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Can communicators Bridge the Gap for LGBTQAI Inclusion in India : WICCI's Pratishtha Kaura discusses

Credit: WICCI Public Relations and Digital Marketing Council

Unconscious Bias towards LGBTQAI 

In a meeting some time back where we were discussing speaker suggestions for an event, many names came up. Someone suggested members of the LGBT community, considering the focus of the organization on diversity and inclusion and the inspiring story of the work done by that person. “Sounds great but you know many other speakers might not feel comfortable if we get that person.”

This incident is indeed inspired by real life. Names of the person/organization in this conversation are not disclosed for obvious reasons.

It is ironic when you hear/experience such incidents while seeing the social feeds turning pink/rainbow during some months of the year. The bias that the LGBTQAI community faces at work, is quite similar to what women or any other marginalized communities often feel at work too. Things are getting better for sure, but let’s just face it, there is work to be done. The barriers of prejudice that we need to dismantle and bridges of support that we need to build. The dialogues that we need to have.

It is worth noting that the PR profession has consistently demonstrated a commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion, often setting a benchmark for other professions to emulate. Standing out as a beacon of progress, diverse voices have been heard as well as driven innovation and growth.

Last week, I got the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion – Pride in Practice: Embracing Diversity and Inclusion at Work, organized by the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (WICCI) Public Relations and Digital Marketing Council, the kind of dialogues we need to have. The panellists of communicators spoke about creating a supportive environment for LGBTQAI individuals and shared their personal experiences of acceptance and the transformative impact of a supportive network. 

The panel included:

  • Sharif D Rangnekar, author; festival director, Rainbow Lit Fest; founder, The Rainbow Awards for Literature & Journalism
  • Shivraj Parshad, senior vice president, Avian WE
  • Swagato Mallick, director - reputation, The Mavericks
  • Zoya (They / Them), lead - D&I and employer branding, Godrej Properties

Some key takeaways from the session:

  • Microaggressions in the workplace still exist

61% of the women in communications faced microaggressions due to gender at work, as per the WICCI- PRmoment Survey conducted earlier in March 2024. This cuts across the LGBT community as well. Panellists expressed that microaggressions at work often occur unconsciously and stressed the importance of dialogue to raise awareness and prevent such instances. The conversation included examples of ambiguous interactions that could be perceived as microaggressions, such as not being taken seriously in meetings or being judged for your looks, highlighting the need for clarity and continuous efforts to address them.

“I'm a big believer in this, my sexuality or my identity is just a very small part of who I am. Even the whole question of coming out for me has always been very problematic. I say it's about the coming in. the whole notion of closets as well if you look at it visually as well, I mean, why are these closets? That's because some majority has decided to impose judgment on us” - Shivraj Parshad.

Creating a supportive environment beyond one-time sensitization sessions

Panellists called for comprehensive programs that lead to visible behavioural changes, ensuring that inclusion efforts are not limited to tokenism but are ingrained in the organizational culture. Creating allies and a safe psychological space is a need that cannot be ignored.

Zoya mentioned the importance of a comprehensive communication strategy that includes storytelling and humour to promote inclusivity, rather than sending plain emails. Critical points included enhancing the onboarding process to ensure it is inclusive and supportive of all identities as well as mentorship programs pairing new hires with senior employees to facilitate integration and growth.

Workplace Inclusion Beyond Tokenism

The discussion touched on the need for workplaces to champion LGBTQ inclusion consistently throughout the year, not just during specific months. Pinkwashing or rainbow-washing is the reality and must be addressed. Organizations must implement consistent and comprehensive programs that result in tangible changes in behaviour and attitudes, ensuring that inclusion is not just a buzzword but a lived reality within the workplace.

“Unfortunately, the regional vernacular languages or India as a country has kept sex out of the conversation for so long, that it doesn't exist in vocabulary. There is no word for sex. Or consent. How do you ask consent when there is no word for it in the vocabulary? And this is not Hindi. This is for any other vernacular language. It is either a gali or Sanskrit word. There's nothing in the middle. So, you have to bring in storytelling to bring in the context of what you're trying to say.” - Zoya (they/them)
  • Equity and Representation: Sharif discussed the challenges of equity and representation in the workplace, particularly for marginalized communities, and the importance of addressing systemic barriers to inclusion. Zoya suggested the implementation of inclusive policies, such as accommodation assistance for transgender individuals, to ensure that all employees have equal opportunities and support within the workplace.

Pratishtha Kaura, Council member - WICCI PR and Digital Marketing Council; AVP – Edelman

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