Indian IT drafts policy for gays, transgender

By siliconindia   |   Monday, 29 November 2010, 16:25 Hrs
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Bangalore: Some Indian companies have opened doors to target the lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender (LGBT) community. Going ahead, the companies are holding manager and employee sensitisation programmes to avoid discrimination at the workplace. This is being considered a welcome gesture to the community as well as to boost diversity. Multinationals, who have strong diversity policies globally, are taking the lead and many Indian firms may follow soon. IBM India, for instance, is looking to adopt best practices from its parent organisation and this may include policy impacting initiatives. "Most progressive companies have an equal employment opportunities policy. The policy includes different sexual orientations. You are not discriminated on any aspect at work," said Kalpana Veeraraghavan, IBM workforce diversity manager, human resources. "We have manager sensitisation workshops on the LGBT workforce. We are aware of the community and they have their networking opportunities. There are many non-LGBT employees who are supporters of the cause," she added. In another first, industry body Nasscom held a discussion on LGBT at the workplace during a diversity and inclusivity summit that concluded in Bangalore on November 23. In last few years, the summit focused mostly on women issues and people with disabilities. Sucharita S Eashwar, senior director at Nasscom said the body wanted to look at all kinds of diversity, beyond genders. LGBT was one issue that cropped up in her discussions with the industry. "We heard it from some of the major companies like IBM, Accenture and Goldman Sachs. These companies in India have begun to look at LGBT issues because their parent companies have taken cognizance of the fact that this kind of diversity is a reality in our society," she said. This is a sea change as compared to three years a were uncomfortable discussing LGBT with their employees in India . A normally argumentative corporate classroom in Chennai had turned strange when Raj Ayyar, a cross-cultural diversity consultant mentioned 'LGBT' in one of his training sessions in 2007. The four letter word evoked surprise, whispers, nervous giggles and disinterest. A few in the training room looked away; others started playing with their hair. " There is a phobia about the LGBT community in India ," Ayyar, who has lectured extensively in the US , concluded. " India is decades behind the US and UK in increasing the comfort zone for the LGBT community, both socially and at the workplace," he said. This is probably true and many in the IT industry attest it. Some Indian IT firms say they have a very long way to go since the workplace has to mirror the society and LGBT is not even a mainstream discussion in the country. Diversity champion at Wipro and general manager, HR, Wipro EcoEnergy Sunita Rebecca Cherian said currently, the firm was an equal opportunity company. "We are not actively seeking LGBT as much as we are women or people with disability. But I think we will soon get there," she said. "We have still not looked into what specific needs the community has. In multinationals, they have formed networking groups where concerns of the community are raised," she added. Some experts are advising companies go slow in adopting LGBT policies, least it opens up problems that does not exist at all. Virtual networks may initially be more appropriate that physical groups. Many in India may not want to go public with the fact that he or she is part of the LGBT community.