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“I’ve been teased and bullied through school and college, and for the most part of my professional life”- Shyam Balasubramanian, Transman, Chennai.
Unfortunately, this is the reality for most professionals who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Although gender diversity has taken quite a few positive strides over the past few years, LGBTQ+ awareness, hiring and inclusion at work still has a long way to go.
A 2018 TimesJob survey revealed that 57% of respondents did not feel that their company openly recruited LGBTQ+ candidates and 55% said they still experienced bias at work over their gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation!
Why LGBTQ+ Awareness in the Indian Workplace Is Essential
The fact of the matter is that equality and inclusion are good both for business and its people. With glaring numbers and rampant discrimination against LGBTQ+ employees, workplaces need to make it a priority to create a culture of both acceptance and inclusion.
The world’s biggest ever LGBTQ+ research study ‘LGBT Diversity: Show Me The Business Case‘surveyed over 100,000 LGBTQ+ people globally and found that only 8% of LGBTQ+ Indians have expressed their orientation at work, with more than 61% stating that they had heard something that was homophobic at their place of work in the last year.
The difficulties for LGBTQ+ employees in India are apparent. More importantly, the emotional and mental drain that comes with discrimination and harassment, severely impacts productivity, engagement, and work relationships.
What can organizations do to create a LGBTQ+ friendly workplace?
Now, that it’s clear why making workplaces LGBTQ-inclusive is the need of the hour, let’s dive into how one can make it happen!
Listen. Listen. Listen.
Educating yourself, your coworkers and your organization is the first step towards supporting LGBTQ+ employees and making them feel heard. Creating a safe working environment means speaking less and listening more to concerns of members from the LGBTQ+ community and ensuring that they are given equal opportunities across the board.
Workplace LGBTQ+ Training
Diversity and inclusion training need to be available to employees at all levels to facilitate a healthy work culture. This could be done in the form of sensitization workshops, internal communication and virtual sessions by an expert focusing on building LGBTQ+ awareness and how to be better allies!
Create Better Hiring Practices
The finer details matter more than you think! Revisit job posts to ensure that they send the right message and showcase LGBTQ-friendly benefits that demonstrate the organization’s commitment to hiring candidates based on talent, merit and professional experience only. Using social media to encourage LGBTQ+ candidates to apply is a great place to start.
Set The Ground Rules
Organizations need to go beyond just celebrating Pride Month at work. Today’s workforce is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of personal characteristics such as gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion. Workplace policies need to be LGBTQ-friendly and reflect employee benefits that cover the partners of LGBTQ+ members as well. Take cues from companies like the Godrej Group, IBM India, Tata Steel, Accenture, the Lalit Group, Sodexo India and many other Indian MNCs who are paving the way in restructuring hiring practices, family/partner policies and creating a fair workplace for LGBTQ+ employees.
No individual should fear losing their job over who they are or choose to love. Diverse workforces create sustainable organizations. And a lot of studies prove that. LGBTQ-friendly workplaces encourage open discussion, reduce stress, anxiety and create more positive relationships. Less discrimination at work is linked to increased job satisfaction, happier employees and improved well-being outcomes.
When LGBTQ+ members are encouraged to bring their true selves to work daily, it reflects positively on the work culture, but mostly importantly, it makes an impact on creating a more equal and accepting workspace.
Although, shouldn’t companies take a page out of the LGBTQ+ book on how to be more accepting and open?