Pride Month: Tracing an employee's journey from hidden to proud at the workplace

Inclusivity and acceptance are gradually becoming the norm in India’s corporate sector but there is still much work to be done to arrive at widespread acceptance

Updated: Jun 20, 2024 01:31:17 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

As we celebrate Pride Month, I reflect on my journey from hiding my true self to proudly embracing my identity at the workplace. The transformation I have experienced mirrors the broader changes in corporate India, where inclusivity and acceptance are gradually becoming the norm. This evolution is anchored in three key philosophies: education, being enablers, and embracing reality.

Education involves fostering awareness and understanding through training and open dialogue. Being an enabler would mean providing resources and support systems to help LGBTQ+ employees thrive. Lastly, embracing would signify actively celebrating and including diverse identities, helping ensure everyone feels valued.

In 2011, when I began my career, the corporate environment in India was vastly different. As a shy and introverted person, I felt the pressure to hide my true self due to societal norms and prejudices. The fear of discrimination and bullying significantly impacted my mental health. The Indian Supreme Court’s landmark decision in September 2018 to decriminalise homosexuality was a monumental step toward acceptance. This legal recognition allowed many in the LGBTQ+ community, including myself, to take our first breath of independence. However, while the law had changed, societal attitudes lagged. The journey toward true acceptance and inclusivity was far from over.

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Over the years, I have witnessed a significant shift in the corporate sector. Companies have begun to recognise the importance of diversity and inclusion, not just as a compliance measure but as a fundamental aspect of their organisational culture. As I mentioned, education is key. Sensitisation programs and unconscious bias training are instrumental in educating employees about the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals, fostering a more inclusive workplace.

Additionally, working towards a fourth philosophy, engage—Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) have started playing a crucial role in shaping corporate policies. These ERGs ensure the voices of LGBTQ+ employees are heard in decision-making processes. Policies have been crafted with inclusivity and support, directly influenced by the advocacy of ERGs. Gender-neutral policies, medical benefits for same-sex partners, financial support for gender reassignment surgeries, mental health support tailored to LGBTQ+ needs, and diversity hiring programs have become more common.

Joining the Unity ERG at Fiserv was a turning point in both my professional and personal life. This group provides a platform to support and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. Inspired by the supportive culture, I gained the confidence to come out to my friends and colleagues, a step I had already taken with my family. For the first time, I felt a sense of belonging and acceptance at work. The support from my peers and the company’s commitment to inclusivity has allowed me to embrace my identity fully and contribute more effectively to my organisation.

Also Read- Importance of enabling LGBTIQA+ inclusion by corporate India

Finally, it is important to celebrate one’s identity. Every year, I participate in Pride marches, standing in solidarity with fellow LGBTQ+ individuals. Recently, I had the pleasure of joining other ERG members to work with an impact enterprise that facilitates sustainable livelihoods for transgender persons. Through the program, we invited several transgender individuals to our office for a day, providing a brief introduction to corporate culture and guidance on the skill sets required for starting their careers.

A diverse and inclusive workplace fosters innovation, collaboration, and a sense of belonging, contributing to overall job satisfaction and productivity. Towards this, India’s corporate sector is gradually becoming a beacon of hope for the LGBTQ+ community.  Yet there is still much work to be done to arrive at widespread acceptance. This change is essential for the LGBTQ+ community and for the overall growth and progress of our nation. Together, we can foster environments where everyone feels they belong, where they can take their breath of freedom and express their true selves without fear.

The author is a specialist in global services at Fiserv, and member of unity, ERG (Employee Resource Group).

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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