On June 5, 2019, Out & Equal hosted the webinar, “Post-Section 377 Workplaces in India: Progress and Future Goal” as part of our bimonthly global webinar series. The presenting panel featured Srikanth Suvvaru, Vice President, Head of Candidate Attraction and Engagement with RBS, Shagun Ganapathy, HR Transformation Consultant with ANZ, and Ram Sinha, Co-founder of Pride Circle.
The webinar examined what has changed and what future goals are, coming on one year after Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was read down by the Supreme Court. Below are some of the questions that participants asked that we did not have time to address during out live webinar during the webinar. If you are interested in discussing these responses further with the panelists, please email Out & Equal’s Global Initiatives team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are the various training programs and other ERG activities to engage employees and keep the ERG going?
Srikanth: RBS has a number of initiatives we run for the Rainbow Network. We have a team of volunteers who spend their time on multiple aspects:
- Building engagement – We do this through regular meet and greets with Rainbow Network Members. Tea and Connect sessions are a good way for network members to learn about what we’re doing at RBS for the community and for members to present ideas and ask questions.
- Communication – We have a regular newsletter we release talking about the work we are doing as an organisation to the network as well as the larger employee body. Sometimes the newsletters have Calls to Action if we need volunteers or participation in events.
- Monthly Calls – We do a monthly network wide call, and once a quarter this call is joined by our Executive Committee sponsor who also provides context and weighs in on any questions or concerns.
- Mythbusting Sessions – We use our mythbuster sessions to encourage our Rainbow Network members to involve their teams. We have facilitators in all of our offices and it’s always attended by a Core Working Group member to answer any difficult questions.
What happens if someone does not want to come out at the recruitment stage?
Srikanth: That’s perfectly fine. No one is ever under any compulsion to come out at the workplace. We’ve made arrangements so that people (via our HR system) can raise a service request and avail LGBT friendly policies without ever coming out to anyone. The SR is handled at the back end with minimal human intervention and data protection is absolutely guaranteed. Our internal processes were re-engineered to ensure this. We reduced the number of human handoffs so that one isn’t inadvertently out-ed when seeking to avail a policy. We respect their privacy 100%.
How can one start a D&I career? Can a person working in HR be right fit for it?
Srikanth: A career in D&I primarily comes from a passion to do the right thing and fight inequity. Anyone from any stream or function can be a D&I professional. Whatever your area of interest, be it Gender, LGBT, PWD, Age/Generations, Culture, Religion or something locally specific to you like Caste in India or Race elsewhere, the primary focus of D&I is to try and correct inequity, either socially or at the workplace.
In my article, How to be a responsible ally, I laid out some guidelines and touchpoints. They primarily have to do with listening, learning and understanding from the community you choose to work for, challenging commonly held biases (unconscious or otherwise), repressive behaviours and attitudes and actively working to create environments that are safe and inclusive for the community. I’ve also warned against practices like appropriation and a tendency to, inadvertently or otherwise, draw focus away from the community.
So, short answer, yes. You can be in HR or Tech or Finance or Marketing or Admin or a Chef or a DJ and you can be an advocate for Diversity and Inclusion. Anyone can do it if you have the empathy and the will to do make a difference. 🙂
Did ANZ need to create new bathrooms for the gender diverse washrooms? did you convert existing structures? How did you get executive approval for this?
Shagun: Yes, ANZ converted the existing structures with a few minor modifications to the restrooms to convert this as an all gender and People with Disability facility to welcome our journey on inclusion. The approvals came through easily as starting right up from our CEO and our Executive Leadership, everyone strongly supports Inclusion and as an organisation we are working on overdrive to make inclusion a part of our DNA.
Did you also sensitize general staff, not just HR/recruiters before making the initiative to hire more LGBTQ employees? If so, how did that work?
Shagun: We initially commenced with Sensitisation Programmes for the Leadership teams as a top down approach. Second was the Recruitment team who were sensitized. Later it was the teams who would have direct interactions with the Pride members who came on board within their immediate teams. Further senstisation session were conducted for the support staff such as House Keeping, Cafeteria and Transport staff and now we are reaching out to the larger audience across the service center and it is an ongoing process. Currently as I type we have had 6 Sensitisation sessions yesterday within the service center and 6 in progress today.
If I’d like to launch a Pride ERG branch in our India location and I’m in the US, what is some best ways to do this?
Shagun: It’s a great question and although there is no one rule fits all, this might require a team to do some planning and co-ordination to have it implemented in your India office. It will be good to start conversations with the Head of the local office to drive this. Talk them through what you’ll do in the US office, the intentions to drive inclusion and how this can be taken forward in the India office too. This will trigger conversations and suggestions for implementation keeping the local legislations in mind. Maybe they can start by forming an India office core group and drive the initiatives by later having people nominate themselves to join a larger group or committee and have the PRIDE ERG going.
Did you find that post-377, there was a sudden surge of companies showing support? or had most companies already been quite vocal? Even if they were already vocal, did the messaging change at all?
Ram: There is a definite spike in the number of organizations coming out in support in various ways: starting an ERG, celebrating Pride Month, Supporting LGBT events etc post-377. For organizations that been vocal supporters in the past, the message has been reaffirmed, for organizations that were supportive but not vocal are now coming out and communicating externally. Pride Month has gotten more colorful for everyone, however do note the number of organizations advocating for LGBT inclusion has a long way to grow.
You’re organizing the first LGBTQ job fair – how have you found the process of inviting companies to attend and recruit? What is their level of interest and how do they see LGBTQ inclusion within their company as part of their DNA?
Ram: Anything first has its own journey, there is a lot of interest & a lot of questions in organizations about RISE. We are delighted to have found trust & support from Lalit Group of Hotels, VIP Industries, Unilever, Accenture, Shell, SwissRe, JP Morgan, Lowe’s, GE, Capgemini, Intuit, IG, Allegis, Deutsche Bank, NestAway, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, ThoughtWorks, Canadian Embassy, Neilsen, RBS, Citrix, Refinitiv, Private Eye, Unhotel, and partnership with Homegrown, The Logical Indian, Josh Talks.We are in conversation with many more, so it has been a fantastic response. We have already posted 100+ open jobs. We are reaching out to inclusive organizations (with a track record of inclusion, policies, benefits, etc) so that the LGBTQ talent finds a safe workplace.
Why do you not see smaller companies working around D&I?
Ram: Actually it is also changing, I have seen smaller companies affirmatively hire transgender employees, there is good work happening in smaller organizations that we don’t get to hear about. But definitely the number is low, and that can be because of multiple reasons. Cost of exclusion add up to a bigger number as we scale, for a smaller organization the number may not seem large and hence not get enough attention. Lack of resources to dedicate to D&I, and lack of awareness of the challenges faced by URMs.
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