The quest for LGBTQ rights in India has gone through many crests and troughs. The reading down of Section 377 by the Supreme Court in 2018 led to a fundamental shift in the rights of India’s LGBTQ citizens and necessitated policy changes across the board - not least in the world of Indian business.

In Queeristan, Parmesh Shahani, Vice President at Godrej Industries Ltd, draws from his decade-long journey in the corporate world as an out and proud gay man, to make a cogent case for LGBTQ inclusion and reshaping India’s office culture.

The author begins by sharing his life’s experiences towards becoming an advocate for LGBTQ inclusion. From having founded the Godrej Culture Lab, he now guides India’s leading companies on their inclusion journeys through Jugaad Resistance, a resourceful, solution-based opposition from within the establishment.

The second part of the book traces this history alongside the feminist movement, changes in the law, and explains the individual identities within the LGBTQIA+ community. It also discusses what it means to be LGBTQ in India and shares intimate and powerful stories of love and family.

Why LGBTQ inclusion makes sense

Most businesses think diversity is only about ‘women’. In Queeristan, the author draws references from a 2013 study of US companies by the New York-based Centre for Talent Innovation that indicates that consciously talking about diversity and inclusion (across different sections) makes an organization 45% more likely to increase its market share.

A more recent 2021 study by global HR Consulting firm Randstad India in association with Women’s Web (Inclusion Without Exception: Where India Inc. stands with respect to the LGBTQ+ community) identified that only 9% of surveyed organizations feel that ‘significant’ efforts have been made for LGBTQ+ inclusion in India Inc. This underscores the need for more conversation as well as action in the corridors of corporate India.

In conversations with inclusion champions and business leaders who have systematically worked towards bringing changes in their LGBTQ policies, they reveal how they can track its benefits in the workplace. Besides being the fundamentally right thing to do, LGBTQ inclusion translates to increased innovation and higher profits.

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How to make your workplace LGBTQ inclusive

The author lays out a five-step guide for businesses to create a queer-friendly and inclusive work environment. This includes:

  • Setting up corporate policies and benefits for LGBTQ employees: All organizations must recognize the need to create provisions for members of the community.
  • Actively recruiting LGBTQ employees: Creating formal systems of inclusion will ensure that LGBTQ members are made a part of the workforce.
  • Creating an LGBTQ-friendly work culture within the company: Inclusion needs to be practiced and percolated through the culture of the organization which includes aspects like inclusive behavior and communication.
  • Addressing specific challenges of Trans employees: Some sections of the LGBTQ community have found acceptance at work; however, the umbrella needs to include transgender people also. This is the area that needs a significant amount of work.
  • Becoming an advocate for LGBTQ issues outside the company: Call out discriminatory behavior, within or outside the organization, thereby becoming an ally in the true sense.

In conclusion

Industry giants like Godrej, Tata Steel, IBM, Wipro, the Lalit group of hotels, and many others have tapped into the power of diversity. Their transformation into LGBTQ-friendly workspaces has revolutionized the lives of their employees. But to be equitable and profitable, not just them, but society at large needs to advocate for diversity and inclusion. This is a new world of possibilities and is evolving as we speak. It is time for everyone to join in and create it per our imagination.

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