Inclusivity Life & Style

Rainbow-hued cheer

A snapshot during an LGBTQI+ pride celebrations by ThoughtWorks

A snapshot during an LGBTQI+ pride celebrations by ThoughtWorks  

A pilot training programme by ThoughtWorks Hyderabad bats for an inclusive workplace for the LGBTQI+ community

In April 2018, four job aspirants enrolled in a pilot internship programme. One of them was from Hyderabad, one from Chennai and two from Delhi. All four made Hyderabad their home during the five-month programme, at the end of which they received offer letters from the organisation after a due selection process in October. Called Interning with Pride, this programme mooted by the Hyderabad office of ThoughtWorks India mentored developers from the LGBTQI+ community.

In recent years, the organisation has also been focussing on increasing the representation of women in its workforce. ThoughtWorks India is aiming towards having 50% women in its workforce by 2020 — this includes areas of tech, marketing, HR and operations. Tech wings of several organisations see fewer women in higher positions. ThoughtWorks hopes to have at least 40% women in its tech wing alone by 2020. The organisation came up with initiatives like the ‘vapasi’ programme which aimed at getting women who took a break for maternity and other reasons, back into the workforce.

Archana Chillala, one of the programme anchors

Archana Chillala, one of the programme anchors  

As an extension of this, two developers from the Hyderabad office (Archana Chillala and Srujan Kumar Bojjam who anchored the programme) felt the need to step up the inclusivity discourse by reaching out to LGBTQI+ community.

Looking back at the recently-concluded pilot programme, Tina Vinod, diversity and inclusion lead, ThoughtWorks India, sounds positive and reveals that similar programmes are on the anvil for all six ThoughtWorks offices across India in 2019. “We tested waters in Hyderabad and had immense learning from the experience,” she says. The project involved seven months groundwork to tailor the modules incorporating sessions on technical skills, sensitisation of co-workers, outreach activities and an anti-sexual harassment module that helped participants understand the company policy.

Srujan Kumar Bojjam, a training programme anchor.

Srujan Kumar Bojjam, a training programme anchor.  

Participants began by learning fundamentals and progressed to tougher software development tools before taking up real-time projects. “It was a paid internship (₹15000 per month) and we gave them the option of applying to any IT firm. They chose to apply to us,” says Tina.

Bleak past, and a turn around
  • The results of the second Indian LGBT Workplace Climate Survey, 2016, by MINGLE (Mission for Indian Gay and Lesbian Empowerment) aimed to assess the workplace environment for LGBT employees in corporate India. This survey focused on three sectors — information technology, banking and finance and FMCG and manufacturing. Hundred respondents from different Indian and foreign multinational companies participated in the survey. The results showed that more than half of LGBT Indians who participated in the survey could be legally fired from their jobs for their identities. Only 4% were covered by same-sex partnership benefits. Around 40% reported having faced some form of harassment for their identities.
  • However, a lot has changed since 2016 and it would be interesting to see the results if similar surveys are done today, post the striking down of Section 377.

Detailed FAQs prepared applicants for the training. Closeted LGBTQI+ candidates could also apply. However, they were informed that their co-workers in the organisation would be aware of their identity.

The organisation conducted sensitisation programmes for its employees before the trainees came in. “Several challenges were addressed, beginning with how to address a member of LGBTQI+ community and what pronouns can be used,” informs Tina.

Normalising the identity

Deepanshu Arora, a 22-year-old computer science graduate, hails from Delhi, where his parents work in government sectors. He learnt about Interning with Pride on Facebook through a support group for members of LGBTQIA+ community. In an email interview, Deepanshu shares his experiences.

Edited excerpts:

What made you apply for the internship?

I think and decide who I can reveal my queer identity to. It comes from the fact that more often than not, I am never sure that the person will be okay with it. What drew me to this programme was how it normalised my identity. I was encouraged to talk about my identity rather than find ways to hide it.

What are your learnings from the program?

I had mentors who were more invested in my success than I was. I learnt to write good code, to think logically and look at code design. The trainers taught us to be good consultants too. We worked on a simulated client project for a month which involved planning and role-playing all the characters that a regular client project might entail, with weighted focus on the role of a developer. Most importantly, I found that inclusive workspaces can have a huge impact on an employee’s well-being and consequently, better productivity in office.

Can you tell us when you decided to reveal your identity? How did your family, friends and peers respond?

My sister was the first person I revealed to. I was in first year of college when I started meeting a few queer people. I was glad by the unexpectedly positive response., Questions followed but only out of curiosity and some concern. Next, I told my friends. This group was a mix of people who made me feel special and those who would ask insensitive questions. But I made sure to only come out to people whom I knew would be more or less comfortable with me being me.

Do you think striking down Section 377 will pave way for better workplaces for members of LGBTQI+ community?

The decriminalisation has taken away some of the stigma attached to being queer, and has reaffirmed our rights. But the onus will still be on organisations to make workplaces safe for the LGBTQI+ community. Women have had an ongoing struggle for a safe and equal place at work. As the #MeToo movement demonstrates, there’s a long way to go despite legal protections available to women. It’s important that workplaces actively recruit members of LGBTQIA+ society just as they actively recruit women to bridge the gender and sexuality gap.

What measures do you think will ensure a diverse, inclusive workspace?

There needs to be a lot of sensitisation. There are different kinds of diversity and I find it imperative that we be conscious of our privilege as we take up majority spaces at workplaces. A big step in the right direction would be for organisations to ensure equal opportunity and representation in decision-making roles.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 12:36:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/a-pilot-training-programme-by-thoughtworks-hyderabad-bats-for-an-inclusive-workplace-for-the-lgbtqi-community/article25370075.ece

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