Series Eleven, Episode One: The importance of benchmarking, indexes and global business conduct standards

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This in-depth discussion focuses on the India Work Equality Index, India’s first comprehensive benchmarking tool for employers to measure their progress on lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) inclusion in the workplace.  Host Julia Streets is joined by Ram Sinha, Co-Founder of Pride Circle, India and Vicky Hayden, Head of Global Partnerships at Stonewall, UK.  They discuss civil society from an LGBT perspective, representation in products and services, benchmarking and standards of business conduct across the world.  The three share views about the importance of inclusion, the value of collective initiatives and why indexes matter, examining the challenges and realities of upholding global values and how this translates into local impact.

Ramkrishna Sinha

Ramkrishna Sinha (pronoun He/Him) is Co-Founder of Pride Circle and has enabled many organisations on their journey of LGBT+ inclusion. His research "In & Out –The Indian LGBT Workplace Climate Survey 2016" co-authored & published by MINGLE and played a crucial role in progressing the conversation in Indian workplaces. Ram has been recognised as Global D&I Hero of the Year 2017 at Intel. He also won the prestigious "Champion of the Year" Award from Out & Equal Workplace Advocates and was featured in the list of 50 LGBT+ Future Leaders Globally by OUTstanding & Financial Times. He is currently compiling stories of LGBT+ & allies in the blog titled "101 Coming Out Stories from India" which has reached over five million people. Pride Circle has enabled over 150 job offers for LGBT+ Talent in inclusive organisations, helped 50+ LGBT owned businesses to gain visibility, expand market reach and access to mentors, and works with over 250 organizations enabling LGBT+ inclusion.

Vicky Hayden

Vicky Hayden is Stonewall’s Head of Global Partnerships. In her 7 years at Stonewall Vicky has always led workplace inclusion programming, including the domestic and Global Diversity Champions programme. Specifically, in her current role Vicky is responsible for the team that design programme content, including resources such as ‘Agents of Change – Business Advocacy Guide’ and the Global Workplace Equality Index, as well as leading on key partnerships with both Intergovernmental and Non Governmental Organisations across the globe.

Series Eleven, Episode One Transcript

Julia: Hello, my name is Julia Streets, and welcome to DiverCity Podcast, talking about equality, inclusion, and diversity in financial services. On the podcast we seek to shine a light on positive progress, call out areas requiring further focus and offer lots of ideas to help drive change.

Before we get started today, I just wanted to take a moment to thank our friends at CityAM for their continued support of DiverCity Podcast, publishing and promoting both our episodes and our supporting blog series, so their readers can stay on top of the very latest D&I debate. You may want to check out CityAM’s own podcast, called The City View, for all the latest news and opinion from City, because we at DiverCity Podcast are huge fans.

Today, I’m joined by Ram Sinha, co-founder of Pride Circle, and Vicky Hayden, Head of Global Partnerships at Stonewall. Let me tell you a bit about both of our guests. Ram Sinha is the co-founder of Pride Circle and has enabled many organisations on their journey of LGBT conclusion. He co-authored “In & Out”, the Indian LGBT Workplace Climate Survey, back in 2016 and has played a crucial role in progressing the conversation in Indian workplaces. It’s not surprising he’s been recognised as the global D&I Hero of the Year at Intel and has won the prestigious Champion of the Year award from Out & Equal work-based advocates. And if that’s not enough, he was featured in the list of 50 LGBT+ Future Leaders Globally by OUTstanding and the Financial Times.

He’s currently working on a compilation of stories from not only LGBT heroes and individuals, but also their allies in a blog series, which has reached over five million people. He’s working at Pride Circle in enabling job offers for the LGBT+ talent in inclusive organisations, and is helping LGBT owned businesses to gain visibility, expand their market reach and access to mentors, and also works with more than 250 organisations helping them enable LGBT+ inclusion. His focus is on allyship, education and e-commerce. Ram, it’s wonderful to have you on the show, thanks so much for joining us.

Ram: Thank you, Julia. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Julia: Joining Ram today, I’m also delighted to introduce you to Vicky Hayden. Vicky is Stonewall’s Head of Global Partnerships and in her seven years at Stonewall, Vicky has led workplace inclusion programming, which includes Domestic and Global Diversity Champions programme. More specifically in her current role, Vicky’s responsible for the team that designed programme content, including resources such as Agents of Change, Business Advocacy Guide and the Global Workplace Equality Index, as well as leading on many partnerships with both inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations right the way across the world. Vicky, great to see you, thank you so much for joining us today.

Vicky: Thank you so much for having us, really excited to be here.

Julia: What amazing biographies, I mean I can’t wait to get into this discussion. Let me come to you first of all, Ram. Now this is a question I ask all our guests is, tell us what you’re particularly focused on right now?

Ram: Right now, everything is about RISE. RISE is Reimagining Inclusion for Social Equity. It is a flagship annual programme, which is Asia’s biggest conference of the marketplace. The conference is our opportunity to bring out leaders from around the world and the region, but also became India’s first ever job fair. That was our opportunity of facilitating a dialogue between India Inc and the LGBT community, so basically provided an opportunity for inclusive spaces to interact with LGBT+ talent and provides all based on skill set. We are really proud to have over 150 job offers until now, and this year, despite the pandemic, we have 44 companies that are coming to hire at RISE 2021, it’s on the 8th of May.

We are also launching a marketplace for LGBT owned businesses a virtual one  and hence an e-commerce platform, which is dedicated for LGBT owned businesses. That gives them access to buyers across India, 365 days a year without having to set up infrastructure for that. The other thing which we are right now working on is the 21 Day Ally Challenge, which is a personal favourite for me, because I really believe that a lot of people who are allies, but they don’t actually know how to translate that passion into action. How do we support, what do we do? And this is a fun game that spread over during PRIDE month and the simple, fun tasks like reading a short story or watching a short film, and every task you complete you get points and you can refer your friends. And last year, while we were in the lockdown, the whole world was in the lockdown and we were physically the same. It was a wonderful way to bring the global community together on allyship. We’re going to do this again this year.

Julia: And it’s wonderful to hear you talk about using different types of technology and different models. It’s the gamification of allyship, I love that. I should just say to our listeners, we do have a little bit of a crack on the line, Ram’s joining us from India. Thank you so much for staying up so late for the recording, I really do appreciate that very much. It’s wonderful to hear also about your conference in May of this year and all the work you’re doing in the corporate world. Thank you so much for that. And Vicky, same question to you, really. What are you particularly focused on right now?

Vicky: My role at Stonewall is really varied, which I’m very grateful for, and with the main focus really is about getting global workplaces, civil society, so LGBT organisations in other countries and intergovernmental mechanisms working together to achieve change for LGBT people worldwide. There is a huge power in global business to make meaningful, sustainable change in human rights, and the voice of an economic powerhouse like multinational organisations means that, they’re not only listened to by the local governments in the countries that they work in, but they have the opportunity to shake social attitudes through their marketing or their brand campaigns and through the representation in their own workforces and the products and services that they deliver. That’s one part of it, but the other key area of social change bases around the role of civil society. So other LGBT organisations in other countries are such a pinnacle in creating that change.

They’re the organisations that inform and influence and shape the messaging about what it is that communities really need, what laws need to be changed, how hard they campaign for the better outcomes for LGBT people worldwide is just absolutely incredible. And they also really feed into the kind of activities that global corporates are able to support on. Then surrounding all of that is the kind of global voice from the intergovernmental organisations and institutions like the United Nations. We lean really heavily on things like the UN standards for conduct for business on LGBT inclusion, to guide corporate actors in shaping their approach to LGBT equality in every country that they work in. There’s no excuse, you can apply those standards into every market.

Some key things that we’re working on are being part of the advisory council for the partnership for global equality, who lead on the implementation of the UN standards. We’re also working with an organisation called TENT to match up LGBT mentors in global corporate businesses with LGBT refugees in the UK to help them on their journey to accessing employment within the UK. My role in this particular project in this partnership is to bring Stonewall’s expertise from over 15 years of workplace benchmarking and share that with the Pride Circle and the Keshav Suri Foundation, who are the two partners on the India Workplace Equality Index, along with Stonewall, so that together we can bring a tailored workplace inclusion benchmarking tool to corporate India.

Julia: Wonderful. I’m really excited to get into this conversation because measurement and benchmarking really matters. We talk about this on the podcast all the time about if you can measure it, you can manage it. Hearing both of you talk about your inspiring work, what I love to do now, I honestly, I wish I had an hour with each of you and two hours with both of you, but I wanted to get into one very specific area, which is something that our listeners are really keen to explore further, is about the question of benchmarking and standards and having an index as well. Ram, can I come to you first of all? You have an India Work Equality Index, very keen to hear a little more about that. Talk to us about the origins, the purpose, when it was set up, and why it’s particularly important in India?

Ram: It is a big open world and we all want to measure it, we want to see how we’re doing, we want to see how we are progressing, right? India Workplace Equality Index, calling it IE going forward just for brevity, is the fruition of amazing collaboration, that Stonewall and Keshav Suri foundation and Pride Circle. That’s all being supported by ICCI, which is an industry chamber of commerce in India.

The idea was for, how do we really help organisations measure how they’re progressing in their journey? And there’s some really wonderful work happening in this space in India. There’s a lot of misconception when it comes to measuring progress when it comes to LGBTQ+ inclusion, people assume it is only about whether they’re out people or not, but that’s one of the outcomes of efforts around inclusion.

Providing organisations with a framework, so they can really measure that, when it talks about LGBT inclusion and I personally believe that it’s not about doing five things right. It’s about doing the thousand things we do as an organisation. How do we look at every single of them to ensure that there are no systemic values and biases and you have to tweak it if need be to accommodate and include the LGBT+ people. The idea was helping organisations provide a framework so they can measure how they’re doing and also find areas which they have probably not looked at, but missed out, and then help them measure year over year so they can see your proper progress chart and also benchmark with competitors, and I think a friendly competition which really helps to raise the bar higher collectively because we really believe inclusion is a collective initiative. There’s no winner or loser here. It’s about how we really all come together, put our minds together to do better for society at large.

Julia: I can’t help but wonder, you know, has the index faced any opposition? And if you had done, where was it and how did you overcome it?

Ram: Because this is the first time we did it last year. So obviously anything companies sign up for has to be shown it works right and all of that. I won’t say there’s no opposition because there are 65 companies that signed up for the very first year and mind you, I have to remind you that this was a pandemic year where companies were struggling to come back to a new normal and trying to get back to work from home. Despite that there are 65 organisations that welcome or dedicated and found time to go through the entire process, make a submission, get legal clearance, collect data from different departments. It is definitely a testimony of the kind of commitment organisations have to LGBT inclusion.

Julia: It’s going to be interesting how people navigate the return to work in whatever shape or form that’s going to take. However, some things remain constant, which is engaging with talent and motivating talent and obviously attracting and retaining talent as well. Thank you so much for your thoughts on that, it’s really important to think about that in a local context, but also Vicky, I know you think about this from a global point of view as well. So tell me about your work on the global workplace equality index and really keen to hear your thoughts about why indexes matter.

Vicky: The overall aim of any workplace equality index and then LGBT workplace equality index is to create better working environments and opportunities for LGBT people in the workplace, no matter what country that’s in. I think you can distil some of the key reasons down to three areas. The first one is around guidance and this is for organisations that are really just starting out and want to know where to start on an LGBT workplace inclusion journey. An index is a tried and tested tool. It makes it a bit less scary for organisations doing something like this for the first time to know that some of the thinking is done for you, the questions are the thinking, and you just need to start working through how you might respond to some of those questions and the work that you might be planning to do over the next couple of years.

For those organisations just starting on their journey, it really helps to provide a tried and tested framework. The second area is around kind of critical self-assessment. For those organisations that have perhaps been doing LGBT inclusion for a couple of years and are starting to think about where are we really, how much progress have we made using a workplace equality index framework is an opportunity to hold up a mirror, to invite an external critical friend to share industry best practice and to share with your organisation the things that you have been doing really well, and the things that we need to ramp up the efforts on, or perhaps think slightly differently about. It’s about saying to your employees, that LGBT inclusion isn’t lip service in your organisation. It’s a continual process, and if you don’t dedicate time, resource and commitment, you won’t see your score in any index exercise go anywhere and your staff will see that too.

That’s the second stage I think of why indexing really matters. For those organisations that are quite progressive in their journey, it really becomes quite a competitive tool. It’s a tool that says to onlookers, to external stakeholders and audiences, if you’re LGBT and looking for an inclusive workplace, it says, these are some of the best options for you, or if you’re looking for perhaps your next supplier or your business partner, you can really confidently identify those organisations that are on this list of top employers and declaring that they uphold values of LGBT inclusion and might be a good partner for you in business or for your supply chain. I think those are three key areas that demonstrate indexing really does matter. It can really depend on where you’re at in your journey and why you might need to use an indexing tool.

Julia: It’s interesting because we talk a lot on the show and we’ve had many guests talk about the importance of culture. Of course it sends a massive, great message out to potential talent that actually, this is something that we take incredibly seriously. I think one of the things that businesses are recognising is, you know, change is complex, particularly very large financial organisations around the world, as well as early stage FinTech, right the way across the spectrum, but it sends a message that we’re taking it seriously and we’re embracing a framework and we’re recognising this is something that we need to focus on, which I think is wonderful. I wonder when particularly, when we think about the financial organisations and our listeners to diversity podcasts is, what would you recommend Vicky that they particularly focus on and what do we risk of overlooking?

Vicky: I work with a lot of global businesses and global financial organisations in particular, as well as large professional services organisations. A lot of the challenges are quite similar. For me, one of the things that really stands out is about how these organisations uphold their global values and understand the intricacies of how they can respond when their D& I or diversity and inclusion values are challenged and how they proactively plan for this rather than respond in a crisis mode. I guess an example of this is that global businesses will always work in markets that have good or questionable or changing records on human rights. There will always be a variance and they’ll work in markets that one day have quite a good record on human rights, and in 10 years time, perhaps that’s changed significantly. We’re definitely seeing much more of that kind of rollback now.

Businesses need to be really prepared about how to handle that when your diverse staff and your LGBT staff in particular say, “we’re an organisation that’s spoken publicly about supporting LGBT equality, but this country that we’re working in or about to start working in implements capital punishment on gay men or the country doesn’t allow trans peoples to be legally recognised, or this country suppresses pride parades and protests, how can we do that and uphold LGBT inclusion values?” For me, businesses need to be much more proactive in planning for these conversations and planning their response to that too. We have seen, and we know that businesses can take a knee-jerk reaction to some of these sudden changes in law or sudden levels of civil unrest in the form of boycotts, for example, and actually things like boycotts have a really negative impact on the people that you’re trying to support, it shines an unnecessary spotlight on LGBT people in those countries when you’re boycotting, because the government has perhaps implemented anti-LGBT regimes.

It puts a spotlight on those people at a time when they’re just trying to stay safe. Instead we need businesses to think from the beginning about their actions and about how they uphold their values. Thinking, you know, we’re going to start working in X, Y, Z countries. We need to review the record on human rights. We need to plan our approach and making sure that we’re able to uphold our values.

What does this look like? This could be committing to advocacy in that market. Advocacy might be public campaigns around LGBT equality, or it might be using your influence behind the scenes in closed door meetings with local governments. It might be about how you develop really watertight anti discrimination workplace policies to protect LGBT people in the workplace. Even if the law isn’t able to offer them that protection and there could be lots of things that you proactively lead on, but it’s really best done as part of the planning stage and not in crisis mode. All of this, and the way that you respond as a business to these situations, has such an impact on your brands, on the talent you attract, and all of the commercial opportunities available to you. For me, thinking about your role as a global business, as a responsible global business and planning for that in realistic terms is a really key part of what an organisation can do.

Julia: It’s fascinating because we spent all our time talking to financial organisations and risk mitigation and risk mitigation planning really matters and risk management. That very firmly falls under that umbrella of doing business on a global basis, but also the appetite to do business and be very proactive and take a front foot approach about what’s going on in each of the regions and what could be done publicly. But as you say, and also sort of behind the scenes with advocacy work as well. That’s fantastic to hear.

Ram, I can’t help but ask myself the question. You’re doing this work, you live and breathe this day in, day out as well. For listeners around the world who are thinking about how they should get involved, how they should think about getting involved with either the work that you’re doing, the work that Stonewall is doing, or indeed to find out more about the indexes as well. What would you recommend to organisations around the world from your experience? Where should they start?

Ram: Engage. That’s the first step is realising that you won’t necessarily have a very clear line of sight of how things will pan out over the next 10 years, but you start engaging. I think particularly when it comes to LGBT inclusion, there’s a lot of misinformation. First of all, a lack of awareness that there are challenges in the LGBT employee’s space at the workplace which management doesn’t even know about it because no one is out, no one is talking about it, because it feel like no one is complaining, everything is hunky dory, we don’t need to fix anything.

I think that’s the biggest problem, when we don’t know the other perspective, but I think it’s important that we consciously take an effort to learn about this community and check it out, what other organisations are doing in this space and start that process of engagement. Second is dialogue. Talk to people from the LGBT+ community, if you don’t have people out inside your organisation, there are a lot of people out, who are outside of your organisation are available. So I think, when we’re trying to solve the problem, trying to fix something for a certain population, it’s best to talk to that population so you hear it actually from the source, and you get to hear what’s happening in the office and the opportunities. Reach out to experts like Stonewall, like us who have been doing this for a really long time and understand what is feasible within the cultural and social context and the legal context in the country.

While it would be in an ideal opportune world you’d have a single policy that goes across the globe, but we don’t live in that world. We have to respect the culture, the social norms and rules within the legal framework, but there’s still a lot of room to do a lot of good work within those spaces there. That is the very important thing that you really know what the law actually means and what is prohibited because I think even a while before there was a section 377 of the India Penal Code in India, which did not prohibit companies to start ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) or engage in LGBT inclusion, but that was a roadblock for a lot of organisations, why were hesitant to engage in this. So  the law did not prohibit it but one of the, I would say, the idea of the law was that we can’t do this. I think it’s important that you really know what the law means and what is your scope of work here.

Julia: I think that that blend of global best practise frameworks plus with local insights and local understanding, local partners to work with is really important. Thank you for your thoughts on that, because I think there was some people say, “look, I think we need to step up and do something, but where do we begin?” That’s a very clear, clear message there as well. So wonderful. Thank you Ram and Vicky for both your thoughts on that. I can’t help, but wonder, you know, when we think about where we should therefore focus next. Partly from missed opportunities and partly the conversation about further focus. Ram coming to you, first of all, you know, as you look ahead, keen to hear what your plans are, but also I understand that in your index there were 13 companies that didn’t meet the minimal threshold. I’d love to hear your thoughts about what you’re planning to do to help those organisations raise their standard.

Ram: Absolutely. I’m not just recording companies that didn’t meet the standard. We also want to help all the companies that participated and met the standards that we boast about but, as I said, it’s about collective wealth for all the organisations and the larger community. So definitely for organisations that did not meet the cutoff, there are some very basic things to get started with and start with like non-discrimination policies. The index has nine sections and each section has a number of questions, from procurements community engagement, an employee resource group, policies, benefits. A lot of organisations may not have leadership buy-ins to get like  employmentpolicy benefits, I think. Like Partner Transfer  Bridge or Transition Transfer Bridge They may not be able to have supplier diversity programme right now, but there are other low-hanging fruit like starting an employee resource group or community engagement external to the workplace. These are very simple things which can very easily be activated in the workplace. So I would say definitely start with something which is easy to do and do, and then we can look at the next steps.

Julia: Wonderful, some really practical tips there as well, which I really like and really help organisations look on a granular, practical basis, as well as having ambition for change as well. Vicky, a similar sort of question to you really. And what you think about advice or considerations you can give organisations as well, keen to hear your thoughts as you look ahead.

Vicky: Very similar advice to Ram. If I speak from the perspective of working on the UK index for a period of time over the last seven years, we have definitely seen organisations that have gone up, up, and up in their scoring, really pushed the bar every year, which takes a huge amount of dedication and commitment. But we’ve also seen organisations that have got themselves to a point and then done the same things for a couple of years. The challenge with that is that everybody else is still pushing that bar further. Even though they’ve done the same things, they’ve seen their score and their ranking and their recognition, actually take a step back. You always have to be thinking innovatively, the best people to help you with that are your staff, and reaching out to LGBT colleagues where you work and saying, “how can we make this better? And how can we do this differently” rather than sitting on your own and second guessing the best approach, actually group thinking is one of the best things that you can do.

I definitely agree with Ram that we’re always looking to push the bar and push the standards higher and taking every step in the index as it comes. The index is laid out in a format that really should help organisations go from start to finish, looking at the very beginning at things like policy and employee resource groups, and then the more complex things at the end that are perhaps more challenging and require more buy-in, things like data collection and supplier diversity. That’s typically not something an organisation would do first and foremost, and we encourage organisations to take their time and do what’s right for them at that period in time.

Julia: Wonderful. It’s really interesting when you talk about the importance of going back into your organisation and talking to employees, and particularly, I always think about that in the context of what COVID-19 has meant for LGBT talent within organisations is their lived reality will often give you the answers about what they need next and also this wonderful outcome of going and it may have been successful, but it may well have plateaued and keeping the competitive edge. It’s funny how organisations get very competitive about these things, which is definitely a good thing, I think. Now listen, I think this is a great moment to pause the show as we turn, as always, to Cynthia Akinsanya for some research to support today’s discussion.

Cynthia: The United Nations standard of conduct for business states, “that businesses can foster diversity and promote a culture of respect and equality, both in the workplace and in the communities where they and their business partners operate.” The United nations is calling on companies all over the world to help move the dial in the direction of greater equality for LGBTI people. We know from experience that every time discrimination is diminished, everyone benefits. This is how companies can do their part, respect the human rights of LGBTI workers, customers, and community members, eliminate discrimination against LGBTI employees in the workplace, support LGBTI staff at work, not discriminate against LGBTI customers, suppliers, and distributors, and insist that business partners do the same, and stand up for the human rights of LGBTI people in the communities where they do business.

Julia: Thank you, Cynthia, as always. And of course, remember, you can find all the research on our website, divercitypodcast.com. Don’t forget that’s diversity with a C, not with an S, divercitypodcast.com and you can sign up for early notifications of future recordings. Please do follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and DiverCity podcast is available on BrightTALK and all good podcast channels. And don’t forget of course that we are grateful to our friends at CityAM who not only publish and promote all the episodes and also our regular blogs. And if you are listening, we’d love a rating because it all helps to promote the show.

I’m thinking, as we were coming out of the section before we went into Cynthia’s data, about something that came out of the discussion regarding, you know, really having an appreciation of local impact, local changes, thinking about local policy changes, socioeconomic realities, and also legislative changes as well. Ram, can I just ask you, particularly in India, was there a particular event that galvanised the launch of the index? Talk to us about some of the kind of, you know, legislative environment in which you are operating?

Ram: I think one really fundamental shift that happened in the legal context was reading down of section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which in laymans terms criminalised sexual acts, which roughly translated to LGBT identity being not perfectly legal, right? Those are very layman’s terms explanation of that. September 6th, 2018, it was read down, and that really enabled two things. One is LGBT people who were “in” because they were worried about coming out. They found that now that legal hurdle has gone away and they were more comfortable and more confident to come out.

Secondly, organisations that were hesitant to take any step around LGBT inclusion that potentially a hurdle was also taken away. So we have seen more and more companies now come out and talk about LGBT inclusion. I think that played a big role in launching the index now, because now organisations could participate openly and talk about their work in the space of LGBT person inclusion. The second legal thing happened in 2014, when the Supreme court recognised that cogender was legally recognised in India. The aspect of trans inclusion and also trans inclusion bill that has certain problems, but it is still a step in the right direction where we, you organise it. The government has actually looked at the past community and paved the way forward about their inclusion in mainstream society. These things have definitely helped from a legal perspective for more and more LGBT advocacy work to happen in India.

And obviously the social contexts are also changing. We have mainstream movies, CDs coming about with the local more authentic representation of LGBT+ people so the conversation has definitely shifted from both legal and social contexts in India and hence it kind of makes sense for organisations doors to also look at it more seriously and their office equality index, that benchmark will maybe give companies a band of silver, bronze or gold based on a total score and for external stakeholders, this becomes a very easy way to measure an organisation’s progress on LGBT person inclusion because now they don’t have to look at different places to find the policies, their social media approach, or any of this surrounding LGBT inclusion. So one score, one certification which kind of talks about an organisation’s overall approach on LGBT inclusion. That is why it’s an important time to launch this.

Julia: Hearing you talk about, you know, the changes to the Indian penal code is really interesting because I think people will be curious to know,, first of all might be some misinformation around that, but I’d be very curious to find out more. We were talking earlier about how organisations can really get started and areas to focus and, Vicky, you know, if I were an organisation, I might be a little concerned about making this step, it could be for me, seen as a very bold move. I may not necessarily want us to go out and tackle this publicly, you know, are there other ways in which the work that’s going on in India, but also these indexes and the work that you’re doing can help support those organisations who perhaps want to take a slightly quieter approach?

Vicky: Yes. For the India Workplace Equality Index in particular, we’re really conscious this is a new tool and a new initiative for businesses to use. There may understandably be a level of nervousness about participating in something new for the first time and something new that specifically addresses LGBT inclusion in the workplace. So we’ve done two things, the first one is that we’ve made it completely free for organisations to participate. So there should be no budgeting barriers to an organisation wishing to take part.

The second thing is that any organisation can choose to participate anonymously. At the very beginning stages, when an organisation signs up to register, they can say that they’re going to send a closed submission, which means that we’ll never share the identity of their organisation publicly. We asked them again, when we give them their score and their award, whether they still like to be anonymous. Lots of those organisations say, “actually, if we’re going to be recognised as a gold, silver, or bronze employer, we’re very proud of that,” and they changed it to an open submission, which is brilliant, but we do have the opportunity there for those organisations that are perhaps a little bit nervous in the first couple of years of taking part.

Julia: That’s very good to know. It’s very, very good to know. That basically removes all the barriers of people going, “well, maybe I, you know, I’d like to do, but I want to get involved.” But of course, you know, it’s, it’s a very, very easy environment to take those very first steps as well, it’s been a wonderful discussion.

I need to ask you a final question. This is the question I ask all our guests on DiverCity podcast, which is because I’m quite deeply concerned as we go through arguably tough local, regional, national, and global economic times, the diversity and inclusion discussion could very easily fall down the corporate agenda while other things arguably may be deemed to take high priority as well. I’d love to hear your thoughts about why diversity inclusion should really remain high on the corporate agenda. Vicky, why don’t we come to you first of all

Vicky: For me in this really challenging time for global businesses, your people are your very best asset and organisations need to take every step to attract and maintain and retain their diverse, talented workforce. Diversity and inclusion isn’t a luxury, diversity and inclusion affects every single one of your employees on a day to day basis. And if they don’t have the opportunity to feel included or have their voice heard, then they are the people most at risk of leaving your organisation, and they could be some of your most talented staff. My main message is that D & I, isn’t a luxury. It should be embedded in everything that you do because your people are your very best asset and your people are what are going to get you through this really challenging time. I think that’s probably my best bit of advice.

Julia: Ram, I’m going to ask you exactly the same question. So come on, see us out of the show with a compelling reason why diversity inclusion matters now more than ever.

Ram: There’s already a proven business case for diversity inclusion, so will not reiterate that. But there’s also some people might not be stressed, where in an underprivileged community bears the brunt of any kind of a negative turn of events, the most compared to the overall population. Even if you look at pandemic impact, the marginalised communities are the last ones to receive aid, to receive any kind of support, or they are, if you even talk about LGBT+ people while they’re dealing with every other challenge everyone else is dealing with, there are additional challenges of like gendering, lack of access to a safe home, and all those things.

I think it’s important that your eyes not see that it’s good to have best practice in the workplace but in the real world, where  we ensure that every single employee has an opportunity to bloom to their full potential and have a bias-free workplace.

Julia: Inspiring words to see us out of the show. I can’t tell you how much I’ve really, really enjoyed this conversation. It’s been practical. It’s been inspiring. It’s given, it’s taken away many of the obstacles that people maybe were delaying getting involved. It’s given us some very clear insights into the focus of your work, but also it’s impact. Vicky Hayden from Stonewall. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Vicky: Thank you. Thanks for having us.

Julia: Ram Sinha From Pride Circle, joining us from India. Thank you.

Ram: Thank you, thank you so much for having us.

Julia: And we wish you all your success in your work and as always, to everybody who’s tuned in to DiverCity podcasts. I’ve been Julia Streets. Thank you for listening.

Kieron: This episode of DiverCity Podcast was produced by me, Kieron Yates, on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. Thanks to Cynthia Akinsanya for her insights.

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