Creating Inclusive And Diverse Work Cultures

By Omang Agarwal

6th of September, 2018 saw Indian skies illuminated with the spectrum of rainbow colours. A 157- year-old colonial law saw the light of 21st century India – a country of 1.25 billion people could now celebrate identity, love and inclusiveness without barriers. This overthrow of Article 377 came after a 17-year struggle by members of the community, lawyers, activists and allies who have participated in hundreds of mobilisation drives, protests, online campaigns and petitions.

As much as we celebrate the verdict, it is important to acknowledge its history, the struggle, the future and the need for its faster adaptation. The law may be in place, but it is important to redouble efforts to make inclusiveness the norm – everywhere.

An excellent place to start its implementation is at offices and educational institutes as they carry the moral responsibility of instilling values guided by diversity, change, and creating safe and equal spaces and only because it is where we spend most of our lives.  Through this article, we intend to highlight the critical trends in the movement and provide suggestions to create nondiscriminatory and safe spaces for our schools and offices.

Conscious, Condition Culture –  

Address the issue upfront, and commit to equality & diversity at offices

Often organisations and companies have tiptoed around the LGBT issue, treating it like the elephant in the room. This is a great time to change this. Talking about wider representation, open conversations and acceptance in business is a good start but not enough.  Both employees and organisations need to take a stand and truly commit to diversity. A company that can pledge its support to employees irrespective of their skin colour, caste, economic background, gender or sexuality stands to benefit hugely; firstly by creating a sense of empowerment among employees and secondly by setting an industry standard that can pave the way for change across society.  

Demonstrating collective support

Corporations abroad have often publicly shown their support for the LGBTQIA community. For instance, in July, Apple Inc. employees marched together in San Francisco’s pride parade. At the same time, Burger King was trending on Twitter for their Pride Burger. While these events greatly encourage celebrating the LGBTQIA community, support is not a one-time affair and organisations must establish sustainable measures through anti-discrimination rules and turn the wheel forward by setting an inclusive culture where individuals from the LGBTQIA community are not seen as the ‘other.’ Sustainable steps will ensure that such changes are part of the cultural conditioning of the company.  

Changing mindsets is a significant and most crucial step, and this does not happen overnight. It is a  However this is something organisations must invest in.

Companies could over a period of time conduct inclusiveness audits that include infrastructure, employment regulations and other changes which can be done to make sure the office is a safe space for all employees. This will help companies move forward the agenda of inclusion of all while making sure that LGBT members’ needs are fulfilled. Workplaces that who encourage the community and bring in a culture of inclusiveness only stand to gain as creating empowering spaces impacts regarding employee satisfaction, commitment and productivity.

A more holistic way would also be to engage with partners, stakeholders, competition companies and customers.

Student housing startups in India sent out letters and messages to all customers on the day of the SC statement being realised with a new set of anti-discrimination house rules and how all customers regardless of their background and beliefs could become partners in inclusion.

“I remember when I received the letter a fellow housemate was overjoyed to see it, he identified as gay and the letter also helped us to reach out to him and pledge our support in maintaining inclusion within the house. It was indeed a day for celebration – since the house had a different festive spirit that day, now we have an entire wall which talks about all our housemates’ identity and beliefs and amongst those is a big LGBT flag. It just makes us celebrate each other every morning every day” – Omang

 

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