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Non-Binary Gender Diversity In Corporate HR Policies In 2016, the World Bank published a case study on India's economic cost of homophobia and stated that it is losing $32 billion in GDP due to homophobia and transphobia

By Kaustubh Sonalkar

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In 2014, at a panel discussion organized by the World Bank to discuss the economic cost and development impact of exclusion of LGBTQ, a senior executive said, "Excluding sexual minorities is not only a human tragedy but it is also a significant self-inflicted economic wound."

In 2016, the World Bank published a case study on India's economic cost of homophobia and stated that it is losing $32 billion in GDP due to homophobia and transphobia.

In this environment, a significant corrective step was taken in 2018, when the Supreme Court recognized the LGBTQ community's rights in India by scrapping Section 377 that criminalized homosexuality in the country.

We are now in 2020, and can safely say some progress has been made.

If we look around, gender inclusion, especially beyond the two genders, has gained enormous traction. Be it education, government policies, politics or even jobs, we are learning to become more accepting of the extraordinary diversity in our culture. The list of progressive organizations such as Essar Group, Future Group, IBM, Accenture, Barclays, Tata Steel, Intuit, Kochi Rail Metro, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, Godrej and more, who took the step first and motivated the rest, went the distance in making diversity mainstream.

However, if we look through a microscopic lens, there is still much room for improvement in one key aspect—inclusive HR policies for the LGBTQ community in corporates, starting with a zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination against anyone.

Yes, corporations have opened the doors to diversity, but there's still a need for employers and fellow employees to become sensitized to inclusion. One way is to have a diverse hiring board which eliminates the risk of bias altogether. Enabling self-awareness, knowledge and acknowledgement about the bias within employees and managers is an essential early step and a productive way forward, rather than focusing on the individual needs of the protected groups. Diversity and inclusion are about the ecosystem, never just the affected individuals.

Additionally, a diverse workplace isn't instituted on a fulfilled checklist or hiring a certain number in the workplace, but is created when we stop focusing on the differences and start cherishing them instead. One aspect that draws a thin line between acceptance and inclusion in India is the quota system. If diversity stands clasping hands with equality, why let the positive discrimination of quota stand in the way? Employees should be hired and valued for what they bring to the table for the organization, not for their sexual orientation or representation of a specific community.

It is imperative for organizations worldwide to realize that the inclusion of LGBTQ individuals is a top priority for business also because the younger generation (the managers, CEOs and consumers of tomorrow) look at the world from a neutral lens. According to a 2016 study, 72 per cent of allies (non-LGBTQ individuals) say they are more likely to accept a job at a company that's supportive of LGBTQ employees. This inclusion also opens new markets and grows the old ones by increasing loyalty within consumers. Around 71 per cent of LGBTQ individuals and 82 per cent of allies say that they are more likely to purchase a product or service from a company that supports the LGBTQ community.

Diversity gives an organization depth and breadth. It expands the horizons in many ways. Being the driver of thought-processes within a circuitry, it is on HR to shape a gender-neutral workplace—though with organization-wide buy-in. I would like to list some of the policies here that have already been incorporated by the pioneers of gender neutral workplaces in the country.

  • Medical health coverage for transition-related procedures
  • Health insurance coverage to include same sex partners
  • Three-month paid break for primary care-giving if the same sex partners choose to adopt
  • Surrogacy leave policy irrespective of the gender of the partner
  • Choosing the gender and replacing spouse with partner on the application forms
  • Formation of support groups/networks within the organizations
  • Setting up awareness sessions to sensitize employees

The world is changing and evolving at a rapid pace. The time is just right, for a change or even a makeover. A makeover of our thought-processes, not only in rulebooks, but in our hearts and minds.

"Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it's a good place to start." Jason Collins, first openly gay athlete in U.S. pro sports, said.

Kaustubh Sonalkar

President-HR, Essar Group & CEO, Essar Foundation


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