Taking pride in creating an inclusive and diverse corporate world
Not many corporations in India have yet adopted a comprehensive LGBTQ+ benefits plan, and therefore, lack several important benefits, which should ideally be a part of LGBTQ+ covers.
According to a 2015 study by McKinsey titled ‘Why diversity matters,’ firms with better gender diversity did 15 percent better than the others. The study indicated that corporations having more ethnic and racial diversity among their employees did 35 percent better than those with employee demographics similar to the national average. Another follow-up study in 2018 called ‘Delivering through Diversity’ reflected that gender-diverse firms did 21 percent better compared to the national average.
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), which is being promoted by top corporations across the world, need to be equally demonstrated in India as well. There is a strong need to include various groups such as people of all ages, genders, cultures, and sexual orientations to increase workplace opportunity. Most corporations are still oblivious to the fact that DEI has the power to connect people as they engage themselves in shared learning, understanding and experiences.
September 6, 2018, was a historic day when the Supreme Court of India decriminalized homosexuality and overruled its own 2013 verdict, nearly striking down Section 377, which was a questionable British-time regulation that outlawed consensual same-sex relationships.
What has changed since then?
Organisations have been open-minded in hiring LGBTQ+ employees, keeping diversity and culture intact. However, there still exists huge discrimination among the LGBTQ+ community basis sexual orientation and gender identification. The community not only faces harassment and discrimination, but is far from getting equal rights.
And when they are already facing so much, should we not at least enable them to get equal healthcare rights and facilities at the workplace? This is all the more crucial as these communities are susceptible to depression, which makes counselling and therapy a must for their psychological and mental wellness.
Not many corporations in India have yet adopted a comprehensive LGBTQ+ benefits plan and therefore, lack several important benefits, which should ideally be a part of LGBTQ+ covers.
The progress and lag
Although there has been progress when it comes to LGBTQ+ inclusion, it holds no ground until inclusion begins to show in the policy change. After the colonial law was abolished in 2018, companies such as Godrej and Mahindra famously began their path towards inclusion by hiring people from the queer community. And today, large-size corporations such as Procter & Gamble India, Citibank, Capgemini, Tata Group and startups like Meesho, Unacademy, Fi, TheMathCompany etc. have begun to extend employee benefits to LGBTQ+ employees.
One of the main changes has been to replace the word ‘spouse’ with ‘partner’ in insurance policies to fix the obvious problem of the previous binary outlook. The definition of ‘partner’ allows for flexibility and non-binary thinking. This is a good start, but only that.
Commitment is the difference between talking and doing. Companies are slow to make that commitment because policymaking takes time, and it requires support from various agencies. There still exists a yawning gap. While it is now possible to imagine 100 percent coverage through all of India (provided companies choose the right insurance providers), companies and certain industries are slow to catch on. Even within the LGBTQ+ community, awareness of benefits is low. A majority of the community may lack the knowledge; in many cases, they simply do not know that they can expect these benefits if they chose their employer selectively. Part of the problem is that there exists no single database of inclusive employers.
The larger problem
The issue is two-fold. Firstly, companies that do want to be inclusive should take time to change policy. They may not have access to the right expertise to do so. In many cases, they need to bring in outside consultants to achieve that policy change.
Secondly, the majority of India’s companies either don’t have plans of being inclusive and when they do, they’re slow to act. The diversity and inclusion movement in India has still not reached critical mass.
Neglecting mental health
Just as crucial as physical health, policy change should reflect on mental health covers. It is not well-known, but true that cases of mental illnesses (including but not limited to depression and anxiety) within the LGBTQ+ community are higher. This is due to the societal pressures they face from tender ages and into adulthood. The way that our society is designed is not inclusive. This is something that employers who wish to be inclusive cannot overlook.
Mental health covers need to be a part of that policy change. Companies must also proactively provide counselling for the LGBTQ+ community so that they can overcome any mental trauma that may be affecting them and their overall wellbeing.
What should be done?
The LGBTQ+ community yearns for compassion and empathy. The community wants people to recognise the mental trauma it suffers when faced with societal discrimination. There are certain requirements of these communities including gender reassignment surgeries, hormone therapy, consultations, and therapists to build confidence and align their minds and bodies with what and how they feel from within. Therefore, there is a need for a comprehensive and holistic cover that can meet all their health and wellness requirements. The intent should be to cover everyone suffering from any illness – physical or mental and only then can you think of being fully inclusive and diverse.
Things to ponder
An organisation is defined by its culture. In the modern-day, diverse organisational setup and work culture are determined by how companies create an environment of compassion and empathy for all their employees.
We need more companies that can be instrumental in driving the inclusion of LGBTQ+ health covers as part of Group Health Insurance policies. Such companies must proactively motivate other companies to consider progressive covers which include gender reassignment surgeries, maternity and paternity, IVF, etc. Companies must take interest in learning what typical LGBTQ+ covers are available, what more benefits should be added to make them robust, and how has been the adoption of LGBTQ covers among corporates, etc.
Lastly, for contributing towards a truly diverse and inclusive corporate world, organisations must ask themselves – are we creating a culture that supports LGBTQ+ employees? Are we hiring members of the community and making the culture safe enough for them to be themselves? After all, one of the most important factors of inclusivity is to ‘accept people the way they are’ - are our organisations built for such individuality?
Edited by Diya Koshy George
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)