Going a step further than just embellishing corporate logos in rainbow shades, India Inc in recent times has started to support the financial inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Accordingly, the industry has come forward to tackle the challenges of ‘financially empowering’ the community.
June, the rainbow month
LGBTQIA+ pride month is globally celebrated in June every year. It commemorates the challenges and struggles faced by the community members, as well as the accomplishments over the year. The month culminates in parades, with community members and allies waving rainbow flags in many countries.
According to Parmesh Shahani, author of Queeristan and LGBTQIA+ inclusion advocate: “The case for LGBTQIA inclusion is very clear - it is a decent thing to do fundamentally, and also makes an organisation money, helps innovation and the hiring and retention of talent.”
In recent years, the trend to support the financial inclusion of LGBTQIA has taken different forms—including support for businesses owned by the community, organising of special jobs fair and even changes to HR policies.
Making HR policies more conducive for LGBTQIA+ professionals
The trend is especially visible in the change seen in the HR policies of many India Inc companies. Notably, these amendments to the HR policies include leave benefits and insurance coverage to same-sex partners at par with everyone else.
In June this year, for its cabin crew hiring drive, AirAsia India adopted a gender-neutral approach by inviting male, female and 'other' candidates.
Even earlier, many companies had made changes to their HR policies.
For instance, beauty products major L’Oreal India had extended paid paternity (or co-parental) leaves as part of the ‘Share & Care’ programme to include adopting and same-sex parents in addition to gender-neutral policies around insurance, other benefits coverage.
On its part, Colgate-Palmolive India’s Executive Vice President, Human Resource, Balaji Sreenivasan, said: “Early on in our journey, we included domestic partners, same or opposite sex, within the definition of ‘family’, from the perspective of various HR policies.”
“Over the last few years, we revamped our leave policy for employees, with special emphasis on giving an equal opportunity to parents for childcare, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or way of becoming a parent.”
Special Job Fair
Recently, diversity and inclusion firm—Pride Circle—organised a virtual LGBTQIA+ job fair—RISE 22 (Reimagining Inclusion for Social Equity).
The fair in physical format was first organised in Bengaluru in 2019. Subsequently, the event has been taken online since 2020.
Over 65 companies participated in the event, including the likes of Uber, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, P&G, Cisco, HSBC and Myntra, among others.
“This is a talented community looking for inclusive workplaces to build a thriving career. Companies can leverage inclusion as a winning strategy in the talent war,” said Ramkrishna Sinha, co-founder, Pride Circle.
“We brought ‘LGBT+ Job Fair’ to foster a safe space for the community and companies to engage, and are proud to have facilitated over 500 job offers till date.”
Backing LGBTQ-owned businesses
This month, another unique event—Queer Made—was organised to showcase LGBTQ-owned businesses in New Delhi. It was a collaboration between dating app Tinder and Gaysi Family.
The intent, the organisers said, was to establish a physical presence of these businesses in the mainstream market environment.
Over 30 LGBTQIA+ owned businesses from diverse categories such as fashion, art and home decor, amongst others, were featured at the Queer Made.
"I think Queer Made has really helped us with visibility,” said Ashish Chopra, 27, co-founder of BeUnic.
“We at ‘BeUnic’, sell queer-made products online. But giving us a space to put them out there where people can physically see and touch the products is something we were looking for,” Chopra said.
Originally a digital initiative launched in July 2021, this year’s edition of Queer Made provides a physical space for these businesses to showcase there products.
“Queer Made was launched in 2021 with 100-plus queer entrepreneurs as a digital initiative to support and promote LGBTQIA+ owned businesses,” said Taru Kapoor, general manager - India, Tinder, and Match Group.
Realty major DLF, whose retail property Promenade in Delhi hosted the event, said that it is part of the initiative to empower business enterprises both small and large by creating opportunities for marketing, networking and procurement.
“We work to support groups that foster a business community that is more welcoming and inclusive, which ultimately results in increased opportunities for our member businesses,” said DLF Retail’s Executive Director Pushpa Bector.
Besides, supporting financing inclusivity
The trend allows for companies to study and cater to the needs of this fast-growing consumer segment.
“While increasing numbers of businesses are welcoming LGBTQs to be part of the mainstream, there is still a long way to go when it comes to true inclusion,” said Emkay Global’s Lead Economist Madhavi Arora.A World Bank report in 2014 estimated huge losses suffered by the economy due to homophobia in India.