“Coming Out Increases Job Satisfaction"

Zainab Javid Patel, Lead Inclusion & Diversity, Pernod Ricard India, describes why the LGBTQ community should come out of the closet and lead a meaningful life, in conversation with Sugandh Bahl


Please take us through your journey of how important or how easy or how difficult was it for you to reach this position?

Today, bigger and bigger businesses are providing workplace protections for LGBTQ people. And it’s becoming clear that when workers like me can bring their true authentic selves to work, we are more productive and engaged. And there are several research works that show that coming out at your workplace increases job satisfaction, the intention to stay and emotional support from co-workers. Whereas when you stay in the closet, there are substantial costs for the individual as well as for the company.  

I must say that I am extremely privileged because of being able to complete a higher education degree, having a masters degree, being able to communicate with you in a language that you understand. The third part is that belonging to the same professional workspace as you has opened many doors for me, provided me many platforms, and your platform. Having said that, life as a trans person has not been easy, and it’s not that I came directly from zero to point 100. For example, there were times when there was a name mismatch. Today, of course, all of my documents mention my legal name. So, if you are misgendering me you are doing it out of your own ignorance. (There is a need to) create a roadmap for the future before onboarding gender non-conforming, non-binary people and to research and use the right pronoun.

In my case, they actually started using the pronoun ‘de’ in order to make me feel comfortable. And then I had to correct them that I appreciate you using a gender-neutral pronoun, but my pronouns are she, her and hers. So that was taken care of. Some of the unnecessary medical onboarding steps were removed, not only for me but for every other employee after me. The background verification was done sensitively. 

Why do you think that sexuality has become the main concern within organisations?

Attitudes towards sexual orientation, or gender identity is a very complicated issue. Personal prejudices, biases, and microaggressions are still very strong. Now, in a country that has decriminalised homosexuality, we will still have a majority of people who oppose same-sex marriage or marriage equality. A lot of people who are cisgender heterosexual may feel that LGBT workers should keep their ‘lifestyle choices’ to themselves.  

I think we need to just drop the pretext that sexual orientation is a big deal. Once we do that, you will realise that this is a great workforce to work with, as good or bad in their work as any other employee. 

Sometimes when we hire from diversity backgrounds, we set an unexpectedly high standard of delivery from them, which automatically sets them on the device to fail. Why do they need to do extra amount of work to prove themselves?

Regarding hiring procedure, would you like to highlight any aspect that companies should adapt?

A lot of small- or medium sized organisations depend on external organisations or agencies for background verification checks. Sensitising your third-party vendor personnel is important. One has to keep professionalism at an all-time high. For example, when you do a house check, make sure that you check with the person, is this the right time to visit? Or, is it okay to visit?  

Then on day one, when the new employee is being taken around, make sure that the person is not overwhelmed by the culture as workspaces can be intimidating. 

And I think, during the assessment phase, if you’re specifically looking at diversity candidates, let’s not look at meritocracy as an argument. If we were to use that argument, we would never have had reservations for women. 

If we leave people who are left behind to crawl back to the top of the wall, where we think we have a worldview of equality, that’s never going to work. 

(The interview appeared in the August issue of BW People  publication)

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