Companies directors delve deeper into workplace diversity

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    In a first, at least 65 Amazon India directors have interacted with its LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) volunteers to bring about policy changes that would help in a more inclusive culture at the workplace.

     The initiative by the Indian arm of the e-commerce major is expected to be implemented globally, and take into consideration specific requirements of each country. “We started formal discussions around 18 months ago. Prior to it, we held listening sessions. Cultural changes or diversity don’t happen because you decide to run a programme, it comes in because your leadership believes that you want to do something,” said Swati Rustagi, director, diversity, equity and inclusion, Amazon.

    The company, which has a global  employee count of two million, including 100,000 in India, also asked its top brass to hold detailed, private discussions with representatives of women employees and those with special abilities.

    “The pilot started in India. I think a lot of our global teams have started their own experiments in this space and everybody will keep innovating,” Rustagi added.

    India Inc.’s move to bring in more cultural diversity follows other initiatives such as rolling out health benefits, insurance policies and guidelines to create sensitized workplaces.

    According to gender diversity experts, localizing the barriers is key to bring in changes. “One has to localize the issues as globally practiced rules cannot be easily implemented unless they are contextualized,” Pallavi Pareek, chief executive officer and DEI advisor, Ungender, said.

    It is difficult to estimate the representation of LGBTQ members in the workplace since there is no compulsion to disclose and the range is wide at 0.3-5%, she said. “A top down approach will spur health benefits and even look into special travel and accommodation needs.”

    Amazon‘s senior executives and volunteers are expected to come up with solutions before it announces new policies on gender diversity, Rustagi said.

    The DE&I director said the senior brass are explained the barriers that often get ingrained irrespective of social and economic strata. They are explained the origin of these barriers which help them look at it in a different perspective.

    “So, we started talking to leaders about that and then say now that you are aware of this, do you think you want to do something about it. If you want to do something about it, then first you have to stop looking at it as a statistic…,” Rustagi said.

    The feedback has been good from leaders . “I may not have invested as much time or I did not really realize that this could be a problem because many of us live in a position of privilege without realizing it. So, when you start to understand what others necessarily don’t have and others have taken for granted…it is a big, big moment for most leaders, and I think that is where it hit them,” the director said.

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