Forbidden Love- How progressive are our Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives?

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Forbidden Love- How progressive are our Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives?

What’s common between Tim Cook, CEO of Apple; Neil Patrick Harris of How I Met Your Mother fame; Sia Furler, who recorded the feet-tapping crowd-favourite Cheap Thrills; and Peter Thiel, entrepreneur, and investor par excellence? Apart from the fact that many of them might qualify to be superstars of cases we read at B-school?! Well, they are people who had the supportive environment to come out and live life to their full potential- without inhibitions. It’s no surprise that they also have had immense influence in enacting positive change in the U.S. and beyond.

Coming out, and how!
Coming out, and how!

We’re sure you fondly remember that childhood crush in school, with whom you always got extra sandwiches or for whom you made a special birthday card. But what if all of society told you that your love was wrong?

Or imagine the plight of a hijra (a eunuch), who must wake up every morning, not in the warm embrace of her family, but in the harsh reality of having to beg and be shunned. Devdutt Pattanaik encapsulates this behaviour as us being a “shame-based society rather than a guilt-based one”, where, “we are more comfortable turning away from what disconcerts us.”[1]

Even though diversity is a prized asset at an MBA institute, the CAT process has just recently been significantly modified to be more inclusive of people from diverse academic backgrounds and of minorities in terms of sex and physical ability.  While some of the leading IIM’s have performed well in terms of bringing in gender diversity in 2016 (28% women in the 2-year PGP), issues of diversity and inclusion of sexual minorities is missing.

Just as research into the need for inclusion of gender minorities has shifted the focus of corporate India towards including more women in their workforce, a similar movement for members of the sexual minority needs to be spearheaded by academic institutions of repute. Only 2%[2] of leading recruiters such as Google, Microsoft, McKinsey & Co., Infosys, Tata Sons, the Godrej Group and others currently have LGBTQ-friendly policies. For instance, some of these policies are extending benefits for a same-sex partner that are at par with those of a conventionally married couple.

Radhika Piramal, MD of VIP Industries and HBS alum, talked freely about everything from being a lesbian (and a woman, to top that) in corporate India, to meeting the love of her life at Bain & Co. in New York and how it felt to finally get married[3]! Interestingly, she delivered this address at a keynote address titled ‘authenticity to winning in the marketplace and in life’. She moved back to India with hope but is “going through a particularly difficult time now.” But she is still hopeful that as “in the West, the laws changed after public opinion changed.” A 75-year-old Grant and Glueck study[4] at Harvard concluded that “good relationships keep us happier and healthier.” Maybe, it is time to open the conversation so that, as allies of the LGBTQ community, we all can work towards giving the right to a healthy relationship to everyone.

Radhika Piramal, MD of VIP Industries: "I was a bossy, smart, confident tomboy and my schoolmates appreciated these qualities"
Radhika Piramal, MD of VIP Industries: “I was a bossy, smart, confident tomboy and my schoolmates appreciated these qualities”

As one of the leading educational institutes in the country, can we have a forum on campus to promote a deeper understanding of gender and sexuality issues by fostering a safer environment in class to communicate thoughts on any cultural or policy barriers? Let us know if you would like to be an ally of the community in the comments below. Ideas on how we can sensitive ourselves to be the supporting friends, family, brothers and sisters to people in the minority community who need it most are also welcome!

[1] http://www.firstpost.com/living/invisible-devdutt-pattanaik-stories-dont-tell-us-1689649.html

[2] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/India-Inclusive-Companies-make-room-for-LGBTs/articleshow/53459847.cms

[3] http://www.india.com/buzz/radhika-piramal-vip-industries-md-speaks-on-being-a-lesbian-to-meeting-love-of-her-life-and-marriage-1971345/

[4] https://www.forbes.com/sites/georgebradt/2015/05/27/the-secret-of-happiness-revealed-by-harvard-study/#68229da36786

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