LGBT community and their workplace problems

By Susweta GuhaThakurta on May 19, 2015

There is increasing evidence of gender diversity being embraced in the contemporary workplace in India. Traditionally workplaces have been notorious for the gender equality problem, but now a days a new problem persists among businesses: treatment of marginalized groups at the workplace. The crisis of one of these marginalized groups called Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Transgenders (LGBT) is discussed in this article. The sexual orientation of a lesbian woman is towards other women, whereas gay refers to men whose sexual orientation is towards other men. As for ‘bisexual’, the term refers to someone who is attracted to both men and women. Transgender or transsexual is the person who undergoes medical procedures to become a member of the opposite sex.

LGBT community’s situation in Indian workplace

After the economic liberalization of the early 1990s, Indian companies adopted many trends to become the forefront of global competitiveness. Today, Indian companies have to deal various dimensions of the dynamic workforce, and gender diversity is a significant variable in this regard.  The main challenge of LGBT professionals in the workplace today is that they are discouraged to disclose their sexual orientation in the workplace. If their sexual orientation is made public in the workplace then their contribution is not appreciated by their superiors. Therefore now the senior management is faced with the task of handling this issue by inculcating workplace practices that challenge the mindset of the workforce, thus fostering a safe and open environment for LGBT professionals (Banerji, Burns, Vernon, & CommunityBusiness, 2012).

The legal compliance of LGBT community is associated with section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which is described as “sensuous intercourse which is not regarded as the order of nature”. In 2009, Delhi High Court’s striking judgment against this historical provision has changed the fate of LGBT individuals as same sex behavior has been decriminalized, immediately classifying people of the LGBT community as criminals. After this revolutionary decision of Delhi High Court, societal changes have started taking place, making the social stigma against LGBT even more apparent than before. Despite several modern advancements in Indian businesses such as technological advancements, complexity in marketplace and overseas operations, Indian workplaces lag far behind in open-mindedness about people’s sexual orientation, as LGBT population is neither protected nor recognized in the Indian society. In the social sphere, forceful marriages take place or wrong information is provided before marriage regarding the sexual orientation about the bride or bridegroom. Apart from workplace, LGBT individuals are discouraged to take any initiative like political, economic and social.

Global organizations and their approach of the LGBT community

Today LGBT community is empowered through UN supported ‘Project Bolo’ or ‘Speak Up’ initiative across the country and this project is focused to uphold a positive role models within LGBT community. MINGLE (Mission for Indian Gay & Lesbian Empowerment) and Equal India Alliance’s restless efforts for LGBT issues as they strive for equal opportunities and fair treatment of LGBT individuals at the workplace. LGBT rights include employment for non-discrimination, civil partnerships, adoptions, surrogacy, and homophobic harassment (Banerji et al., 2012). Large scale organizations like Infosys, IBM, CITI Group, Google have dealt with this issue effectively. Infosys established a group named Infosys Gay Lesbian Employee and You (IGLU) and this group conducts various awareness programs and events to boost inclusion in the company. IBM has a similar type of group which is called Employee Alliance for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Empowerment (EAGLE) and members of this group are attached with senior employees to discuss LGBT issues (Phandis, 2012). Goldman Sachs also has a LGBT association where various events and training programs are conducted to create awareness among the employees regarding the importance of LGBT people in the workplace and development of equal opportunity policies. The global network of Accenture has brought Accenture’s Meritocracy Policy which is based on sexual and gender orientation. The company follows policies on equal opportunity and anti-harassment. So Accenture India also follows its global policy and exercises the spirit towards LGBT professionals. HR policy of CITI bank India has a provision to protect rights of LGBT group and this organization creates an employee network group, called ‘Pride’. To resolve LGBT issues, Godrej organizes regular events like organization talks, hosting plays. Godrej India hosted the biggest LGBT film ‘Kashish’ in India and other countries in South Asia (Vohra et al., 2015).

Improvements yet to be seen

In the workplace, LGBT community in India is unhappy with the lack of corporate attention, LGBT role models, diversity awareness training, and the prevalence of direct and indirect discrimination. Improvements in this regard may happen when the initiatives come from government, organization and NGOs’. These three participants or moderators of well-being of LGBT community can take actions like developing equal opportunity policy, introducing diversity structure, providing diversity training and inculcating corporate culture in the organization and this awareness must be highlighted in the society (Banerji et al., 2012).