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How Included Does The LGBTQ+ Community Feel At Work? This Study Gives Us The Reality!

'Inclusion without Exception,' brings together the employer-employee perspective to present significant trends and highlight the steps needed for true inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community at work.

“In India, we don’t talk about sexuality much. It’s like it doesn’t exist, especially in the workplace context.”

– Anonymous, a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Irrespective of who we are, in terms of identity or orientation, we are all human beings with the same capacity for emotion at heart; this means all of us have the capacity to support and sympathize with members of the LGBTQ+ community, or even go one step further and empathize with their needs. 

However, the buck does not stop there. The LGBTQ+ community, much like women, has been victimized by cantankerous patriarchal norms and expectations. Working women among us face a lot of barriers, having to deal with unrealistic expectations and responsibilities. Yet, many of us still fall within the accepted ‘cisgender and heterosexual, gender binary’ norms and do not have to fight for our very right to exist. Can the same be said for our counterparts from the LGBTQ+ community? 

Things are indeed evolving, especially at workplaces adopting global standards and norms. We, as individuals, come across many such scenarios around initiatives that are done at organizational levels in the Diversity & Inclusion space. This possibly shapes our thoughts around the subject. Some of us become allies while others choose to observe from the sidelines. But, how often do you get a chance to interact and understand what our LGBTQ+ counterparts feel about inclusion at work?

‘Inclusion without Exception’: Let’s understand the reality!

Women’s Web, since its inception, remains an inclusive space that believes in amplifying the voices against patriarchy. As a vibrant platform that continues to share the lived experiences of the LGBTQ+ community and stands up with them in allyship, Women’s Web, in association with Randstad, one of the leading organizations in the HR services industry, and Randstad RiseSmart, the leader in global talent mobility solutions, has launched an exclusive study on Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I)

This ground-breaking study, titled ‘Inclusion without Exception,’ brings together the employer-employee perspective to present significant trends and highlight the steps needed for true inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community – beyond the mere presence or absence of policies and provisions at the workplace.

Information for the study was gathered through one-on-one interactions with employed members of the LGBTQ+ community and other workplace stakeholders such as those from HR and D&I leadership at all levels, members of support networks, policymakers, community leaders, and coworkers.

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Some enlightening findings from the study include: 

  • 60% of MNC leaders are LGBTQ+ immersive with integral inclusion goals in their leadership.
  • 9.5% of the surveyed organizations made especially vital efforts to be LGBTQ+ inclusive (the majority were MNCs).
  • 69.2% of the surveyed organizations have made limited efforts to be truly inclusive in their organizational culture and approach.
  • 40% of the surveyed organizations cited that they provide training to reduce hiring biases against LGBTQ+ workgroups. 
  • 53% of the surveyed organizations stated that they do not offer bespoke career development opportunities to members of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • 70% of study respondents felt that no considerable steps were taken in the direction of LGBTQ+ inclusion in their respective organizations. 
  • LGBTQ+ hires are absorbed primarily at the junior (33%) and middle levels (31%). 

The LGBTQ+ community still has reservations with identity declaration 

The level of comfort with ‘coming out’ for individuals identifying as  LGBTQ+ continues to be significantly low, at 34%.

This reluctance to reveal their true selves can be explained by the finding that a significant 44% of the surveyed organizations have no sensitization programs for employees to embrace their LGBTQ+ colleagues and counterparts; this results in a generally prevalent, conspicuous lack of awareness among other employees of the organization. 

The study confirms that the LGBTQ+ community perceives women as natural allies!

Many participants from the LGBTQ+ community confirmed that, on the whole, there are more allies at their respective workplaces, at least in MNC organizations. There are, however, concerns about the performative allyship that some people offer to gain exposure. Such allies often falter – in standing up to bias, eventually failing to build trust.

Perhaps the most reaffirming finding in the study is that individuals from the LGBTQ+ community perceived women to be natural allies. Coming together to smash patriarchy, we might say! 

This reveals how women with cisgender heterosexual privileges, stand in solidarity and partnership with the LGBTQ+ community and help take on the systems that challenge the group’s basic rights, equal access, and ability to thrive in the society.

However, it is not to say that allyship programs should only target women; perhaps, this finding goes to emphasize that there is room to make women-centric programs more intersectional.

Understanding Perspectives: How included does the LGBTQ+ community feel in real life?

Many study respondents from the LGBTQ+ community felt that their organizations seemed to have no vision or policies for the community – even if it were, it was often limited to HR.

Some respondents believe that organizations focus solely on equality rather than equity, thereby underestimating the specific challenges faced by the community.

Besides this, respondents stated that even in places where overt discrimination does not exist, there is a spectrum of behavior ranging from borderline toxic to ‘neutrality’ or indifference to making the other feel included and safe.

Job searches and unique challenges:

The study respondents from the LGBTQ+ community shared some unique challenges that they faced while searching for jobs. 

Trans persons, having had minimal access to education continue to face challenges in finding jobs. The few opportunities that they have access to are often ‘charity’ offers. These opportunities encompass very few white-collar roles, bringing us back to the question of access to education. Most blue-collar jobs still follow a ‘default male’ template. Besides, the trans community also cites a dire need for transition across all levels, right from fundamental factors such as washroom access.

Queer/Gender-Fluid/Non-binary have reported instances of low success in interviews if they do not follow a gender-binary appearance. 

On the whole, there is prevalent anxiety attached to the subtle shunning that may be triggered by coming to know about the identity/preference of the LGBTQ+ individual. Besides, there is also the need to establish policies concerning partner benefits for LGBTQ+ individuals.

How can HR leaders overcome these challenges?

Inclusion is more than activity; it is an attitude shift for the long-term success of organizations, and HR leaders currently confront some key challenges such as 

  • preparedness of HR teams in implementing differential hiring and managing the employee life cycle of community members
  • readiness of functional teams to include LGBTQ+ members with unconditional acceptance
  • the willingness of colleagues to sign up as allies and demonstrate allyship through actions and attitudes at work 

In conclusion, we may reiterate what Viswanath PS, MD & CEO, Randstad India, expressed while presenting key insights drawn from this unique ED&I study:

“Leaders must educate and position themselves as true champions of inclusion at work. D&I training programs alone will not create a sustained behavior change, instead, the ED&I commitments should be an organization-wide, coherent, strategic approach. This unique report is an attempt to help employers deep dive into the real issues of inclusion through the lens of the LGBTQ+ community and other stakeholders, enabling them to make innovative decisions. Creating an organisational culture where we respect and celebrate the differences too takes time, understanding, and effort. But organizations should realize that this is their true recipe to success.”

Download your complete copy of the study and its very relevant findings here.

Image credits: Anete Lusina via Pexels

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About the Author

Sindhu Priyadharsini Sankar

Sindhu is a writer and a mother of two. A self-confessed bibliophile and a movie buff, she finds relief and meaning in doodling, cooking, escaping to hill towns, and her friends. A big fan read more...

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