Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Building a more LGBTQIA+-friendly workplace

Two colleagues from India demonstrate how the power of allyship, and the positive impact of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) help create a safe space for LGBTQIA+ people in the workplace.

Rebecca Murr
Published on December 18, 2023
<p>Over the past decade, India has made significant strides in supporting the LGBTQIA+ (<strong>lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Questioning or Queer, and more</strong>) community, embarking on a path toward greater inclusion and acceptance of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. This is also thanks to many people who stand up for the rights of the community − <a href="allies">allies</a> like Ajay Krishnankutty and Anita Shanbhag, who have initiated a PRIDE ERG (employee resource group) within Siemens Healthineers. Their group promotes an inclusive culture that empowers and supports LGBTQIA+ employees and allies of all backgrounds. “It’s about bringing dedicated people together to initiate change within the organization and to help encourage people to be their authentic selves,” explains Ajay Krishnankutty, Head of Talent Acquisition at Siemens Healthineers in the Asian-Pacific region.</p>
An "ally" is someone who supports LGBTQIA+ people and equality. Heterosexual and cisgender people can be allies as well as those within the community. They are eager to learn and understand how to help LGBTQIA+ people feel included and to address barriers to fairness and justice for everyone.
It was his personal experiences that shaped Ajay Krishnankutty’s conviction to become an ally: During his school days, he developed a deep friendship with a classmate who was gay. He saw him being bullied and felt a strong urge to stand up for him.

Portrait of Ajay Krishnankutty

Many years later his son introduced a gay friend to his rather conservative grandmother. “They spent some time with each other and shared stories. And by the end of a week, I found my grandmother completely transformed like somebody who turned from homophobic to a strong ally,” he remembers. This showed him how important it is to create a space where personal stories can be heard and accepted: “Empathy automatically creates a thought process in your mind. And when that happens, you're more open and willing to change your behavior so you don't mistreat others.”
<p>When he asked his colleague Anita Shanbhag to become part of the Pride ERG, she was immediately full of enthusiasm. The Human Resources expert for Sales &amp; Services, Support Functions and factories of Siemens Healthineers in India, grew up in a rather conservative family. </p><p>As Anita Shanbhag’s daughter entered her teenage years, she started engaging in conversations about LGBTQIA+ issues, which opened her mother’s eyes to a more nuanced understanding of the challenges faced by these individuals. Anita Shanbhag understood in which way society, family, and generational norms often shape our beliefs, molding our perspectives over time.</p>
Today she acknowledges the progress India has made in terms of LGBTQIA+ acceptance: “More people are openly identifying as LGBTQIA+ and embracing their true selves without fear or shame. But there is still much work to be done.” That’s why she is committed to making a positive impact and moving the needle toward greater acceptance.

Portrait of Anita Shanbhag

<p>For Ajay Krishnankutty, this also means raising awareness of LGBTQIA+ among existing employees and job candidates and making sure every Healthineer feels safe, welcome, and accepted. This is especially important as more and more employees are looking for an employer with a more inclusive LGBTQIA+ culture, which is also confirmed by the <a href="Deloitte%20Global%202023">Deloitte Global 2023</a> LGBT+ Inclusion @ Work report.</p><p>Ajay Krishnankutty would like to see more hiring managers and recruiters trained in interviewing diverse candidates. In addition, they have to learn where LGBTQIA+ discriminations may occur during the recruitment process to help reduce bias. And they should demonstrate with their own behavior that their workplace is a safe space for everyone. But most importantly: They need to know their target audience and understand how to effectively communicate with them, e.g., by using an inclusive language. In order to find the right candidates, Ajay Krishnankutty and his team are also seeking out talent sources connected with the LGBTQIA+ community. “Our aim is to start the individual process as soon as possible and get more and more LGBTQIA+ people joining us.”</p>

The Deloitte Global 2023 LGBT+ Inclusion @ Work report provides deep insights on the experiences of 5,474 LGBTQIA+ people in workplaces in various sectors across 13 countries. Nearly vier in ten (37%) of all respondents say that they are actively considering changing employers to find one with a more LGBTQIA+ inclusive culture.

Read the report here

With the establishment of a PRIDE ERG at Siemens Healthineers in India, Ayay Krishnankutty and his colleagues have already made an important contribution to fostering an inclusive workplace culture in which diverse perspectives are valued and diversity is welcomed.

By Rebecca Murr

Rebecca Murr is an editor at Siemens Healthineers.