Creating Inclusive Workplaces for India
It is widely accepted that diversity at the workplace is good for business and its growth. When people are given equal opportunities to take part, grow and contribute without bothering about their social backgrounds, sexual orientations, disability, marital status, etc., their confidence, productivity, and outlook towards work and productivity completely changes.
D&I now part of corporate agenda
With changing work dynamics, Indian companies are now putting ‘Diversity’ and ‘Inclusion’ on the corporate agenda. However, inclusion is not just about creating a more diverse workplace; it is also about making sure organizations are treating all employees with respect and regard. It also means to offer equal opportunities, benefits, and improve people’s everyday experiences when they go to work. It is also slowly becoming a prerequisite to create an environment in the organisation where everyone feels comfortable introducing themselves without pronouns. Now, more than ever, it is crucial for organisations to cultivate a workplace ecosystem which is strategically designed, considerate and includes under-represented voices.
Companies like Uber and Accenture, allow their employees to choose their preferred pronouns; some also allow their employees to disclose their sexual preferences on internal databases to avail certain health benefits for their partners. This is the perfect definition of inclusiveness where your employee feels his/her workplace is a home away from home, where they feel secure and judged only on the basis of the work and talent that they represent.
This seems to be an universally accepted notion by most members of the corporate world. However, while making your organizations open to a more diverse workforce which includes transgender, gender-nonconforming people and other marginalized groups, it is important to take certain steps. To welcome them, it is crucial to cut the implicit bias that prevails in traditional hiring and recruitment practices and relook at what has been a norm to a new form of evaluation across the board. One should avoid unnecessary qualifications to job listings that go beyond the requirements needed for someone to effectively do the job. We all need to diversify our minds, behaviour, and not just the workplace!
Changing Social Narratives
However, more disclosure and openness in policies of hiring can also help change social narratives within the workplace. The inclusivity can only be known if the individual is satisfied and happy working there. Individuals can vary in their experience of exclusion or inclusion depending on the degree of uniqueness and belongingness experienced. When both uniqueness and belongingness needs are met, the individual experiences inclusion
Many companies in India like Lifestyle believe in making every employee special. One of the remarkable initiatives, for example, was called the “Creating A Ripple” program whose objective was to create an ecosystem where employees display a high degree of sensitivity and empathy towards each other’s issues / problems / troubles (grievances). To encourage this cultural change, activities and training programs were conducted across the organization. Employees were introduced to the idea that they themselves could help another employee with a grievance where they were given a choice to be a solution provider, a connector or even an empathizer.
Article 16(2) of the Indian Constitution states that “no citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence, or any of them, be ineligible for or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State.” Similar protections are also guaranteed under Article 15(2) concerning access to public places.
D&I Landscape in modern workplaces
In 2019, the Centre for Law and Policy Research drafted a comprehensive and inclusive Equality Bill that addresses these gaps. The bill ensures protection from direct or indirect forms of discrimination based on a wide range of “protected characteristics,” including sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, marital status, political beliefs, linguistic identity, or a combination of these. In September 2018, the Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality by scrapping section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. This was a welcoming move, and a lot is yet to be done to make workplaces more supportive of LGBTQ employees.
Recently, the Government of India has released a draft National Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (STIP 2020). The policy outlines strategies for strengthening India’s STI ecosystem to achieve the larger goal of Atmanirbhar Bharat. Not just 30 percent representation of women was included in all decision-making bodies but also the inclusion of the LGBTQ community into conversations. The policy asserts the need to include people from certain sections as this will foster equal opportunity in academics for not only women but also candidates from rural remote areas, marginalized communities and differently-abled groups.
These essential policy initiatives will encourage impartial and effective participation, promotion, retention and incentivisation to address inequality in corporate India weaving into a more progressive socio-economic and cultural landscape.