Reiterating how corporate India could ensure workplace inclusivity in 21st Century

In the past few years, diversity and inclusion have gained momentum in India Inc. Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in the workplace is a concept that has rapidly been gaining traction in the corporate world. As we look into the maturity continuum, organizations have transitioned from focusing on initiatives to defining values and model behaviours. Most organizations in India continue to define diversity through the gender lens. However, we now see an increasing focus on other dimensions of workforce diversity including diversity of sexual orientation, PWDs, and generational diversity. When we talk in terms of progress it is inspiring to witness the way organizations these days are going ahead and hiring people from the LGBTQ community. Moreover, it is claimed that a diverse workforce would result in enhancing innovation, and creativity and is great for ideation and problem-solving. At the beginning of Pride month 2022, let’s learn about how D&I can create a difference in the corporate from Ms. Smitha Chellappan, Head – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Interweave Consulting


  1. How do you suggest companies make an inclusive workplace for the LGBTQA+ community?

The first step is to ensure fair and equitable policies and benefits that cater to all employees and not just the majoritarian group. Organisations need to review policies & practices to check for inclusion gaps and draft equitable policies. Visible commitment and advocacy from the leadership team is key to any systemic changes that are required to create a culture of inclusion.

Employee Resource Group (ERG) is a great way to support employees from the community. The ERGs provide a safe space in the workplace for LGBTQ+ employees and allies to network and support one another.

Provide regular sensitisation trainings across the organisation. Create strong ally groups and reinforce the message of inclusion through communication and continuous learnings.


  1. To what extent do you think Pride month can motivate to ensure a gender-neutral workplace, especially in India? 

Pride Month in most workplaces in India is restricted to rainbows, pride flags and other marketing activities. This is a superficial effort and the initiatives fizzle out even before the month ends.  It is important to know the significance of the pride month, the Stonewall Inn riots to truly understand the struggle for equal rights, justice and dignity for the LGBTQ+ community.

Having said that, there are organisations that are leveraging pride month to set the tone for LGBTQ+ inclusion through focused initiatives like awareness programs, policy changes, and speakers from the community and allies to talk about their journey and how workplaces can drive the change. There is clear intent seen to take the journey forward in a sustainable manner.


  1. What are the key pointers to ensure equality in the workplace when the team is extremely diverse and huge in number? 

The key to ensuring equality in large diverse organisations is through strong leadership commitment, inclusive practices and robust learning and communication process.

Top management needs to be visible as champions of inclusion by taking personal accountability to drive equity and reinforce the message of inclusion in all internal and external forums.

Audit processes and practices especially in the talent management processes to ensure fairness and equity.

Implement policies on an equal opportunity, non-discrimination and zero-tolerance and communicate the same to employees regularly

Conduct DEI surveys and focus group discussions to understand the perception of fairness and belonging in the organisation

Create DEI councils with representation from across businesses backed by sponsorship from senior leaders to strategise, execute and measure the DEI charter for the organisation.

Develop long-term calendarised learning programs that are contextual to the organisation. Reinforce learning through communications and continued trainings.


  1. How aware has India inc. become when it comes to D&I management irrespective of fields in your opinion based on observation? 

There is a lot of awareness in Indian corporate now and most organisations are investing a significant amount of time and effort in creating a culture of inclusion. Increasingly, D&I is seen as the need of the business and not an agenda driven by HR. We see business leaders as D&I sponsors and council members, taking accountability to manage the D&I initiatives in the company.

Senior Leaders are seen advocating the need for inclusion and equity not only in the organisation but also on external forums and social media platforms. ESG reporting is high on the radar of most companies and invariably there is a lot of emphasis on D&I.


  1. How do I know which areas of diversity and inclusion my company should focus on first?

Every organisation is at a different stage in their D&I journey and one size does not fit all. What works for one organisation in a similar industry need not necessarily work for the other. A contextualized and customized D&I approach plan needs to be developed. To begin with, it is important to identify your company’s purpose to start on this journey and identify D&I gaps through surveys, policy reviews and employee connects. The demographic data will help identify the focus area and establish the business plan. The next step is designing the D&I roadmap that details out the key activities and milestones to achieve D&I goals, including opportunities for review and course correction.


  1. How does company leadership support D&I strategies?

Leadership support and commitment is crucial for a sustainable D&I plan. When leaders champion D&I through visible commitment, allyship and inclusive behaviours, it is more likely that employees will follow suit and contribute to building an inclusive culture.

Leaders should take time to emphasise the importance of an inclusive culture in all internal meetings, newsletters and employee town halls. When leaders take accountability for D&I, call out exclusionary behaviours or question systemic biases, this sets the tone for the rest of the organisation to follow. In the long run, these practices and behaviours get embedded in the company’s culture and values.


  1. What are the best examples of positive change in the workplace that you have noticed in the past few years?

There are some great changes seen in the recent years. These changes are:

  • Shift from Diversity focused to Equity and Inclusion focused approach. The focus is on building a culture that encourages authenticity, belongingness and psychological safety.
  • The driver for D&I has moved from a business case or ROI to social justice.
  • Understanding of D&I is not limited to gender and includes other visible and invisible dimensions of diversity
  • Structured long-term measurable outcomes are the need of the hour vis-à-vis stand-alone sessions once a year.


  1. How do you expect the workplace to change over the next five years to encourage more women and the LGBTQ community to work? 

–    Hybrid workplace is here to stay and the D&I focus will be centered around an evolving workforce. This provides an opportunity for more women to return to the workplace in the long run

–     Inclusive communication, equitable policies and bias-free practices in place that cater to the differential needs of the employees and a culture that encourages employees to bring their authentic selves to work without the fear of discrimination or exclusion.

–     The focus will be on Intersectional identities and perspectives rather than boxing employees basis the most visible identity.

–     D&I strategy will move from being an isolated program to a business strategy that is fully integrated into the organisation’s goals and vision.

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