As an out gay man, I have seen the growth and tangible effect of LGBTQ+ inclusion. Back in 2013, when I joined an organisation with robust anti-harassment policies, fresh out of college, I felt safe. I realised that I could try being my authentic self, and that feeling has only grown over the years. It has been a progressive journey ever since.
Last year, during a Pride March organised across our offices at Fiserv, I was so moved by first-hand experience of the inclusive culture and acceptance, that I came out publicly. Never once did I feel like I did not belong. This sense of belonging inspired me to do more, celebrate diversity, and encourage originality at our workplace. Today I co-lead the India chapter of UNITY, our Employee Resource Group for LGBTQ+ associates and allies. I feel privileged to be a significant part of this endeavour in influencing change not only within our organisation but also in the communities where we live and work.
One notices that organisations globally are becoming more aware of the need to drive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). This is usually seen through investments made through funding, partnerships, hiring, representation, and more. I am so encouraged to see a similar uptake in promoting the LGBTQ+ community in India as well. While some Indian organisations started much earlier, many more have joined this journey post the decriminalisation of homosexuality in India in 2018. The trend is on a promising and positive rise.
Promoting diversity, equal opportunity, and inclusive environments is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes perfect business sense. Data and research show that the most diverse groups create the best solutions, build the best products and services, and contribute to innovation, growth, and sustainable business practices. Don’t forget your clients or consumers are a diverse group of individuals too.
When I see organisations promoting gender-neutral, inclusive policies, medical benefits for same-sex partners, coverage for gender-reassignment surgeries, mental health support, diversity hiring, and upskilling programs, it affirms that we are moving in the right direction.
In my experience, sensitisation, awareness, and visibility are the most important aspects of driving inclusivity. Sensitisation programs across levels can go a long way in creating awareness and helping people understand the concepts of alternate sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression. Leadership commitment and allyship also are fundamental because they can strengthen the voice of LGBTQ+ inclusion by fostering an environment of indiscrimination and DEI advocacy. The stronger the leadership commitment and allyship, the more collective power we lend to DEI.
Coming out is not always easy and feasible, but it is important to lead with positive examples. We need new role models who strongly believe in “If not us, then who?”. I am privileged to work in a place that truly believes in inclusivity and celebrates originality, but many aren’t as fortunate. Our visibility and influence will create a means for society to recognise that all people should be valued for their merit and capabilities regardless of their differences.
Pride inclusion is not meant for a day or a month but should be around the year. If we can create a space where even one person feels safe and accepted, and valued, it is a win. LGBTQ+ inclusion is a journey with no end goal, nor can it hit a plateau. While corporates collectively have the capability to move the needle in a positive direction, we need intentional collaboration across our ecosystem – corporates, society, family, self-help groups, government policies and much more, to drive sustainable progress and lasting impact.
Satyaki Chakrabarti (He/Him), Lead - UNITY (LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group), Global Services, Fiserv.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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