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Business News/ Opinion / Views/  Truly inclusive workplaces can and should be created

Truly inclusive workplaces can and should be created

Organizations can leverage talent diversity for innovation even as they act in favour of freedom

In order to make a tangible shift, organizations need to regard diversity and inclusion just as they would regard any other strategic business priority.Premium
In order to make a tangible shift, organizations need to regard diversity and inclusion just as they would regard any other strategic business priority.

Every June, thousands of rainbow-coloured flags flutter across the world as people throng marches and parades to celebrate the spirit, resilience and achievements of the Pride movement. Though these celebrations conclude with Pride month, it is incumbent upon us to reflect on its key message round the calendar—especially on the fact that it means much more than emphasizing the right to self-determined sexuality. It means community, freedom, progress, action, belonging and an ongoing commitment to a more equal future for not just the LGBTIQ+ community, but also for everyone. Workplaces have a vital role to play in Pride inclusion. Even as we see the number of Pride-friendly employers grow, let us examine how organizations can make the leap from tokenism to fostering a truly inclusive workplace culture.

Driving tangible change at workplaces: According to Accenture’s 2019 Getting to Equal Pride industry research, which surveyed 28,000 employees in organizations across 26 countries, only 31% of LGBTIQ+ employees were fully open about their gender identity, expression or sexual orientation at work on account of fears around acceptance. Even more worryingly, this figure fell to just 21% among those in senior leadership positions.

In order to make a tangible shift, organizations need to regard diversity and inclusion just as they would regard any other strategic business priority. Intent by itself may prove to be inadequate; it needs to be backed by clear and measurable goals, regular checkpoints to assess progress, leadership commitment and business alignment.

In order to tap talent from the LGBTIQ+ community, organizations should work with business teams to foster the proactive hiring of diverse talent in a meritocratic manner, scrub job descriptions of gendered language, conduct sensitization workshops for recruiters to eliminate unconscious biases, and tap the right avenues to access talent. Partnering with specialized non-profit organizations that support the community, participation in Pride job fairs and encouraging employees to refer candidates from the community are usually great ways of getting access to this niche pool of talent. Skills gaps, if any, should be bridged through developmental programmes focused on the community. For instance, at Accenture, we have a six-month long inclusive internship programme aimed at creating a skilled and employable talent pool of transgender people. This on-the-job learning opportunity helps transgender interns build essential workplace skills and gain work experience, while offering us an opportunity to evaluate trained interns for full-time roles at Accenture.

Often, the gendered language typically used in human resource policies prevents non-binary individuals from availing certain benefits. Company policies must be periodically reviewed to ensure that they are inclusive and factor in the specific needs of LGBTIQ+ employees. Examples of this include gender-agnostic parental leave options and equal access to company-led medical and life insurance programmes. The partners of LGBTIQ+ employees and their families should be able to access the same set of company benefits that a heterosexual employee’s spouse and family would enjoy.

Creating an equal, safe and empowering work culture is vital. Today, a number of progressive organizations enable individuals to disclose their gender identity and sexual orientation through voluntary self-ID programmes. Offering mentorship and counselling for LGBTIQ+ people willing to open up to others is critical to supporting people on these journeys. Pride employee resource groups (ERGs), specifically meant for members of the community, offer safe spaces where colleagues with similar experiences can connect and lean on each other for support. At Accenture, our Pride ERG in India also supports Pride recruitment and skilling initiatives, and contributes insights for policy improvement.

Nurturing a vibrant and informed ally network is equally important, as every individual in the organization can help move the needle on Pride inclusion. Company-led platforms that enable LGBTIQ+ people to share their stories with their ally network and sensitization sessions on the nuances of gender expression and identity can help inform and educate all employees who may otherwise find it difficult to understand the challenges faced by the community. These also help create and engage more allies.

Role models are a huge source of courage and inspiration for people to be their authentic selves. Hence, organizations must equip their high-potential LGBTIQ+ people and allies with information, training and mentorship support to evolve into confident LGBTIQ+ role models, leaders and sponsors.

Finally, organizations have a responsibility to leverage their insights in ways that would help create a diverse pool of skilled talent in their fields. They must also support relevant causes through advocacy and collaborate with other organizations and institutions to drive change.

Trust the magic of Pride: The movement has the power to reshape perspectives, inspire people to fully embrace diversity and create a sense of belonging for all. By doing so, we can foster innovation, creativity, connections and freedom. Indeed, by taking decisive action and prioritizing a culture of equality for all, organizations have a significant opportunity to set higher standards for both work and life.

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Published: 15 Aug 2023, 08:31 PM IST
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