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How can we turn workplaces inclusive for the LGBTQIA+ community?

Updated: Jan 2, 2023

In 2018, the Delhi High court made a landmark judgement decriminalizing homosexuality and abolished section 377 stating that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a fundamental violation of rights [1]. Section 377 was a 157-year-old colonial law that criminalized same-sex acts and made it a punishable offence with 10 years of imprisonment. People in the LGBTQI community were moved to tears due to the overwhelming joy of this historic judgement.

While the religious and political parties oppose the judgement, corporates recognise the importance of LGBTQIA in workplace and are working towards creating an inclusive atmosphere. Companies understand that diversity leads to different perspectives, which can be a competitive advantage for them. Tata Steel is one of the few companies that fund gender reassignment surgeries and work benefits for their LGBTQ workforce. Companies such as Capgemini, Accenture, Pitney Bowes, Johnson & Johnson, Zomato and others are increasingly hiring LGBTQ employees in their workspace[2]. Though companies are making conscious efforts, the insight from Careernet’s research published in the Economic Times news is disappointing. According to their research, people from the LGBTQ community are hired mainly in non-technical positions in entry and mid-level.

How can we effectively transition to a more LGBTQIA-inclusive workplace?

Here’re some ways:

Start from recruitment

  • Are the HRs and talent acquisition team self-aware and sensitive to the LGBTQIA community?

  • Are they up to date with the legal landscape with respect to homosexuality in India?

  • Prepare training materials on gender, sex, and sexuality and foster discussions in HR teams

  • Test whether they’re equipped to hire people basis capability and not on orientation or gender

  • Increase their knowledge of LGBTQIA’s mental health issues and train them via role-play activities

  • Partner with staffing agencies or NGOs to hire LGBTQI individuals. For example, Accenture collaborates with external partners to hire LGBTQ candidates and participates in PRIDE job fairs and accepts employee referrals of LGBTQ candidates.

ManoShala offers drama therapy that helps with perspective building, critical thinking, and empathy through role-play, storytelling, break-out room activities etc. We also offer Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion training to help companies understand the diverse groups present, their challenges, and how to address them to provide an environment of safety and acceptance. Using drama therapy, we aim to increase awareness and extend support to the LGBTQIA community.

Revise your policies

  • Do you have just male and female options for sex on portals and physical forms?

  • Do you review your diversity mix periodically?

  • Do you provide adoption leaves for same-sex partners?

  • Do you offer insurance coverage for partners?

  • Do you have policies that address LGBTQIA workplace discrimination?

  • Do you have a system to incorporate feedback and suggestions from queer employees for inclusivity?

  • Do have guidelines for behavioural practices and workplace etiquette to work in an inclusive workplace?

  • Do you have blind applications in place?

Companies such as Pitney Bowes have deployed blind applications in which details on candidates' gender, caste, religion, nationality, and age are eliminated from their job applications. Applicants can choose to reveal either their first or last name.

Optimise your company website for inclusivity

  • Do you have pictures of only men?

  • Does your brand convey inclusivity and diversity visually?

  • Unconsciously, do you have any content that can be homophobic, xenophobic, transphobic, etc.?

Practise gender-inclusive communication

  • Create awareness about the use of gendered language in emails. For example, we often use he or she and so on in our communication, whereas in gender-inclusive communication, we’d use he/she/they

  • Be mindful to use such inclusive language in job postings, offer letters and other documents

  • Encourage pronoun sharing in the office

Create a safe zone and focus on infrastructure

  • Increase the frequency of discussions around LGBTIQ issues

  • Celebrate PRIDE week through games and activities

  • Foster sharing through creative art-based activities

  • Take complaints and grievances seriously

  • Build more inclusive gender-neutral washrooms

  • Incorporate childcare facilities

  • Break the stigma by encouraging leadership teams to speak about the importance of LGBTQIA inclusion in office premises, official gatherings and conferences and others

  • Partner with mental health companies to offer 1-on-1 counselling

Manoshala offers counselling via online and offline sessions for anxiety, depression, grief, trauma, etc. We have 98 experts+ from institutions like Harvard, NYU, and Berkeley who are trained to handle people's emotional states in individual and group settings. By understanding their needs, our experts suggest personalised therapy sessions on managing mental health conditions effectively. Book a free 15-minutes pre-screening call with us to discuss your requirements.

How to tackle workplace discrimination and bullying?

In addition to the companies mentioned earlier, companies such as Thoughworks, Godrej, Axis Bank, Loreal, and others have taken various measures to increase LGBTQIA hiring in the workplace. However, despite the goodwill of companies, discrimination in the form of judgement and bullying is inevitable if coworkers are not sensitised and have empathy. The results from the 2019 YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey conducted with 5,000+ respondents across different age groups in 180 cities indicate that less than half of Indian youth are in approval of same-sex relationships. With such a low acceptance rate, it’s essential to work at the mindset level to witness long-lasting changes. Companies need to conduct more workshops on human bias, critical thinking and activities centred around empathy. The need of the hour for creating a more inclusive environment is to have consistent sensitisation, awareness workshops, reality checks, and interactions with queer employees. To complement this, companies must have a strong system that takes cases of harassment, bullying and discrimination more seriously. Manoshala also offers skill enhancement workshops that focus on unconscious bias, team communication, active listening, inclusion and diversity and a managers toolkit to help a team member coping up with mental illness.

Final thoughts:

It’s good news that the legal landscape and corporate policies understand the discrimination against LGBTQIA individuals. However lack of awareness, support and acceptance from society, it’s still a long journey in terms of achieving full inclusivity. Inclusion must start at the educational level even before people step into corporates. Given the current situation, we can also work in reverse as currently, corporates seem to be the ones who understand LGBTQIA issues after the Supreme Court. By providing safe spaces in the offices, people of the community will have a go-to place. Hence, it is highly important to create a safe and caring space that understands the challenges faced by LGBTQIA individuals.


Written by Padmapriyadarshini