Breaking Barriers, Building Brands: How LGBTQ+ Inclusion Drives Employer Branding Success
Special Feature

Breaking Barriers, Building Brands: How LGBTQ+ Inclusion Drives Employer Branding Success

PrideIn the realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), organisations have made significant strides in promoting women’s participation in the workforce. However, DEI encompasses a broader spectrum, including the LGBTQIA+ community.

According to a global report, the importance of creating a supportive environment for LGBT employees cannot be overstated. The report indicates that 72% of allies, individuals who support the rights and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community, express a greater likelihood of accepting a job offer from a company that demonstrates a commitment to supporting LGBT employees. This statistic underscores the significance of organisations embracing inclusive policies and practices to attract and retain top talent.

Recognising the importance of inclusivity, many organisations have revamped their HR policies to foster a genuinely inclusive workplace, adding value to their employer branding strategies. This article delves into the significance of concrete LGBTQIA+ inclusion strategies and their capacity to drive employer branding efforts.

Also read: Pride Month 2023: 6 Lessons from Tom Hanks’ Philadelphia on How To Make Your Workplace LGBTQ+ Friendly

Concrete strategies

To complement their Employer Branding strategy, Acuity Knowledge Partners organised a thought-provoking street play titled, “The Better World,” which envisions a society free from biases and prejudices. They also organised an “Allyship Walk,” where allies of the LGBTQ+ community proudly walked the ramp and also unfurled the Pride Flag. Avadhesh Dixit, CHRO, Acuity Knowledge Partners shares, “Today, all our HR policies are amended to be gender-neutral in nature.” Highlighting the comprehensive changes made to the firm’s HR policies, he says, “Gender affirmation surgeries are now covered under our insurance policy, same-sex partners are also covered; and parents, regardless of gender, can now avail of crèche facilities.”

Additionally, the organisation has introduced gender-neutral washrooms and a revamped dress code policy. These initiatives empower employees to freely express their gender identity and align their outward appearance with their authentic selves, fostering an environment that celebrates individuality and supports diverse forms of self-expression. “We want to ensure we’re encouraging our employees to feel supported and to achieve this, Acuity is taking a holistic approach to LGBTQ+ inclusion that goes beyond rainbow logos,” Dixit says.

Similarly, IBM actively demonstrates its commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion through various initiatives. The organisation recently sponsored the ‘Out and Loud’ film festival, showcasing diverse global movies and fostering an open and accepting society. Through complimentary training programmes and engaging panel discussions on both internal and external platforms, IBM is also making a concerted effort to help individuals to expand their knowledge, gain insights, and cultivate a deeper understanding of diverse communities, ultimately fostering a culture of acceptance and appreciation within the organisation and beyond.

Prachi Rastogi, Diversity and Inclusion Leader at IBM Asia Pacific, emphasises that their dedication to inclusivity not only attracts and inspires young talent but also contributes to their reputation as an empathetic employer. “By supporting such events, we aim to foster an open and accepting society, irrespective of whether individuals join IBM or not,” says Rastogi.

In today’s world, employees are seeking meaningful work with companies that make a positive impact on society. It is no longer enough for organisations to focus solely on internal matters; they must actively engage in initiatives that foster inclusivity and acceptance. Acuity Knowledge Partners and IBM exemplify the importance of going beyond superficial gestures, embracing holistic approaches to LGBTQ+ inclusion, and creating workplaces that truly empower and support their diverse workforce.

Also read: IIFL Home Finance’s Rashmi Priya Suggests a Hack to Gain Good Business Outcomes From Your DEI Initiatives

Beyond Pride Month

Creating genuine representation, fostering inclusion, and promoting active engagement of LGBTQIA talent requires organisations to extend their commitment beyond Pride month and become unwavering allies to the community. It necessitates a comprehensive and holistic approach that goes beyond symbolic gestures, ensuring that LGBTQIA individuals have equal access to meaningful career opportunities, empowering them to thrive and contribute their unique perspectives and talents to the organisation. By embracing a 360-degree strategy, organisations can cultivate a truly inclusive workplace where LGBTQIA individuals feel valued, supported, and empowered to excel in their careers.

According to Ruhie Pande, CHRO of Godrej Capital, fostering an inclusive organisational culture should serve as the foundation for promoting LGBTQIA inclusion. This begins with implementing a comprehensive non-discrimination policy that encompasses all individuals, transcending gender-based biases and ensuring equal treatment for everyone within the organisation. “Actively hiring people from the community via referrals or dedicated talent partners is the best way to take career opportunities to the talent pool who may otherwise be apprehensive of the treatment they may face in the mainstream job market,” says Pande.

Pande also suggests that organisations can take a significant stride by developing specialised programmes such as internships or training initiatives targeted at equipping freshers with the in-demand skill sets required by the organisation. “This proactive approach not only enhances employability but also plays a commendable role in nurturing talent and fostering career growth,” she says.

By considering the representation numbers within organisations and examining the journeys of their LGBTQIA peers in terms of learning, growth, and support, LGBTQIA talent can easily identify companies that prioritise inclusivity.

Building trust and Inclusivity

Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is crucial to providing equal support and opportunities for all employees, including members of the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies. Thoughtworks India, a leading company in the tech space, is actively challenging heteronormative hierarchies by implementing policies that foster a safe and inclusive environment for each and every employee, ensuring that everyone feels valued and respected.

“At Thoughtworks, we are proud to foster a more diverse and equitable tech industry through our LGBTQIA+ affinity groups like ‘Mitra’ and skill-enhancing initiatives such as ‘Interning with Pride’. Through these programmes, we actively engage with the community and promote allyship, working towards the continuous evolution of a tech industry that embraces diversity, equality, and inclusivity for all,” adds Sujitha Selvaraj, Head Of DE&I, Thoughtworks India.

Regular networking and active engagement with the LGBTQIA+ community through knowledge sessions, recruitment activities, skill training opportunities, and more play a crucial role in continuously updating and sensitising DEI policies. By sharing these valuable insights with job seekers, organisations can establish a strong branding presence while authentically demonstrating their commitment to inclusivity.

PayU proudly embraces its role as a progressive employer by implementing dedicated initiatives for the LGBTQ+ community within its workforce. Meghna Pal, Head of D&I, Employee Engagement & Wellbeing – PayU says, “Through our super active Pride Ally Employee Network Group, guided self-paced learning pathways, webinars, and workshops, we empower our PayUneers to become strong allies to the LGBTQ+ community. This commitment forms the bedrock of our success and drives positive outcomes for our business.”

At Cashfree Payments, no inquiries regarding gender orientation or LGBTQI+ status are made during the hiring, onboarding, or tenure of employees. This is to ensure that potential and current employees are not uncomfortable in any way and face no biases, so they can approach and work with our company with confidence. “This along with health and insurance coverage, paternity and maternity leaves makes Cashfree Payments a great place to work and also boosts our brand as a good employer in the industry,” shares Sapna Sukumar, VP-HR, Cashfree Payments.

Also read: Procter & Gamble India Extends Workplace Benefits To Partners Of LGBTQ+ Employees – Details Inside

Vocal and visible allyship

From an employer branding perspective, it is crucial to vocalise the various programmes and initiatives undertaken by an organisation to establish a safe and inclusive work environment for all. P&G India wholeheartedly embraces this approach, emphasising the importance of fostering a workplace culture that values diversity and inclusivity.

Srinivas PM, Head HR, P&G India notes, “I believe that it all starts with being VOCAL and VISIBLE. At P&G, we understand that the absence of positive signs can be seen as a lack of inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community. That’s why we place great emphasis on fostering the concept of ‘Visible, Vocal allyship’ to ensure that everyone is genuinely welcomed in our organisation. We believe that it is a collective responsibility that must be shared by all.”

In addition to fostering safe spaces and cultivating allyship, an organisation’s engagement with the community and the opportunities it provides is vital. P&G demonstrates its commitment to inclusion through equal access to progressive and inclusive policies. This includes transforming comprehensive financial and medical benefits into a fully inclusive and equality-based programme and extending coverage to partners of LGBTQ+ employees. Such benefits encompass medical coverage, hospitalisation support, emergency financial assistance, childcare benefits under the ‘Lead With Care’ policy, and the recent introduction of an infertility treatment support policy that offers more inclusive opportunities for family planning, among other initiatives.

 “We have initiated the establishment of an OUT and PROUD chapter, aiming to empower and foster a sense of unity among employees from the LGBTQ+ community. This chapter provides a safe space for individuals to come together, offering unwavering support and ensuring absolute confidentiality, even for those who have chosen to selectively disclose their identity within the organisation. Additionally, we prioritise creating meaningful opportunities for our LGBTQ+ colleagues to represent us at external forums, allowing them to shine and share their experiences with pride,” adds Srinivas PM.

Today, P&G stands at Number 3 in AmbitionBox’s Best Large FMCG Category Company 2022 list. It is also one of the world’s most admired companies, as evidenced by a survey where 83% of employees expressed feeling welcomed upon joining the organisation.

Law says…

The legal position in India, as set out in various Supreme Court judgments, is that individuals belonging to the LGBTQ community are equal citizens and should not be discriminated against in law based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Minu Dwivedi, Partner, JSA, a law firm providing legal solutions for Corporate, businesses and institutions, adds, “Given that the workplace is central to most people’s lives and typically echoes the prejudices prevalent in society, ‘being out’ at work will help the LGBTQ community to combat workplace and societal pressures and prejudices and pave the way for their integration, advancement, and professional fulfilment.”

In today’s rapidly evolving world, embracing LGBTQ+ inclusivity has become a fundamental aspect of organisational success. By being visible and vocal advocates for LGBTQ+ rights, companies can not only attract top talent but also create an environment where all individuals feel valued, respected, and empowered to bring their authentic selves to work.


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