Pride Month 2022: Tech companies paving the way for LGBTQ+ inclusion
The past few years has seen the growing acceptance of the LGBT+ community with India Inc taking a more intentional approach to equality. Corporates are focused on attracting, hiring and retaining this talent segment not only because inclusion is a milestone to be achieved but also because these diverse perspectives create more room for innovation and growth. Even so, the LGBT+ community in India continues to face societal challenges including mindset barriers and cultural discrimination. Therefore, driving sensitisation and creating an equal, safe and open work environment is key.
We talk with the industry leaders on why tech companies are increasingly choosing to invest in diverse talent and what is the approach that they need to take to better understand and align policies to their needs.
Lakshmi C, Managing Director and Lead – Human Resources, Accenture in India
“At Accenture, we strongly believe that diverse perspectives are powerful multipliers of innovation and growth. When people feel like they belong and are valued for their unique perspectives, they bring their authentic selves to work and are able to grow and flourish.
Our commitment to creating an equal, safe and open work environment for all our diverse groups, including our LGBTQI+ people, has enabled us to be deliberate about how we attract, hire and grow them. We leverage strategic external partnerships, Pride employment fairs and employee referrals to attract the right LGBTQI+ talent. Where there are skill gaps, we invest through a six month long inclusive internship program to help them bridge these gaps.
For us, Pride is about being open and committed to supporting each other in a psychologically safe environment. Our sensitization sessions are focused on helping all our people understand the nuances of gender expression and identity. We have a vibrant global ally network of 120,000+ people for our LGBTQI+ people, who are enabled through training and mentoring programs to become more informed and vocal Pride evangelists. We encourage our diverse people to share their stories and engage in open dialogue on issues that matter to them within safe spaces like our virtual Hues of the Rainbow platform and Employee Resource Groups.
We have been on a journey of inclusion for several years now and periodically review our policies and benefits so as to meet our people’s evolving needs and emerging market trends. For instance, in 2016, Accenture was among the first companies in India to introduce medical cover for gender reassignment surgery for our people. In 2021, we modified our parental leave policies, such as maternal, paternal, adoption and surrogacy, to focus on the importance of caregiving versus gender binaries to support our LGBTQI+ people in their parenting journeys. Further, our people can choose who they nominate as the beneficiary of their life insurance policy including their LGBTQI+ partners. Recently, in 2022 we extended our medical insurance benefits to include facial reconstruction surgery for our transgender people and also made enhancements to ensure that the partners of our LGBTIQ+ people and their families are included.”
Sindhu Gangadharan, SVP & MD, SAP Labs India; Head, SAP User Enablement
“At SAP Labs India, we marked the Pride Month celebrations with a Pride Parade in support of our LGBTQIA+ colleagues and Allies on the campus on June 15, Wednesday. This is an annual tradition at SAP where we celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and reflect on our unconscious biases and take corrective actions to become a better and more inclusive workplace. This year, German Consul General Achim Burkart-led delegation joined us for the Pride March and extended support to the LGBTQIA+ community worldwide.
At SAP Labs India, we believe it shouldn’t be a privilege for anyone to be their true selves at work or anywhere else. Central to our inclusion and diversity agenda is a bias-free hiring process that allows us to attract, develop and retain the most talented and creative employees regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical/mental abilities. Our hiring processes are agnostic of a candidate’s gender identity or sexual orientation and we’ve been making steady progress in hiring talent from the LGBTQIA+ community and providing them with the necessary support and resources to become the best version of themselves. For example, we’ve introduced the “Ask Pride@SAP” tool to allow our LGBTQIA+ employees and allies to ask questions anonymously without coming out. Similarly, we conduct regular LGBTQIA+ Inclusion sessions to help raise awareness of the community and also encourage the use of gender-neutral language at work. Some of the benefits offered to our LGBTQIA+ employees are medical coverage for same-sex partners which includes gender-reassignment surgeries, family leave extension to same-sex partners, and access to gender-neutral restrooms.”
Sankalp Saxena, SVP & Managing Director, India Operations, Nutanix India
A diverse workforce and a culture that celebrates and supports diversity are proven to lead to a better innovation for businesses. This enhances productivity and brings in unique and distinct perspectives that spark creative thinking. Hence, it is imperative for organizations to take a prudent approach toward driving inclusion in the workplace. Enterprises need to foster education and awareness on diversity, equity, and inclusion topics to create an unbiased work environment; this not only attracts more diverse talent but unleashes their full potential. Additionally, companies should provide equal opportunities, remuneration, and benefits for all team members and there should not be any distinction based on one’s sexual orientation.
At Nutanix, we strongly value our differences and believe that diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives make us a more innovative and resilient team. Our goal remains to attract, foster, and retain a diverse workforce – we promote a culture where all employees can bring their unique experiences and backgrounds together to create a ground-breaking impact. We remain committed to growing awareness and driving inclusivity through educational opportunities, unique recruiting opportunities, and celebrations of representation throughout our community. Our program ‘Qutants’ (queer Nutanix employees and allies) is a global group that helps connect diverse employees, rallying together all members regardless of location to provide professional connections and community worldwide. The group connects through social events, group meetings, and awareness campaigns, where members are encouraged to be involved in giving back to local and global LGBTQ+ communities throughout the year.
Pranali Save, CHRO, Icertis
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion is an active and ongoing effort that builds strength and value within an organization and beyond. Thoughtful action that fosters a sense of belonging, encourages people to share their diverse perspectives and experiences, and drives innovation based on their unique contributions to the workplace is a positive way to create a safe space and celebrate all employees for all that they are. At Icertis, we are committed to cultivating a fair, open, and respectful environment for our Icertians, customers, suppliers, and partners. We build on the foundation of our FORTE values – Fairness, Openness, Respect, Teamwork, and Execution – to ensure that Icertians from all backgrounds feel empowered, heard, and fully supported. We bring this to life through initiatives such as conducting unconscious bias training for all executives and managers, expanding our domestic partner definition for insurance benefits in India, and improving healthcare access for current and future LGBT+ Icertians. In furtherance of our commitment to creating a culture of equality, we recently joined the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion initiative and pledged to advance diversity and inclusion at the workplace.”
Rachel Scheel, Senior Vice President of Global Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Sustainability.
Diversity brings strength, creativity, and purpose to an organisation, and it should become the norm rather than a one-off initiative. The key first step is having an active and engaged Employee Resource Group for your LGBTQ+ employees and their allies. At Criteo, our Pride Community has over 250 active members, creating a safe place for LGBTQ+ talent to connect, build networks, and develop internal relationships with the community and members.
To better align policies to diverse talents needs, next step is understanding and establishing a baseline of where a company’s culture is currently. Then the organization should create actions and goals that are tied to what is important to employees and opportunities to strengthen inclusion throughout the employee experience. Keep testing whether these practices are working and employees feel that they are authentic is more important. At Criteo, we’ve been activating these initiatives through the direct feedback from our employee in our bi-annual Voices Survey.
To embrace heightened awareness of LGBTQ+ inclusion, Criteo will launch a global eLearning on LGBTQ+ inclusion. We’ve also launched multiple activation programs including inviting speakers to share their experiences through our Pride Community, introducing an Inclusive Language Guide for internal and external communications which ensures that the way we connect and communicate strengthens inclusion for all. Moreover, we have been focused on introducing LGBTQ+ inclusive parental leave practices and family forming support (including financial support for adoption and legal services) that will contribute to a more equitable workplace where family and careers are encouraged to be more balanced.
Jharna Thammaiah K, Director and India Site People & Places Leader, Intuit
Intuit’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is foundational to the company as we believe that innovation thrives in a workplace where people can bring their whole selves to work to do the best work of their lives! This is instrumental to our business and an essential component of our ability to execute on our mission to power prosperity for all.
Diverse perspectives, backgrounds and opinions help us grow and innovate, making DEI critical to the success of our business. The more diverse we are, the better we can reflect our approximately 100 million customers, build empathy and create products and services that solve their unique problems. From employee representation, to ensuring our products are fair and inclusive, to our impact on the communities around us, DEI is a business imperative and fundamental to our corporate responsibility strategy.
We’re engaging employees throughout the company to listen, learn and build capabilities that will enhance the employee experience and create an inclusive working environment. We also encourage leaders to role model in creating an inclusive and safe workplace for our talent.
To support our LGBTQ+ community, our employee initiatives and benefits include the below:
World-class inclusive policies: Our teams demonstrated how well-equipped they are at making gender transition seamless for employees who chose to take this path. Intuit provides gender-affirmation surgery reimbursement which is over and above the regular insurance coverage. This is supplemented with hormone replacement therapy reimbursement
Health Care Coverage: To ensure the health and well-being of all our employees’ loved ones, we offer Group Medical insurance coverage to 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.
Gender-Neutral Washrooms: To make sure all employees feel comfortable and supported during their work hours, we offer gender-neutral washrooms in all of our India offices.
Safe Space: Intuit provides counselling services to employees who either identify as LGBTQ+ or have loved ones who identify as LGBTQ+. We have ensured employees’ privacy and confidentiality so that employees can feel comfortable having candid conversations with a trained, supportive professional.
Practicing diversity, equity and inclusion at an org-wide level: We have a range of development resources called ‘Leading inclusively’ to help grow and improve the craft of being an inclusive leader. Additionally, through efforts such as ‘The annual Trans Summit’ we continue our mission towards building a foundation of change for employees in and outside of Intuit who identify as transgender or non-binary
Pride Network: We understand that there is a long way to go and while we provide employee benefits, we also leverage employee resource groups who help build community and allyship while also providing opportunities for employees to share their diverse perspectives which influence leaders, in defining the workplace of the future, and support in creating a diverse and inclusive work environment while also making impact externally
Ally training: To truly champion DEI, there must be several layers of awareness and evangelism that has to take place. We encourage our employees to take up Ally training to understand how they can practice allyship, enhance the work environment and speak up in their own communities and social circles.
The introduction of some of these policies and initiatives helps enhance the benefits we offer to our diverse workforce. In addition to this, what also matters is what each of us do every day to create a culture and work environment which is inclusive and safe. With more awareness, training, accountability, and role modelling the sense of belonging in our workforce has really amplified, and many people have felt comfortable to come out at work. While there is still much more work to be done in our efforts to foster a safe and inclusive workplace, it is a multi-year journey that we want to continue investing in while also celebrating our minor milestones along the way, which only helps to raise awareness.
Ruchi Bhalla, Country Head – India Delivery Centers and Vice President, Human Resources (Asia Pacific) at Pitney Bowes
“In today’s world, having an inclusive workplace that protects employees from discrimination is not just the right thing to do – but is also the best business decision. People are always skeptical of things they are not aware of or uncomfortable with. Queerphobia is not a new phenomenon or unique to India, it exists everywhere and is many times unconscious because of lack of information and conditioning. As organizations, it is our job to give all our employees, regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation, caste, religion – an inclusive, biasfree, and safe work environment that allows them to be themselves.
Educating employees about the LGBTQ+ community to create awareness about our own biases is the first step. Starting from basics such as setting-up gender-neutral restrooms, making all policies gender inclusive to creating a community of role models and training leaders to communicate with empathy. At Pitney Bowes, our efforts towards the LGBTQ+ community align with our core values and our deep-rooted commitment to diversity. We strive to create an environment where employees can be their authentic selves, can learn and grow, and can help Pitney Bowes be the best it can be.
Over the past few years, Pitney Bowes India has launched several programs such as Blind Applications for candidates applying for roles, allowing them to omit their first or last name and details such as gender from applications. Last year, we updated our Parental Policy to include 26 weeks paid parental leave for same sex or adopting parents and those who become parents through surrogacy. Our Global Inclusion Network, PBPRIDE, works towards generating awareness around LGBTQ+ matters through meaningful dialogue, support, and action. We also run specialized training for managers to highlight bias and include LGBTQ+ sensitive language, to make all employees feel welcomed and an equal part of the organization.”
Anjali Byce, CHRO, STL
“In a workplace with a diverse range of genders, ethnicities, nationalities, sexual orientations, and identities, it’s critical that we make everyone feel included, belonged and supported to unlock their potential and build fulfilling careers. To this effect, Pride Month is a very important month where we celebrate and honour this inclusivity. The LBGTQ+ community is a large demographic which is talent rich. Building diverse teams results in a true representation of the society we operate in. The natural by-product is multiple perspectives, creative solutions, and new ways of problem-solving; which in turn results in creating an innovative, efficient, effective, and customer-centric organisation.
Our constant effort is to inspire, nurture and promote our talent by inculcating an inclusive workplace. We believe that at the core of an efficient and happy workforce lies a relationship of trust between employees and their employers- one in which individuals feel heard and cared for without gender biases. We encourage everyone to bring their whole selves to work in an environment where no one is judged and there are equal opportunities for all. At STL, for example, among the number of virtual activities across our global offices, we are hosting a fireside talk to sensitize employees, create awareness of the unconscious and implicit bias and build a psychologically safe work environment. Dr Kanan Khatau, Psychologist and Emotional Safety Evangelist (TEDx Speaker) will do an interactive and participative interview with Abhina Aher, Transgender Activist, India (TEDx Speaker).
We strongly believe that true support for the community is more than just a rainbow-hued post on social media. As a part of our people-focused initiatives and culture of CARE, we have built a strong ‘listening’ organization. This enables us to create policies that are as global as possible but equally tailored to special needs. At STL, for example, we are an equal opportunity employer- Our leave policies support surrogacy, IVF, and adoption; we empower our employees globally through DEI initiatives and provide avenues for better understanding, accepting, and co-existing with the vibrant LGBT community and also creating a psychologically safe workspace.”
Lynette D’silva, Head of Regional HR- India & APAC, Amdocs
“LGBTQI+ in organisations is a journey of progressive realisation and adoption, and not an overnight change. With a diverse workforce, establishing an inclusive mindset of leaders is key to create the right culture in the organization. It is crucial that organisations understand that being recognized, identified, and respected for who they are is what employees expect from their employers & co-workers. While policy changes are important, organisations need to work towards bringing a change in attitudes of existing employees, with LGBTQI+ awareness & sensitivity trainings. When employees bring their authentic selves to work, it helps to create a safe space for all to contribute and thrive.
Amdocs is a people-centric organization. Our commitment to enrich lives and progress society starts with us, which is why we have made it a priority to invest in our employees’ development in innovative and personalized ways.”