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Why Is It Important For India Inc. To Build Employee Allies For The LGBTQ+ Community?

At Johnson & Johnson, we believe that it is a business imperative as well as our moral responsibility to create a truly diverse and inclusive work culture.

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Our world is in a state of constant social and political flux – and while society continues on a more progressive path, it demands organisational change that treads in tandem. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) for all including the LGBTQ+ community is gaining more and more positive traction in India. It is encouraging to know that 60% of urban Indians now support companies and brands that actively champion equality for the LGBTQ+ community, and many companies are revising their policies and practices to create a more inclusive workplace. However, we are only at the start of a long journey to equality both in society as well as in the workplace. I’m convinced that organizations have to play a leading role in driving this change within their premises and also lend their voices externally to shape the narrative. At Johnson & Johnson, we believe that it is a business imperative as well as our moral responsibility to create a truly diverse and inclusive work culture. This is not only the right thing to do for the progress of people and society, but as indicated by several reports, also facilitates innovation and better financial performance.

While recent studies do indicate that there is growing support for the LGBTQ+ community, social stigma and prejudice continues to be a stark reality. Thus, we have to make far greater and more urgent efforts to embed inclusivity in the workplace, within families and in society at large. As one of the leading global voices championing DEI, Johnson & Johnson, is making every effort to lead the change to help build a culture that is more understanding, empathetic and free from bias towards this community.

For more than 130 years, the values of diversity, equity & inclusion have been part of our cultural fabric and woven into how we do business every day. We took this philosophy even further when several years ago we made enhancements to Our Credo for the first time in three decades to incorporate language-specific to diversity and inclusion holding all of us accountable for respecting the dignity and diversity of all.

Even with decriminalization of homosexuality in India, LGBTQ+ employees feel unsafe emotionally and physically in environments that others consider secure. This includes personal spaces, homes, educational institutions and sometimes even workplaces, the depth of which we might not understand

completely. There exists a looming fear of being judged and faced with discrimination when one thinks about openly expressing gender or sexual preferences. Imagine living with such fear and insecurity, day in and day out! And that's why I’m convinced that we need to step up and become vocal and visible allies for the LGBTQ+ community.

At Johnson & Johnson, we offer equalizing policies and benefits for same-sex partners, Mediclaim benefits, inclusion in other family benefits like holiday plans, relocation policy, refundable medical advance, adoption leave, etc. But more importantly, we are building a more inclusive organisation culture. Some of our initiatives to promote an LGBTQ+ friendly workplace includes training programs on unconscious bias for our leaders. To champion love, equality, and care for all members of the LGBTQ+ community, we organize ‘Open & Out Allyship’ workshops every year to sensitize employees. Our global DEI Honors Recognition program encourages and celebrates outstanding initiatives that promote inclusive behaviour change. With several active employee resource groups (ERGs) and over hundreds of volunteer employees, at Johnson & Johnson India, we are fully committed to maintaining and strengthening an equitable workplace. Our Open & Out ERG chapter in India joins forces with 4,200 LGBTQ+ ally members across more than 90 chapters around the world.

I believe that an ally advocates for an inclusive environment for all, whether they belong to the LGBTQ+ community or otherwise. Anyone who stands up for the fair and equal treatment of people different than themselves, are allies. People who identify as LGBTQ are in the minority in most workplaces, so allies play a critical role in creating a welcoming and safe workplace. Allies act as the first wall of defence; those who work towards bringing about a change and raising awareness on diverse needs of LGBTQ+ employees within the organization. Not only do allies help foster safety in the coming-out process, they also help others understand the importance of equality, fairness, acceptance, and mutual respect.

At Johnson & Johnson, we hold ourselves accountable for bring this change. We ensure that our efforts are continuously assessed through employee surveys, giving us a clear roadmap for areas of further improvement. Yearly training and sensitizing programs help us to strongly embed our ‘YOU BELONG’ culture of equity and build allies that break free from taboos. These practices, I believe, strengthen our sense of shared responsibility and inspires all to adapt this transformative thought process and move beyond heteronormative codes.

Rights for the LGBTQ+ community are at a nascent stage in India, with society at large yet to come to terms with full acceptance. During this time, it is important for leading organizations like ours to initiate positive change towards shifting existing biases, raising awareness, and enhancing acceptance. In the long-term it will always be the culture embedded through employees that creates a lasting

impact. In order to build a workforce that truly reflects the diversity of our communities, equal focus and resources need to be deployed to build allies across Indian organizations who can stand as strong voices and flag-bearers to enable societal transformation.

(The views expressed in the authored have been penned down by Sarthak Ranade, Managing Director, Janssen India and DE&I Council Lead India solely for BW People publication.)


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