A majority of the companies down the street have a brisk and no nonsense air about them. Maybe it’s something about the sharp edges and smooth surfaces that allude to the persona. ‘Don’t get too comfortable,’ they seemingly say. Most of us have a nine to five to look forward to, or at least we are toiling with heavy textbooks and speedy calculations to get a nine to five to look forward to.
At first glance, it may seem like firms concerned with their objectives of productivity and profitability seldom care about the life and preferences of their employees. However, in our naïveté we overlook the moral foundations that can make a toxic workplace different from a healthy, accepting one. Power abuse, workplace harassment, impossible deadlines and deception are thinly veiled, causing great mental exhaustion and stress in the general public trying to make a living. The disregard for safety is more noticeable when female employees are concerned, for instance the promises of providing transportation companies make while hiring often turn into late working hours and not even a bus ride home. If companies are still unfair to a whole gender in this day and age, it is disheartening to think about what minorities experience at work.
Many companies aren’t discreet with their discriminatory behaviour, in the form of unequal pay or blatantly shooting down transgender people and applicants that do not identify as male or female. While a part of the LGBTQ+ community takes comfort in privacy, another big part craves their rights and freedom at work. A corporate environment is only as welcoming as need calls for it to be. Adaptability is a survival trait, and countries that have progressed with minority rights put India at a position where they must do the same, at least for the sake of appearances. Although the first world is moving into a new era of acceptance with companies trying to match the stride, they fail at implementation. MNCs pride themselves on their employee driven workshops about LGBTQ+ coworkers and acceptance but an employee of such an MNC confided in me about the prejudice they cover up, about none of the numerous luxury offices across the Mumbai having a single washroom for gender neutral employees. Preferences for the same gender are never openly revealed in most Indian offices; there are no laws to protect their rights.
Some might think LGBTQ forms a miniscule majority, it’s definitely not the case and is used as a flimsy excuse to ignore the rights of the community. According to the Daily, in Canada, 1.7% of the population that is of working age identifies themselves are LGBT. Dentsu Inc. says the percentage is a hefty 8.9% in Japan. With the decriminalisation of homosexuality being only a fairly recent example of progress, such statistics are not available for India. Judging from trends across the globe however, that is definitely no small number of people. And a majority of those people have little to no rights for a minority, barely any rights at a place where spend on average, 60 hours a week.
Among the very unfair treatment received in the cut-throat corporate world that does not care about it’s personnel enough to make it safe and inclusive for everyone involved, LGBTQ+ employees face problems like a lack insurance benefits for same sex partners, no medical leave for gender affirmation, and a lack of opportunities due to underlying bias and discrimination. A lot of employees are unaware about the etiquette with which they should address their LGBTQ+ coworkers. A comment in passing may count as an insult to the character of a coworker and individual alike, leading to mental distress in employees living in an already prejudiced country. A lack of familiarity, improper stereotypes and ignorance can be dispelled by seminars that educate, coupled with strong HR policies that favour the community. Still, the fact remains that “inclusion” remains a term only used by MNCs and Indian companies have a lot of catching up to do. We’ve heard of Intel, Accenture and other tech giants have been remodelling their policies in favour of the LGBT community. Step by step, little by little the work environment in these companies is becoming just and fair for the community. The average Indian companies round the block continue in their rather stern act of ignorance.
Startups have been more successful in that matter, with a lot of founders being worldly; they are taking a stance against unjust treatment and tunnel vision. Gaysi too must be a great space for it’s staff to contribute to something they find meaning in. Perhaps it’s a not a generational problem but an exposure and we will have more rights in favour of the LGBTQ with the passage of time if we continue fighting on for our rights to freedom and safety . Big Indian names that are inclusive are scant, but the list includes Godrej, a company that has been vocal about their support, believing its not simply a nice thing to do but the right thing to do. VLCC Institute offering free training courses in cosmetology for transgender people and Uber Eats hiring delivery agents without discrimination, there’s a transformative shift bound to happen someday. Even some smaller scale business are doing their best to support minorites, like the cafe Third Eye in Navi Mumbai and the inclusive startup Periferry that hire transgender staff. Bengaluru based startup Pride Circle is India’s first LGBT hiring consultancy.
With work being a second home for an average millennial, is it unfair to ask for adequate treatment of minorities?