Diversity & Inclusion of LGBTQ Community at Workplace

When I think of this important subject the quotation by George Takei resonates strongly with me.

“We should indeed keep calm in the face of difference and live our lives in a state of inclusion and wonder at the diversity of humanity.” 

On 6 September 2018, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Section 377 is unconstitutional as it infringed on the fundamental rights of autonomy, intimacy, and identity, thus legalising homosexuality in India. Companies across India, including the Start-up ecosystem were also ecstatic about the ruling with the sheer scale of economic boost and scale opportunity it presented. 

India’s loss due to Homophobia: 

 ·  According to Economic professor Mr Lee Badgett from University of Massachusetts Amherst calculates that India has been losing 1.4 percent of its national output which when the law was applicable meant an output loss of 26 billion dollars a year. 

·  A venture capital firm LGBT Capital reports that the spending power of the global LGBTQ community in 2018 (measured as nominal GDP) was $3.6 trillion p.a., or around ₹254 trillion

·  The World Bank report stated that India's loss in GDP due to homophobia was $32 billion, or 1.7% of the country's GDP

·  A study by McKinsey also demonstrated that a diverse LGBTQ workplace has a direct positive correlation on the profitability and revenue growth of a company


Therefore, with the demolition of section 377, companies now have a core responsibility towards LGBTQ communities which is estimated to be just below 500 million globally. We need to promote more, hire more, create more HR policies that support them at the workplace and most significantly draft the framework of growth an opportunity which is equal for all.


Close on the heels of completing 1 year since the legal verdict, if we do a pulse check on the ground to learn how much of the initial LGBTQ inclusion and diversity propaganda is a ground reality today? We broadly have two spectrums with few MNCs and Startups having defined a framework that is allowing them to work progressively on inclusion and then the other spectrum who are yet to embark the journey to support the LGBT cause in concrete measures.

LGBT at Workplace in India: 

 Findings from a 2018 Times Jobs survey highlight the general attitude at the Indian workplace: 

·     57% of the participants responded in the negative to a statement that their companies openly recruited LGBTQ

·     More then 55% said they still experienced bias at the workplace, including over gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation 

This brings us to the thought that diversity and inclusion is a business imperative and Diverse workforces create sustainable organizations. The question to ask though remains – ‘does Diversity automatically translates into inclusion?

On another spectrum, we have several great examples where companies have established a firm footing in making this critical transition authentic and successful. Let us get a flavour of triumph by calling out a few of these cases:

Top 5 Corporate Policies for LGBT Community now:

 ·  Royal Scotland Bank was the first company in India to publicly extend medical benefits to same-sex partners and give surrogacy leave irrespective of the partner’s gender. 

·  Godrej made some significant policy changes that the company made. Employees can select gender when they join the company. Terminology such as 'spouse' has been changed to 'partner'.

·  Intuit This Bangalore-based IT organization has its own Pride Network and has been advocating for the creation of safe spaces in all offices. They offer regular counselling sessions where experts are brought in to offer advice to all employees.

·  Infosys This Indian IT employer has been one of the first few companies to create an employee resource group called "Infosys Gays Lesbians and You" (IGLU) to bring together their LGBT employees. The focus of the ERG is to encourage open discussions on policy changes that are needed and the support that can help LGBT employees perform better in the workplace. 

· Tata Steel, which is aiming to have 25% of its workers from diverse groups by 2020, of which 5% will be from the LGBT community.


How can an HR leader create an LGBT inclusive workforce:

 Let us now focus on what next? What role can HR play in uplifting the cause of LGBTQ inclusion? What basic framework must all companies adopt and practice?

 I have complete faith that the HR fraternity in partnership with individual companies the top Leadership team must lead the way. HR must essay the multiple roles of being the torchbearer of balanced policies, an advocate of change management and pioneers of adoption for every aspect of the company’s action that directly or in-directly impacts the well being of the LGBTQ community and workforce.

In my opinion, HR must invest in the following key principals that will ultimately build the desired architecture required for wider acceptance and success.

LGBTQ Awareness Programme:

 This must include Focus Group Sessions for the Core Leadership team. Must include a dedicated session as a part of the onboarding program. Quarterly mandatory sensitisation programme and training for all employees. External participation for events that talk on this theme. Partnership with NGOs that support the cause and engage employees to contribute. These multiple forums and touchpoints will allow awareness to flourish strongly making it a company’s DNA over a period and we know with awareness comes responsibility.

 Policy Framework That Uplifts LGBTQ Workforce:

Curate policies that are aspirational but firmly intolerant of any abuse, discrimination, and exploitation. HR must look to do the following:

 ·     Development of new policies that are gender-neutral and focused on zero-tolerance towards discrimination.

·     Re-building the existing policies keeping LGBTQ workforce at the core of it all and thus emphasizing on attributes such as – equal rights, equal privileges, equal growth opportunity, equal opportunity recognition, equal healthcare and benefit.

·     Promote Grievance Redressal Body that can not only act quickly and take corrective measures but includes coaching and counselling for both types of workforce.

 Employer Branding to Boost LGBTQ:

HR must care to project employer branding that showcases and promotes their support for the LGBTQ workforce and community at large. This can be achieved by -

· What blogs are you posting that resonate with your support and inclusive culture?

· Do you organize and promote special LGBTQ events – internally or externally?

· Does LGBTQ inclusion, support and upliftment form a part of your company’s mission statement?

 Fuel Training Initiatives to Drive Effective Integration:

 Build an L&D infrastructure that plugs different opportunities to help create effective integration of the LGBTQ workforce with that of other employees. Many businesses are sceptical of disrupting the norm with LGBTQ inclusion. HR must introduce experiential training, workshops and seminars that proactively take on the mantle of forming a closely bonded unit.

 One key example to highlight here would be NestAway– a home rental aggregator based in Bengaluru organized workshops for their entire team of 800. Having understood the need to become gender-agnostic, they redesigned their restrooms. They now have gender-neutral restrooms with signs on the doors that clearly state anyone can use them irrespective of their gender identity and expression.

Author- Mr Kenneth W Wheeler, VP Human Resources (L&D), Loginext 

He can be reached on Linkedin at- https://www.linkedin.com/in/kennethwwheeler24/  


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