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Business News/ News / India/  LGBTQ+ community finds startups, MNCs 'safest' workplace! Thanks to GenZ and millennial crowd

LGBTQ+ community finds startups, MNCs 'safest' workplace! Thanks to GenZ and millennial crowd

Since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in India in 2018, LGBTQ+ employees have seen some positive changes in the workplace, but discrimination and biases still persist.
  • However, startups and MNCs, are prioritising inclusivity and creating policies that support LGBTQ+ employees.
  • While Pride Month 2023 draws to a close, the conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for LGBTQ+ individuals has continued to gain traction (REUTERS)Premium
    While Pride Month 2023 draws to a close, the conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for LGBTQ+ individuals has continued to gain traction (REUTERS)

    Chandra Duraiswamy, a member form LGBTQIA+ community, has witnessed a radical change in the workplace in the country since India decriminalised homosexuality in 2018. Chandra Duraiswamy, who has close to 25 years of work experience in India and abroad asserted that before the Supreme Court's historic decision, the workplaces in the country were conservative. "Before 2018 had I revealed my identity, I would have got ten years of jail," he said.

    Chandra Duraiswamy is the Senior Director - Global Communications at LM Wind Power-a GE business at present. "In General Electric and the other MNCs that I have worked with are more liberal and progressive in thinking," he added.

    While Pride Month 2023 draws to a close, the conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for LGBTQ+ individuals has continued to gain traction. A majority of companies are rolling out policies that focus on the requirements of LGBTQ+ employees as well. However, the picture is not as colourful as it is portrayed in the media. LGBTQ+ employees continue to fear discrimination in employment despite the progress that’s been made in terms of inclusive nondiscrimination policies. According to a survey commissioned by job site Glassdoor, over half (55%) of lGBTQ+ employees report they have experienced or witnessed anti-LGBTQ+ comments by co-workers.

    Anamika Pinto (name changed), Consultant at Interweave Consulting told Mint that discrimination against LGBTQ+ employees is at a larger scale in tier-2 cities and other small towns. Pinto, who goes by the pronoun she/her, said, "LGBTQ+ employees working in smaller cities don't really come out even after the Supreme Court's verdict".

    Koyel (original name), Managing Trustee, Sappho for Equality, who was a teacher earlier said her hairstyle, outfits, and walking style were always questioned indirectly by her colleagues. Koyal is a non-binary trans person and wearing a saree or a suit during 8 hours on the job made her feel uncomfortable.

    "There's a lot of unconscious biases I have experienced. In the staff room, I used to sit in a corner and eat alone. I had no friends. Everybody would keep asking me why I'm not getting married. My gender expression was a big threat to the teaching fraternity. In the schools, they said that I am a bad influence on the students," Koyel said.

    Eventually, Koyel left that job and searched for employment where she could get mental satisfaction.

    "I realised that it is very difficult for queer and trans individuals to work in mainstream offices and not be violated or ostracised, right? So when I became the managing trustee of Sappho for Equality, DEI became one of the important tasks that we have taken up, we do a

    corporate sensitization program periodically and regularly with different corporations," Koyel added.

    "Discrimination in the workplace significantly impacts the psychological well-being of LGBTQ+ employees. It creates a persistent atmosphere of stress and anxiety as they constantly fear unfair treatment and potential repercussions. Cumulative stress also leads to poor cardiovascular health, poorer job satisfaction, and very low levels of life satisfaction," Rohini Kesavan Rajeev, Senior Psychotherapist and Founder, The Able Mind said.

    A study conducted by the Nation Human Rights Commission in 2018 underscored that 96% of trans people are denied jobs while 92% are denied participation in any economic activity. Plum, an employee health insurance platform in its recent report mentioned that 91% of transgender persons face depression and victimisation of violence. It is estimated that queer community forms roughly 8% of the population in India yet the barriers to accessing healthcare remain tall even at workplaces.

    Pinto from Interweave said companies assigning heterosexual people to design policies for queer people would not be inclusive. "If you want to help the LGBTQ employees then involve them in the decision-making rather than trying to make decisions for them".

    Nevertheless, the landscape may be shifting for LGBTQ+ employees, enabling them to find better, more welcoming workplaces.

    Mint spoke to several people from the LGBTQ+ community that are increasingly prioritising working in either startups or multinational companies, where it is safe to openly be themselves, and are choosing employers who tout their inclusivity standards.

    30-year-old Dharam (name changed), who has worked at eight companies in nine years, believes that startups have a more welcoming environment towards the queer community. "Startups may not have staunch LGBTQ+ related policies but they have a really great culture of acceptance," Dharam says. According to him, startups' young crowd-a mix of millennials and GenZ is the reason why he felt homely at workplaces.

    "I have worked in a consulting firm in one of the leading HR agencies in India and found the company 100 times more conservative. Through a dating app, I came to know that my managers and other seniors in their 40s and 50, were like me but they kept their identities discreet for years to avert unpleasant consequences," he added. Dharam, at present, works at Powerplay.

    Pratiksh Sirsat (Original name), who goes by the pronoun C/F has commended Amazon India's work policy, where he has been working for the past seven years. Pratiksh, program manager at Amazon said gender-neutral policies such as 'same gender partner allowance', 'gender-reassignment surgery', 'affirmation surgery', etc have made him stay in the company for this long period.

    Many LGBTQ+ employees have also credited Supreme Court's 2018 decision for changing their lives at the work front, specifically.

    Kusuma Krishna (Original name), senior programme manager at Intuit, has seen a radical change at workplaces after Supreme Court's landmark decision striking down Section 377.

    Kusuma started her professional journey in 2010-11 and goes by the pronoun she/her said, "In my initial jobs there was a fearful environment at workplaces for my sexuality. I never indulged myself in any informal conversations with my colleagues, which affected my career and confidence. I used to avoid interaction with my manager also". A few years later, Kusuma joined IBM and felt safe about her identity as POSH law included LGBTQ+. "I came out at IBM after three years. I used to ask my colleagues questions like 'Did you watch Dostana? What are your thoughts? I used to piggyback on such conversation to make friends at the office". Kusuma said while the companies have become more accepting towards her community but there's still a lot more to be done.

    Zoya (Original name), an employee at Godrej Properties thinks that evolution has happened in Indian society but gradually. For instance, the decriminalisation of homosexuality and 2019's Transgender Act were significant verdicts. However, Zoya said still many companies have not taken concrete efforts to sympathize with the trans community. "There is an intent and there is something called impact but for that intent to change into impact there are certain activities that need to happen, which an organisation has to commit to and do really well and then you will see inclusion," Zoya said.

    Companies' initiatives:

    Creating LGBTQ+ employee resource groups, sharing preferred pronouns, gender-neutral washrooms, gender reassignment surgery, same-gender coverage programmes, etc are some of the measures taken by IBM, Amazon India, Intuit, and other companies.

    Jaspreet Singh Bakshi, India HR Leader, Marsh McLennan said they have set up a group of 40 senior leaders called ‘Culture Ambassadors' trained to identify and address discriminatory behaviours, and address cases of harassment.

    Accenture in India has a six-month-long inclusive internship program aimed at creating a skilled and employable talent pool of transgender people.

    Speaking about the discomfort in business-related travel for LGBTQ+ employees, Krishna Raghavan, Chief People Officer at Flipkart said they have implemented practices that prioritise inclusivity. "We provide employees with separate rooms for their stay, respecting their individual needs and preferences to ensure ease and convenience for our employees during business travel," Raghavan said.

    Godrej Properties has nearly 100 employees from the LGBTQ+ community and claimed that adopted gender-neutral policies much before 2018's verdict. Godrej Properties' CHRO Megha Goel said they brought gender-neutral benefits inclusive of same sex partner benefits-like insurance in 2010. The company provided gender transition support in 2015..

    Neerja Bhardwaj, Head of HR- GE India Technology Centres said engineers at GE’s John F Welch Technology Centre (JFWTC) in Bengaluru have developed an in-house tool called the JD Decoder to help hiring managers write more inclusive job descriptions.

    Kolkata-based Shubhrota Roy (name changed) who has 7.5 years of job experience said that talking about inclusivity on paper does not work unless practiced at team and project levels. Roy, who works at IBM said, "In my first company, I never came out and in my second job, apart from three very closest friends and colleagues, I didn't feel like coming out". However, Roy said before joining IBM, he/him checked the company's D&I commitments and spoke to friends who were working already to find a comfortable workplace. "I felt comfortable and confident right at the beginning itself enough to come out during my interview process itself," Roy said.

    "When a company has inclusive policies, it should be practised routinely, be it through mailers, panel discussions, seminars, webinars, etc, so that other employees get awareness about the LGBTQ+ community. It should not be like it is the month of June, it’s pride month so let's host an event for the sake of it," Roy added.

    Zoya from Godrej Properties said that accommodation has always been a hurdle for trans people as they migrate and relocate to become financially independent. However, they often get a negative response while seeking accommodation, especially gay/lesbian couples due to ingrained biases. Zoya said at Godrej Properties, they take places on rent and sub-let those places to employees who identify as LGBTQ.

    According to Sumit Sabharwal, CEO of TeamLease HRtech, to protect the interest of queer employees, companies these days are leveraging HR technology to help voice the concerns of their LGBTQ employees in a safe environment with the help of anonymous reporting forms. Regular employee surveys with the help of HCM platforms provide an opportunity for employers to seek suggestions, feedback, and perspectives of LGBTQ employees, Sabharwal added.

    "Embracing inclusion and diversity is not only a positive approach, but it is also the pathway to creating equitable and inclusive organisations. Just as diversity stands as the torso, it must be supported by the two essential legs of Equity and Inclusion. While we have made heartening progress on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, it has yet to fully permeate as an institutionalised, internalised, and mainstream way of life," Rostow Ravanan, Chairperson Nasscom Foundation and Chairman and CEO, Alfahive Inc said.

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    Mansi Jaswal
    I write about gender-related issues, women's rights, women empowerment, gender equality, women's health topics, and their wealth management. Also, profiling women who have fought all odds to make their own identities in their own rights. Before Mint, I worked at Business Today and Business Standard. I studied journalism at IIMC, Delhi. Got a story idea? Email me at
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    Published: 29 Jun 2023, 02:17 PM IST
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