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IBM, Google and Goldman Sachs on a drive for LGBT-friendly workplaces

Oct 12, 2012

IBM, Google and Goldman Sachs together with Community Business, plan to come up with a resource guide to encourage workplaces to become more inclusive by becoming LGBT-friendly.

Three leading multi-national corporations- IBM, Google and Goldman Sachs in partnership with Community Business, are set to come up with with a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) resource guide for India entitled “Creating Inclusive Workplaces for LGBT Employees in India.”

The publication highlights the business case for addressing the needs of LGBT employees and provides a cleansed cultural and legal context for LGBT issues in India. As a practical resource, it also provides a set of recommendations on what companies can do to create inclusive workplaces for such employees and includes a number of examples of good practice. Their objective it to amplify consciousness and understanding on this topic and encourage “companies to adopt best practice.”

Lisa Donnelly, Co-Head of the Operations Division at Goldman Sachs in Bangalore and MD Sponsor of the GS India LGBT Network said that it would be imperative for India as a budding economy to fully discover the latent skills of its LGBT population and for companies to have its all-encompassing and broad policies that permit their employees to be able to carry their “whole selves to work.”

Earlier, representatives of human resource departments of 11 top multinationals — including Goldman Sachs, Royal Bank of Scotland, Cisco, Dell, Novell, General Electric and Microsoft — came together for a day at the Bangalore campus of IBM to share best practices for fostering a culture of LGBT inclusion in their organisations. The session, held away from the media glare, was the second such meeting since December. (The first meeting, which included Google, was hosted by Goldman Sachs in Bangalore.) The informal collaboration marks a first-of-its-kind endeavour in India’s corporate sector to create LGBT-friendly workplaces.

Kate Vernon, co-author of the report and Managing Director of Community Business proposed that it is essential for the companies to address this issue and recognise the sensitivities and complexities involved in this type of corporate diversity agenda which have promising achievements for societies.

Vanitha Narayanan, Executive Sponsor for LGBT (India/South Asia) and Managing Partner of IBM Global Business Services expressed her pride in promoting diversity and inclusion in their workplace.

Google also talked about the importance it places on innovation and creativity in thought and the need to accommodate its users who come from “all walks of life.”

According to the report “Sexual orientation and gender identity are not issues commonly or openly addressed in India. However, with the repeal of Section 377 (which decriminalises same sex behaviour among consenting adults in private) by the Delhi High Court in July 2009, attitudes are clearly changing. There is a need for companies to understand the issues involved.  Indeed at Community Business’ Diversity & Inclusion in India Forum held in Mumbai in September 2011, the breakout session on LGBT workplace issues proved to be one of the most popular sessions, provoking much discussion and debate.”

The link between creating a supportive environment for LGBT employees and corporate performance may not be an obvious one. But when one considers the stress or effort involved in concealing one’s true identity and the resulting impact this may have on effectiveness at the workplace, the connection becomes more obvious. Creating an inclusive workplace for LGBT employees has many affects on profitability important to the employers, including employee productivity and performance, recruitment retention and risk management as well as the organisation or society as a whole.

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