month, Michael Page, in its report The GreatX, said that companies would need to consider factors like gender, ethnic groups, sexual orientation, education, age, and people with disabilities if they want to build a workforce that’s truly diverse and inclusive.
Most pressingly, India needs to fix its gender pay gap issue, most companies need to start committing to medium and long strategies and set quantifiable targets to ensure they can move the needle on DE&I.
The report added that DE&I must start from the top, meaning leaders must embrace such values authentically.
Meanwhile, according to the Indeed survey, 77 percent of the employers believe that not prioritising Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DI&B) could adversely affect their organisational performance. “Even on the jobseeker front, Indeed’s data shows, 73 percent of employees wish to work at organizations that actively promote DI&B initiatives, highlighting the importance of such policies,” said Sashi Kumar, Head of Sales, Indeed India.