Diversity and inclusion at the workplace: Bengaluru hosts its first Dive In chapter

By Sasha R|1st Oct 2019
On September 26, Bengaluru hosted its first edition of Dive In, a global conference to discuss diversity and inclusion at the workplace. It saw expert speakers and panelists such as Aruna Newton, Nirmala Menon, and Akkai Padmashali.
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Although many workplaces in India claim to be inclusive and have a diverse set of employees, the question of authenticity remains. Are conversations around topics considered taboo encouraged? Can employees from the LGBTQIA+ community be themselves without fear? Are women taken seriously and given equal pay?


Since its inception in 2015, Dive In has held four editions across 33 countries, and aims to enable people and raise awareness beyond traditional descriptions among firms.


The themes of the event included gender and cultural diversity, conscious and unconscious bias, disability inclusion, women in leadership, mental health, and generational diversity.


In a panel discussion titled “Beyond numbers: why a culture of inclusion is imperative” which aimed to talk about being inclusive of people from all walks of life even when there is no tangible data available on the number of people from certain communities, Aruna Newton, Global Head, Diversity and Inclusion, Infosys, said,

“Inclusion could have a different definition for an individual and a group. It takes a lot to make every person in the world feel included. Equal opportunity at the workplace is still a big challenge in the country. The idea is to create playing fields that allows everyone to play a part of and creating context for someone to participate. And that’s when inclusion begins.”
Dive In 1

(L-R) Nirmala Menon, Suresh Ramdas, Aruna Netwon, Shreya Krishnan (Moderator)

Emphasising on the need for a truly inclusive workplace, panelists Nirmala Menon, Founder, Interweave Consulting and Suresh Ramdas, India LGBTQ lead, HP spoke about respecting every employee and listening to their needs, although they may seem trivial. Suresh Ramdas also spoke about the positive effect on every existing and future employee caused by a change made at the request of one or a small number of employees, taking the example of creating gender-neutral restrooms.


Speaking at a panel discussion titled “The business of diversity and inclusion,” Raji Arun, HR Director, AIG said, “We need to have the intent and acceptance when it comes to diversity and inclusion. This event on its own shows our intent towards living happily in a much diverse world.” She added that AIG has developed Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that act as a platform for people to come together and work towards achieving inclusion.


Addressing the issue of exclusion of the transgender community, social activist Akkai Padmashali said,


“The transgender community struggles with social rejection. Our family, friends, siblings and institutions around us do not accept us or make us feel included. We are made to feel lower than the untouchables. We just want to enjoy the basic rights that every human has – access to education, earn enough to take care of ourselves, own a house. We as a community are fighting against so many phobias.”
Akkai Padmashali

Transgender activist Akkai Padmashali

Speaking to HerStory, transgender activist Akkai Padmashali addressed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 which, if passed in the Rajya Sabha, will enable district magistrates to judge a transgender person based on whether they have undergone sex reassignment surgery, and doesn't address any government welfare schemes meant for the transgender community:


“If we state that we identify with a certain gender, we are that gender, whether we have had surgery or not. We will resist and agitate against the bill so that it doesn’t get passed in the Rajya Sabha. If it is passed, it means the current government doesn’t respect democracy, constitutionality, or morality. We will definitely stand to have the bill rejected.”

She also spoke about discrimination within the LGBTQIA+ community:


“People degrade transgender men. They also undermine traditional transgender communities like the hijra and jogappa. They also make sexist comments about lesbian women. To tackle this, we as a community need to be more interactive and gather together. For example, some people ask me to refer to them by gender-neutral pronouns like they/them/theirs, and as an activist I learn, practise and adopt that.”


The event also saw Pinky Chandran, Co-founder, Radio Active CR 90.4 and Satish Kumar, an openly gay accounts analyst at Swiss Re sharing their personal journeys. There was also a gender inequality report by Swiss Re presented at the event.


The Dive In festival in Bengaluru was attended by more than 100 participants including CEOs, CHROs, Diversity and Inclusion teams and HR professionals across India.


(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)


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