Welcome to “One Cubicle At A Time” Series

Diversity in the workforce is something that is not talked about much in India. There is a vast gender disparity in the workforce and we still do not have an extensive report on the workforce diversity in India based on alternate gender and sexual orientation. Few Multinational companies have policies that include gender and sexual orientation in their non-discriminatory list. And very few companies implement this.

After the Delhi High Court judgment that decriminalised consensual non-penovaginal sexual activities in 2009, some companies started Employee Resource Groups (ERG) to support their LGBT+ employees, some publicly participated in the pride parades to show solidarity for their LGBT+ employees. However, after the Supreme Court judgment in 2013 that overturned the Delhi High Court ruling on Section 377; most of the LGBT+ ERGs went into limbo. ERGs are not the final solution to bring an inclusive workplace; they are an acknowledgement of the existence of diverse employees. Moreover there seems to be a hesitation among the companies to openly support their LGBT+ employees. Many cite Section 377 for not starting an ERG. But Section 377 does not criminalise sexual orientation. It merely states that any sexual activity other than penovaginal sex is punishable. While companies are quick to point out Section 377 to not act upon ‘their’ inclusive policy, many fail to act upon the NALSA verdict as well. The question does not stop at discrimination, many companies lack accessibility of basic resources to their employees. Our workplaces are also equally unfriendly towards women and disabled individuals.

Business cartoon showing a black man at his office cubicle and a white woman in the cube beside him. She is saying, 'I just found out that we ARE the diversity department'.

Most companies verbally agree that there should not be any sort of discrimination against LGBT+ employees. There are a few companies that support and provide a safe working condition to their LGBT+ employees, in spite of Section 377 in the books. The positive side is, there are many individuals – queer and allies – who are pushing their workplace to implement their non-discriminatory policies in paper to reality.

The question about gender equality and inclusiveness of alternate gender and sexual orientation in homegrown companies are not much known. This includes every company in the private sector in India. In most of the cases there is no clear policy about what amounts to discrimination. The brighter side is that, few companies strive to provide a safe space for their employees irrespective of their gender and sexuality. Quite a few also came out in support of the LGBT+ community during the December 2013 Supreme Court judgment.

In this series I am going to converse with various individuals who are working to bring change in their workplace. The conversation will also focus on the lack of inclusivity and what makes the workplace unsafe for an individual. My primary focus will be on individuals – queers, straight cis-women, disabled persons and allies – and companies based in India. I also invite you to share your story.