Is Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace important

DI/verse: Bringing systemic change in the workplace.  

What does it mean to be part of an inclusive, equitable, and diverse workplace? Is it about respecting each employee and their individuality, or is it about ensuring they have a voice or is it about accepting them for who they are? Over the years, this topic has become more complex, with many layers of interpretations and individual perceptions. It is time we delve deeper into the intricacies of creating a work environment where everyone feels included. 

Dextrus has initiated a series, DI/verse, which brings together experts, crusaders, and changemakers to understand how to bring about systemic change to create a more inclusive, equal, and diverse workplace.

The first conversation in this series was with Harish Iyer (He/She), an Equal Rights Activist and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Head with Axis Bank. Harish is a celebrated equal rights activist and the only Indian national listed in the world pride power list of 100 most influential people in the world from the LGBTQ+ community. (synonyms or secondary keywords included)

Below are the excerpts from the conversation with Harish Iyer.

Unboxing the concept of Diversity, Inclusivity, and Equity at the workplace 

Harish: “It is important to recognize that these concepts are not interchangeable. Diversity is about hiring different people, however distinctive they are. Inclusion is about creating an enabling environment within the organization and Equity is ensuring that you provide access to everyone. These are three different and distinct concepts and we should not assume that one is the synonym of another.”

Conversation with Harish Iyer at Dextrus workspace

Hiring diverse people and giving Equity – a stake in the decision-making process of the organization 

Harish: “We don’t live in an equal and equitable world and to address this issue you need to undress this issue. It is important to look at it nakedly. Let’s take the issue of the women labour force participation in the country which is below Saudi Arabia. The Gallop study in the US states that around 16% of any population can be from the LGBTQ community. But there is no study done in India. There is still a lot that needs to be done just by saying that we are inclusive and we welcome diverse people coming in won’t do much. To make a change you have to take concrete steps and be intentional about it. You have to educate people within the organization, create products that cater to people in diverse groups. It has to be a business and an HR decision – a well rounded decision.”

How do you distinguish between an organization doing tokenism from the one that believes in this concept and is driving policy changes towards it? 

A person who is from the LGBTQ community can tell the difference. It looks all fancy to project things externally, but you can’t just think of women on March 8 and the LGBTQ community in June and forget them. We’re gay all 365 days of the year and not just in June or September 6.

How do you start educating the workforce? What are the first couple of steps that you need to take at the base level? 

Awareness and education:

Acknowledge the bias, pause and reflect, and don’t act on your reflexes. Have sensitization lectures, and the best resource available at hand is the human capital. Let people talk about their experiences and help others learn from them because people learn from people and not policies. Organizations need to open their hearts,  policies, and practices for the LGBTQ+ community. Make a start, and we will learn, by the way. Be more welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community and women. Take the onus of exclusion as a majoritarian group.

Get your infrastructure in place:

I would divide infrastructure into two sections. There is the physical infrastructure which can be referred to as simple as providing restrooms for people. Not just for women but also men. I recall this incident when I was in France and used the airport restroom when I saw a diaper changing station in the mensroom. It is deeply rooted in our assumptions that a woman is meant to change a child’s diaper. Why can’t it be a man?More than the physical infrastructure, I think the mental infrastructure is what is required than the former. It is important to ensure that people are trained to digest differences, to understand that everyone is not the same- everyone could think differently, behave differently and talk differently. Acceptance of the fact that we are all different beings is essential. 

Go to the market and making it your business:

Sensitize your customers by designing products and services that are also inclusive. Automatically that becomes a USP for your marketing and communication strategy that allows the brand to communicate open, inclusive ideas to their customers.This will become a reality only when we open up ourselves to meaningful conversations, create healthy dialogues amongst the diverse strata of people, include them and look for solutions from within. This would enable us to foster a change. 

Below are some interesting questions for Harish Iyer by the viewers to understand how we can be more inclusive as a society moving forward:

We live in a society that lacks awareness. What are some ways we can train ourselves to be inclusive in how we react, act, and interact? 

Harish: If we are waiting for the right time to react, we will never be ready, we will always have miles to go because society in itself is a changing phenomena. It is important to make the beginning with intention, everything else will follow.

How can one avoid reacting to sexist comments and jokes at work?

Harish: If we are waiting for the right time to react, we will never be ready. We will always have miles to go because society in itself is a changing phenomenon. It is important to make the beginning with intention; everything else will follow.

Isn’t religion playing an important role in shielding people from becoming more accepting and inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community? 

Harish: I think the basis of every religion should be rooted in acceptance, empathy, and science. Religion cannot propagate bigotry and inequality. The purpose of religion should be to stand up for everybody and science, and science says that LGBTQ+ people are valid. Their lives are valid, they exist in all strata of society, and it’s time that religion catches up

How do you feel every time the bias in front of you lets you down? How do you overcome such incidents, and what gave you the strength? 

Harish: I think if your journey cannot inspire you, nothing else will. My inspiration lies in my mirror; to live your life truly and unabashedly is the purest form of activism.  




You can watch this very insightful conversation with Harish Iyer at DI/verse here.

DI/verse with Harish Iyer, Equal rights activist & Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Head at Axis Bank

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