September 2018

Working with pride

Tata companies are focused on creating LGBTQ+ friendly workplaces where employees can be true to their inner selves

People with a sexual orientation that is different from the 'norm' often have to struggle for acceptance. With a strong belief in Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), Tata companies are attempting to put in place processes that will enable LGBTQ+ employees to experience the workplace without any bias on the basis of their sexuality, sexual identity or sexual orientation. Group companies such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and Tata Steel have started taking steps to provide an inclusive workplace for their LGBTQ+ colleagues.

LGBTQ+ is a collective term that includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, pansexual, asexual people and their allies. One of the key steps taken under this initiative was to create employee networks that act as a source of support to LGBTQ+ employees. TCS has set up the LGBTQ+ Network QOLORS, JLR has established JLR Pride and Tata Steel has launched Mosaic Wings. These resource groups and networks are supportive in creating greater inclusion.

TCS support and services for LGBTQ+ employees
At TCS, the journey of including transgender associates started after the 2014 Supreme Court judgment which mandates inclusion of the transgender community across sectors. The D&I team started conversations with the transgender community and expanded the discourse to include TCS's gay community as well. Diversity meetings discussed ways to promote LGBTQ+ inclusion in corporate spaces. Articles were uploaded on the intranet that encouraged people to get in touch with the D&I team if they had queries or suggestions.

TCS UK&I celebrating inclusion at the LGBTQ+ network launch

Processes were set in place to deal with LGBTQ+ identity-based bullying and sexual harassment cases by POSH or ethics committees. A clear message was conveyed that bullying and sexual harassment of the LGBTQ+ community would not be tolerated.

Discussions were undertaken by the D&I team and locational HR heads to set up gender-neutral washrooms. The dress code was additionally interpreted to be inclusive of transpersons who could wear attire based on their gender identity, provided it followed the guidelines; and security teams were sensitised on this matter.

TCS brought in resource partner Humsafar Trust — a human rights organisation which focuses on LGBTQ+ rights — to conduct formal sensitisation sessions for HR and business leaders. Humsafar was also informed about job vacancies and job drives so that they could pass the information to their networks.

Support network
TCS set up a 'We Support LGBTQ+ Rights' community on the internal social media page that became a platform for information and queries. This was also used to spread information about Pride marches and queer film festivals.

Early in 2018, the TCS D&I team formed the LGBTQ+ network as an affinity group developed to create a safe, inclusive and respectful work environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. It's an energetic and connected network of TCS LGBTQ+ colleagues who are committed to each other's success and to attracting and retaining talented LGBTQ+ individuals. The network is now operational in Bengaluru, Chennai, Gandhinagar, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune and Vadodara.

In TCS UK and Ireland, the LGBTQ+ network was launched in March 2018. It is headed by Filipe Mota Da Silva, who heads the sales function of a TCS business unit. The network holds awareness sessions that include accomplished and influential leaders from customer organisations to drive business case for LGBTQ+ inclusion.

The launch included a CXO Connect Session, moderated by Deborah Sherry, general  manager and CCO of GE Digital Europe. This session focused on how to thrive in a diverse work environment, with a particular focus on LGBTQ+ issues. A second session held in May emphasised the need for inclusion. Drew Keller, programme director of Open for Business spoke on why LGBTQ+ inclusion is good for business and for economic growth.

Matters discussed in network meetings are kept confidential. Over 100 employees joined the network meeting across India, UK and Philippines through video conferencing, to celebrate Pride month. The TCS network is also ensuring that the LGBTQ+ network stays aligned with international trends by connecting with networks in other countries.

Supporting transitioning associates
An integral element of LGBTQ+ inclusive workplaces is for organisations to accommodate requests from employees undergoing sex reassignment surgery (SRS). At TCS, employees transitioning from one gender to another are provided requisite leave. Business teams are informed of the process and the support required. The company keeps in touch with the employee pre and post surgery, even when they are on leave. Post-transition, associates are supported in re-locating if they request for it.

Tanishkha T, who joined TCS in 2011 as senior process associate and completed her gender transformation in 2017, shares her experience: "The environment which TCS created was spectacular. My colleagues, both male and female, acknowledged the transition, and their response made my life better. I thank TCS for having allowed me to be myself and helping me to transition completely. Without the support of my HR and D&I team, this would definitely not have been possible."

Ideas for change
TCS believes that the journey to mainstreaming the LGBTQ+ community still has a long way to go. The community constantly provides suggestions and the organisation has been considering several more steps for implementing change. For instance, sensitisation can be improved by having TCS's Nautanki groups executing short skits on the issue. Multimedia communication campaigns and workshops can be held and story-telling sessions can be conducted by associates belonging to the LGBTQ+ community — this will not only reflect their experiences but also promote better communication within the workplace.

The TCS LGBTQ+ initiative is a visible sign of the efforts within the company to challenge LGBTQ+ workplace discrimination and develop a diverse professional resource pool which positively represents and contributes to the whole organisation.

Jaguar Land Rover feels Pride
JLR, a part of the Tata group since 2008, holds diversity to be key to success and is taking active steps to create an all-inclusive culture. The first step it took was to become a Stonewall Diversity Champion. Stonewall is the largest LGBTQ+ charity in Europe committed to equal rights for LGBTQ + individuals across the world.

35 colleagues from JLR Pride took part in Birmingham Pride for the first time in May 2018, alongside a Range Rover SVA

Membership of this organisation gives JLR the help and support to create an inclusive culture, and to amend HR policies and guidelines to reflect this change. JLR's Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) have always focused on supporting diversity through various initiatives. JLR Pride is one of the first ERGs that was set up to support LGBTQ+ colleagues and allies within the company. Officially launched in June 2018, JLR Pride has been running as a network since January 2018. The network has already made a lot of progress — from attending numerous recruitment events to understanding best practices from other companies, and attending the first Pride event in Birmingham, UK, in May 2018.

Laura Coombs, Chair, JLR Pride, says, "This network is important to all JLR colleagues. People work better when they can bring themselves to work, and that is why this network is so important. We are trying hard to focus on allies of the LGBTQ+ community so that everyone is empowered to challenge negative behaviour and give support to our LGBTQ+ colleagues that is so often denied."

JLR's new executive sponsor, Nigel Blenkinsop (Director, Quality and Automotive Safety), is passionately committed to driving forward the network's agenda. He says, "It was very humbling to get the chance to be an executive sponsor of this network. It's a great opportunity for the LGBTQ+ network to create an alliance and to have a positive impact on our organisation." JLR Pride hopes to build on its present success to enable Jaguar Land Rover to reach its goal of being a truly diverse company where people feel safe to be themselves and empowered to help those struggling with their identity.

Tata Steel's Mosaic takes Wings
Mosaic is the name of Tata Steel's D&I initiative. The company launched Mosaic Wings, its ERG for the LGBT community, in May 2018 at Tata Centre, Kolkata.

The event was attended by many Tata Centre employees as well as MDs and CHROs of Tata Steel companies, and had Peeyush Gupta (Vice President, Steel Marketing and Sales, Tata Steel) as the chief guest. The highlight of the event was the panel discussion on 'Inclusion of LGBTs in the workplace'. The high-profile panel included Peeyush Gupta, Suresh Dutt Tripathi (Vice President, HRM, Tata Steel), Ramkrishna Sinha (Leader, I-Globe, LGBT resource group, Intel), Sukhdeep Singh (Founder, Gaylaxy Magazine), Anubhuti Banerjee (the first employee at Tata Steel to undergo gender reassignment surgery and an active member of Wings), as well as Atrayee S Sanyal (Chief Group HR and Chief Diversity Officer, Tata Steel), who curated the discussion.

Panel discussion during Mosaic Wings launch. L to R: Ramkrishna Sinha, Peeyush Gupta, Suresh Dutt Tripathi and Anubhuti Banerjee

The discussion included personal experiences of the panel members. Ms Banerjee shared many emotional experiences, while guest speakers spoke about social biases and stereotypes that LGBTs face, and the difficulty of coping with societal pressure to conform. "Inclusion is about employees bringing their best capabilities to the workplace irrespective of their sexual orientation. We try to conform and exclude those who do not. There is a need to migrate from policy to practice for true inclusion," says Mr Gupta. Mr Tripathi added that employee sensitisation is integral to promote an overall culture of inclusion and that "we should refrain from subconsciously excluding a few people."

The Wings event was a big success as 70 employees signed up to be LGBT allies at the launch itself. Tata Steel will roll out the Wings network to other locations, so that members and allies can help the organisation support an LGBTQ+ friendly workplace.

An inclusive workplace is one where employees' concerns are respected and addressed. By empowering its LGBTQ+ associates and giving them a more powerful voice, TCS, JLR and Tata Steel are striving to create a happy, engaged and productive employee base.

TCS PHILIPPINES GOES COLOURFUL

Philippines is considered to be one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries around the world, and TCS Philippines is working to create equality and inclusivity at the workplace. It held its first-ever sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE) forum on the theme 'Learn your Colours' on March 1, 2018, celebrated as global Zero Discrimination Day.

The idea behind the forum was to build gender sensitivity among employees through the awareness of basic SOGIE terms, as well as by breaking common gender stereotypes and misconceptions. The forum was conducted by Felipe Joaquin "Quino" Reyes of the Philippine LGBT Bar Association, who shared some SOGIE etiquette points:

  • Try not to assume gender identities
  • Use appropriate gender pronouns
  • Use gender-neutral language
  • Recognise and respect fluidity of SOGIE

After Quino's talk, LGBTQ+ employees shared their respective journeys toward finding their own identities and gaining acceptance from friends and families.

The speeches at the forum underscored the need for sustained SOGIE awareness initiatives in order to prevent gender-based bullying. Participants also voiced recommendations on how to make the workplace even more adaptable and inclusive. In addition to the company's non-discrimination policy, suggestions included an anti-SOGIE harassment policy, and facilities that catered to the special needs of LGBTQ+ employees.

Apart from the forum, global Zero Discrimination Day was recognised across all sites in TCS Philippines. Employees came to work dressed in different colours of the rainbow to show their support towards the LGBTQ+ community.

Abbreviations
LGBT: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender
LGBTQ+: A collective term that includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, pansexual, asexual people and their allies

This article first appeared in July 2018 issue of Diversity Matters, the magazine that captures developments in the diversity and Inclusion space from Tata group companies