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A recent chat with Trishala, the Chief Empathy Officer of Periferry, which aims to build inclusive workspaces, was an education on inclusiveness and beyond.
“Honestly, Inclusion has become more of a business term. I’d like to use acceptance instead because only with acceptance can one be inclusive!” says Trishala, Chief Empathy Officer at Perri Ferry.
Who is a chief empathy officer? In a world where it is still widely argued if empathy is a business liability or not – what is this company that has a CEO – except the “E” here is not your average run-of-the mill executive.
These are a bunch of people who are not afraid to wear empathy on their sleeves. The transgender community in India have been a community subjected to crippling injustice – from commonplace transphobia to life-threatening violence and sexual abuse, the community struggles. Not finding employment is perhaps the most debilitating thing to happen to them because it is the foundation to another vicious circle of violence.
Even recently, as I was watching Christiane Amanpour’s Sex and Love Around the World – a transwoman shares her journey from one of a software engineer to a sex worker simply because she could not find any work!
“The hardest times of my life were when I was waiting on railway tracks and waiting for clients” she reminisces in the documentary.
“Problems are opportunities” – from closed doors inside expensive business schools to every day advice, this is something we hear way too often. However – it takes skill, or in this case, a lot of empathy to convert a problem that doesn’t directly affect you into an opportunity for an entire community.
One such rare exception is Periferry – a social inclusion start-up founded by Neelam, that works with the transgender community and helps them find employment. I was intrigued by many things but one thing that caught my eye when I went on their website is that they had a ‘Chief Empathy Officer’!
Trishala – Chief Empathy Officer at Periferry shares her journey with us as she takes us through how it all started and how their everyday work goes towards finding transpeople in the country respectable jobs.
What does it mean to be a social entrepreneur in today’s world?
A social entrepreneur is simply someone who can put oneself in another person’s shoes. It’s not just about numbers anymore, its more about people and mindsets.
Periferry functions like any other HR Consultancy, we serve in three aspects Employment, Entrepreneurship and Education. Employment is our core area; we also identify entrepreneurs and equip them, we actively partner with institutions and do our bit towards education. However, our revenue is only generated from our clients / hiring partners who recruit people from the community. We constantly engage with the community in sensitization workshops, life skills training, theatre, arts etc. We do not charge anything from the community for our services.
Who is a “Chief Empathy Officer”? Can you tell us little bit more about your role?
A Chief Empathy Officer is someone who is able to look at people beyond their identity, resumes and qualifications. My role as one of them is to read between the lines.
The community that we work with in particular have difficulty in adapting and choosing the right path despite their exceptional skills. They tend to restrict themselves to opportunities solely because of their identity. My job is to help them look through these situations and create an environment where they can naturally thrive.
A defining incident that reassured you about your choice of profession?
Most of these moments are personal. To name a few, it was extremely overwhelming to hear my mother (who is probably still very intimidated by the trans population) proudly come tell me that she managed to approach a bunch of transgender people on the street and convince them to take my card in case they are looking for something better!
How do you see Diversity and Inclusion in the corporate world today? Is there a particular industry or geography where people adapt more easily?
Honestly, Inclusion has become more of a business term. I’d like to use “Acceptance” instead because only with acceptance can one be inclusive!
The diversity aspect with regard to marginalized communities still have a long way to go in the corporate set up, however we are happy to say that organizations are willing to take the leap.
With regard to industries, it’s more like two sides of the same coin. we see the community generally more drawn towards industries that bring out one’s individuality Eg – arts, fashion, theater etc. But at the same time, we have seen people adapt themselves beautifully to spaces that simply accept them and respect them for the way they choose to express themselves. It’s all in our heads!
What are some of your biggest challenges working in this space?
One of our biggest challenge is sensitizing the transgender community, bringing about a shift in their mindsets.
Just like how a ‘non-community’ or the society in general have preconceived notions about the community, it’s vice versa. It has been a challenge till date to make them unlearn and relearn several of these notions.
Another major challenge would be reaching out to schools and other educational institutions, one of our long-term goal is to sensitize educational institutions, we are still in the journey of figuring out the same.
What should an organization do if they want to hire someone from the transgender community?
The first thing any organization should do is to evaluate it’s purpose behind including them in their organization. As long as the company is addressing the reputation of the community, as well as their stance in the society along with their own, its a good place to begin. Investing in reliable resources to understand the same can greatly help the organization with its vision.
Anything else you would like to add?
There’s nothing that a smile and a polite conversation cannot do! The next time you come across a transgender person, try making meaningful conversations. I’m sure you will walk away with a different perspective.
A marketing graduate from the Indian School Of Business, Nandhitha is passionate about writing. She loves to write about the world around her and also enjoys dabbling with fiction/poetry. read more...
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"There is a story and a vision which makes us gravitate towards cinema. Even as we worked as assistants on ads, we realised that cinema was our true calling," say Gunpreet Kaur Mann and Deepali Singh Raseen.
The Railway Men. Mili. Cuttputli. The Diplomat. Bade Miyan Chote Miyan. And more…
Let me introduce to you the talented designer duo who have worked on these, and can be considered today’s upcoming costume designers for the screen. Gunpreet Kaur Mann and Deepali Singh.
Having studied at NIFT, Gunpreet Kaur Mann sent her portfolio out to several designers. Her first gig was as an assistant stylist with Manoshi and Rushi, who also happen to be a designer duo. She worked on an ad film starring Saif Ali Khan and eventually landed a full time job with designer Vikram Phadnis. Years of experience as assistant costume designer followed, which eventually led her to getting a break.
A ‘thank you’ makes a lot of difference in the way any woman in your life sees herself in your eyes. It might even mean the world to her.
I have not received any appreciation in the past. Probably never will. This is the experience of ample women across the globe. The expectation to be thanked for all the sacrifices she makes to keep others happy has faded. Yet the urge to hear few words of acknowledgement always lingers.
There is never a day when she pushes off her own burdens. She knows not to give up on people she loves. Women in general, are givers by nature and hence, give without asking anything in return. They have been the care givers and lovers since centuries however receive no appreciation.
It will mean the world to your mother if you answer her calls. If your sister seems lost give her a hug and assure her about her strengths. Tomorrow, there might come a day when you would have to make your daughter feel empowered with few words of wisdom every now and then. For the children to feel wanted and loved, you must be able to spare some quality time with your wife and be present in the moment.
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