Inclusion in India Inc

India is a sum total of several diverse cultures, languages, ethnicity and castes. Differences and similarities coexist and are complexly intertwined into the very grain of India. This makes India a highly complex yet compelling landscape to better understand the role of Diversity and Inclusion in Corporate India.

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of government and well as private corporation led policies and initiatives to bring diversity and inclusion into the main stream lexicon. Some of the noteworthy developments are India’s market regulator mandating listed companies to have at least one woman director on their boards, amendment of the Section 377 extending rights to the LGBTQ communities and Extension of maternity leave to six months. Studies and research has shown that such initiatives that help companies develop a more broader and global mindset, and more importantly help them reap immense benefits including better market positions, greater customer satisfaction and more robust bottom lines.

Yet there lies a vast difference between diversity and inclusion, terms that are used interchangeably quite often. As diversity advocate Verna Mayers quoted, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance” while focus on diversity will ensure your organization has a ‘Mix’, policies and focus on inclusion will ensure that this ‘mix’ works in a way that is meaningful to both the employees as well as the company.

While various hiring and retention manifestoes can help companies achieve diversity, focused policy and mindset changes are required for the purpose of inclusion.

Let us look at the Godrej India Culture Lab who has been working on a project that specifically makes the case for corporate India to embrace the 4.9 lakh documented transgender people in India, 92% of whom are still unable to participate in the formal economy, according to the National Human Rights Commission.

At the culmination of the project, a paper titled, ‘A Manifesto for Trans Inclusion in the Indian Workplace’ was presented by Shahani, head of Godrej India Culture Lab, with support from the Keshav Suri Foundation, Humsafar Trust, Periferry, TWEET Foundation, and Community Business.

This manifesto, apart from highlighting the history of transgender people in India and various other data, also make a case on why hiring and inclusion of LGTBA community into mainstream corporate world can have many financial and other benefits for an organization. While supporting data and research finds can make a compelling case for the hiring of the LGBTQ community, The process of including and integrating them into the workforce is one that can pose many challenges and obstacles. The transgender community of India has been one that has been historically highly marginalized and have borne many social stigmas and discrimination for several hundred years. The latter half of the Manifesto also acted as a ‘How to’ guide for companies to adopt inclusive hiring practices sensitizing current employees, widening the scope of health insurance and medical benefits, rethinking restroom infrastructures, and implementing policies like gender neutral adoption leave and equal opportunity benefits.

It cannot be overlooked that there are some real cost implications in the short term, however in the long term companies which demonstrated a whole-hearted and deep reaching focus on inclusion have reaped many benefits such as coveted employer credibility, more wide spread revenue streams and greater employee engagement and retention.