The involvement of LGBTQIA+ people in mainstream workplaces, their requirements and practical implementation was discussed at an event hosted by the US consulate general Kolkata, in collaboration with BRIDGE and The Rainbow Room, at American Center on April 28.
Participants at Voices of Diversity – Enabling inclusion in Workplaces for LGBTQIA+ engaged in a conscious dialogue on making workplaces an inclusive space. Several employers, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and activists attended the event to broaden the dialogue base around the concern and to discuss active measures being taken to create safe spaces.
Representatives from several groups like SAPPHO who have been working with ground-level sensitisation and corporate houses put forward their views
The American Center champions LGBTQIA+ causes, continuing the legacy of the American struggle from the Stonewall riots to marriage equality.
“Today’s event will showcase different stories of members of the LGBTQIA+ communities, followed by some discussions on specific courses of action that can be taken for the interest of the community. The US has gone through a lot from the way that we deal with the issues of gender, sexuality and LGBTQIA + communities. There’s a lot to be learnt from inspiring leaders in India and there’s also a lot to discuss about how we can be allies in very basic human rights processes, this being one of them,” said Juan Clar, deputy director of American Center.
Rudra Kishore Mandal, adviser, BRIDGE, opened the conversation by stating, “We did a survey in West Bengal with students, educators and employers to understand their problems, to understand where they are lacking in the understanding of LGBTQIA+ issues and to make their spaces more inclusive towards us. This is basically going to be a very interactive dialogue. This will be you talking to us about your problems and employers discussing their issues and what policies they have implemented to make their organisations more inclusive.”
Several representatives from leading corporate houses and art centres who joined the discussion
Representatives from several groups like SAPPHO who have been working with ground-level sensitisation and corporate houses put forward their views. Ankana Dey from SAPPHO, who looks after the corporate sensitisation programme, raised several ground-level issues faced by representations of the community. “In the programme that I am heading (CSP), we try to get involved with various corporations and look for opportunities and create sensitization programme modules. These modules include the basic understanding of sex, gender and sexuality but are not limited to it. It also includes ally-ships and several other topics. As an organisation, we face some brutal challenges. We have had the opportunity to talk to more than 10 big corporations. Policies exist, but they are hardly implemented. We have been talking about gender neutral toilets. We went to a corporation where there are gender-neutral but these toilets are built so far that an employee who identifies with the community and wants to use those toilets will face a cut from their free time and that might impact their salary structure.”
Several representatives from leading corporate houses and art centres who joined the discussion included AXIS Bank, Cognizant, Lalit Hotels, Tata Steel, Kolkata Centre for Creativity and others. Upamanyu Sengupta representing Cognizant mentioned, “We don’t just focus on the Pride month. Every month we have a calendar where there is a significant LGBTQIA+ event like Lesbian Visibility Week. We make sure that there is a person from the organisation who identifies with that particular segment and talks about it. We also make sure there are stories which are being published in the intranet portal. With more stories coming from real people, it encourages more people to come out.”
The objective of the dialogue was to create space for conversations which aim to understand the requirements of the community at workplace and bridge the gap between theoretical policies and practical implementation by charting a road ahead.