Building a strong cultural foundation that values diversity is the first step towards creating an inclusive workplace. The month of June has the honor of being the ‘Pride Month’, that’s celebrated in the US and many other countries across the globe where people and organizations support the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community in their empowering battle for equality.
The history behind the ‘Pride Month’ dates back to the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York that gave rise to the gay rights movement. Global Pride Day is June 27, a great time to honor the history of queer people, show support, and recognize the oppression that the LGBTQ community still faces around the world.
While globally tech companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and others have always been vocal about supporting LGBTQ+ inclusion at work, some tech companies in India are also showing their solidarity with the queer community with various initiatives and projects, while fostering a welcoming and supportive culture for LGBTQ (employees, partners, and customers).
We speak to senior leaders of some of the tech companies in India, including GE India, Accenture, SAP Labs India, Intuit and Walmart in India that work throughout the year on initiatives that support LGBTQ+ individuals and strongly believe in a culture of inclusion and diversity.
Here’s a glimpse of how these companies are creating a positive and safe working environment for all employees, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.
GE India: Developing Mindsets That Break the Stereotypes
“For inclusion and diversity to thrive at a workplace, the need of the hour is having effective policies that support a culture of inclusivity and diversity. At GE, we are committed to creating an environment, where every employee feels comfortable being themselves, their uniqueness is celebrated, they can focus on contributing and the best ideas win every day. Every step counts and while it is challenging at times, but we believe, motivating and inspiring others to push the boundaries is crucial. Our leadership actively supports our workplace programs and practices as a priority. Our overall workplace I&D programs and practices include gender-neutral job descriptions, specialized counseling, focus on differently-abled and various inclusion dialogues, moments and many more.
Some of our I&D initiatives for the LGBTQ community include participating in the RISE job fair organized by Pride Circle to actively hire diverse candidates. We have onboarded a LGBT+ focused recruitment consultant as our talent acquisition partner, which helps us be inclusive in consideration of candidates from the LGBT+ community for all of our job postings.
Our LGBT+ Ally Network was set up in May 2019 and has 100+ allies. This network has played a significant role in driving awareness of differences in sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. We conduct monthly gender sensitization sessions for our leadership team, business teams as well at an organization level. We have set up gender-neutral restrooms on every floor across all our buildings at our campus. We believe the focus needs to be on creating an environment where everyone can experience the feeling of “I belong” and take pride in bringing themselves to work by being comfortable with their uniqueness. Creating an immensely progressive culture with diversity and inclusion at heart is the key to attracting, retaining, and growing the best talent and at GE we bring this to life with a holistic focus to our D&I practices across different segments of the workforce.” – Neerja Bhardwaj – HR Business Partner, India Technology, GE
SAP Labs India: Creating Awareness about LGBTQ+ Is Supreme
“Unconscious bias, misinformation, and unfamiliarity about the LGBTQ+ community are a few of the challenges. Creating awareness about LGBTQ is therefore of supreme importance to drive the inclusivity agenda. Like we do at SAP, year-long engagements that help shatter the misconception and misinformation about the community.
At SAP, we believe that our employees should bring their true authentic selves to work. Therefore, our employee policies and initiatives promote diversity, inclusion, and social justice at work. Our array of initiatives for LGBTQIA+ employees includes sensitization programs and awareness building sessions. We have gender-neutral restrooms, gender affirmation surgery in our insurance policy, and family leave for same-sex partners. We have an anonymous portal to support our LGBTQIA+ colleagues who are not “out” but need support or guidance. We partner with Pride Circle for our engagements. This year, we started our Pride Month celebrations with a session with Pride Circle Co-Founder Ramkrishna Sinha.
It is imperative to recognize that every employee has a stake in the inclusive culture. Gender-neutral policies, advocating gender-neutral language, creating infrastructure like gender-neutral restrooms, avoiding unconscious and perceived biases and being open to multiple special considerations for the community is needed. At SAP, we have always celebrated a diverse culture to drive an innovative workspace. Even in this new normal, our agenda remains the same – to foster a workplace with equal opportunities where people can bring their authentic selves to work.” – Sindhu Gangadharan, SVP and MD, SAP Labs India
Intuit: Towards an Open and Safe Environment
“When it comes to diversity and inclusion, Intuit is dedicated at developing a competent, engaged, and varied workforce. In both their professional and personal lives, we want our employees to feel appreciated, respected and supported. To help employees who identify as LGBTQ or have LGBTQ loved ones overcome these obstacles, Intuit has teamed with InnerSight to provide counseling services. We’ve created a place termed a “safe place” where employees can feel comfortable having open conversations with a trained, supporting specialist to assist ensure their privacy and confidentiality. Additionally, we are also extending our inclusive efforts to the employees’ families and have organised Talks on Gender and Sexuality to demonstrate how parents can have healthy conversations with their children.
Our initiatives for our LGBTQ colleagues include a Group Medical insurance coverage to the same-sex partners of Intuit employees. Same-sex partners are also eligible for OPD, dental and vision reimbursement, and can receive annual health check-ups. We also offer group life insurance where an Intuit employee can nominate same-sex partner as a beneficiary in the event of your death. To make sure all employees feel comfortable and supported during their work hours, we offer gender-neutral washrooms in all of our India offices. Intuit provides gender-affirmation surgery reimbursement which is over and above the regular insurance coverage. This is supplemented with hormone replacement therapy reimbursement. To make sure all employees feel comfortable and supported during their work hours, we offer gender-neutral washrooms in all of our India offices.
As individuals, each of us can be influencers, and have the capability to change the mindset of people in our social circles. Each of us have a role to play in nurturing and supporting the establishment of an inclusive environment where everyone feels like they belong and can be their true selves. Let’s speak up and be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Being an ally is an ongoing process of continuous learning. The path for building awareness and empathy is vital to promote inclusivity and interpersonal dynamics, while eliminating preconceptions and prejudices. In addition to society, leaders and organizations have a huge responsibility to be game changers and be role models of being part of a culture of acceptance. – Jharna Thammaiah K, Director and India Site People & Places Leader, Intuit
Walmart Global Tech: Training Leaders on Unconscious Biases
“When we think of niche talent segments such as LGBTQ, finding the right talent and consequently integrating them seamlessly into the organization is among the most challenging aspects of driving the inclusivity agenda. The modern workforce demands an inclusive and comfortable environment where they are free to bring their best.
It is equally important to understand that inclusion is a continuous effort that needs involvement from every level in the organization. We need to drive initiatives throughout the year to build a culture that embraces diversity of backgrounds, thoughts and beliefs – from activation around our Values to training leaders on Unconscious Biases.
At Walmart, we have adopted many measures to make our associates from the LGBTQ+ spectrum feel more comfortable. We train hiring managers on interviewing and integrating members of the LGBTQ+ community in an inclusive, equitable manner. We also have counselling, awareness and sensitization programs even for our support staff in security, catering and housekeeping, so that no associate is ever made to feel uncomfortable about who they are.
We’ve partnered with PeriFerry to drive the Revive program, where people from the transgender community get an accelerated journey to build corporate-ready skills and participate in job fairs and comprehensive insurance policies that include same-sex partners as well as coverage for gender realignment surgery and hormone treatments.
True inclusion begins once leaders and their team members stop viewing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policies as privileges to minority groups. While symbolism during such milestones like ‘Pride Month’ is important, it needs to be matched by commensurate actions. Getting teams focused on actions and commitments should be a key goal of any HR professional during such times
Actively work towards providing spaces to various points of view across all employee segments, approaching the agenda holistically and lastly allyship requires action.” – Sudeep Ralhan, VP – People at Walmart Global Tech India
Accenture India: Driving Sensitization towards the Community
“The LGBT+ community in India faces societal challenges including mindset barriers and cultural discrimination. Hence, driving sensitization towards the community is vital. Accenture believes that a vital part of providing an inclusive environment for our LGBT+ people is conducting sensitization sessions for our non-LGBT people to help them understand the nuances of gender expression and identity. The company also sensitizes recruiters and hiring managers as they are the first point of contact for candidates.
The company has initiatives ranging from strategic recruitment initiatives to hire LGBT+ people to a gamut of initiatives that create a safe and open workplace environment including medical insurance and life insurance benefits cover the partners of our people who identify themselves as LGBT+, including mental health consultation. This year, the IT major revised its parental leave policies so as to break gender stereotypes and instead focus on the role of the care giver.
Accenture also offers mentorship and counseling for our LGBT+ people willing to speak to others while on this journey. It has created a vibrant ally network for its LGBT+ people and offer customized trainings, mentoring programs on LGBT+ inclusion. For example, its ‘Hues of the Rainbow’ virtual platform enables LGBT+ people to share their journey and stories with their Accenture ally network in India, address questions, discuss ways to overcome challenges and encourage others to confidently express themselves.”