The RBS India Rainbow Network - proud to support Pride

Earlier this year (August 2018), I attended the Out & Equal LGBTQ Forum India. The Forum saw 150 individuals representing 100 companies come together to talk about making the workplace a positive and inclusive space for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

We live in a country where having a homosexual relationship is not only a social taboo, but also still criminalised under the archaic Section 377. While we await the Supreme Court decision to strike down Sec 377, you can imagine why, that day, being amidst over a 100 corporate allies, filled me with immense pride and restored my faith in humanity.

Being inclusive has been a prime goal for RBS. To quote my colleague, Alan Sanderson who works at RBS UK’s HR division,

“Being afraid to be yourself at work has a massive impact on you. Say you work for eight hours a day, five days a week - that’s 40 hours a week that you can’t be yourself. And not being authentic makes it difficult to do your job, without even taking into account how unhappy it makes you. Luckily, the majority of businesses now understand that an authentic employee is a happy employee and this means a strong business.”

I was at the Out & Equal LGBTQ Forum to present a discussion on “Ensuring End-to-End Equity - An HR Perspective”. RBS India earned its spot there this year thanks to the steadfast work of The RBS India Rainbow Network – a core team of passionate employees dedicated to building a safe workspace for LGBTQ+ employees.

In April 2018, we launched an important policy to ensure LGBTQ+ partner medical benefits. As you no doubt know, traditionally, policies only cover an employee and their spouse or parents. But we have extended the coverage to same-sex & LGBTQIA+ partners as well. It's was a thrilling development and one we were proud to share with the world.

Indeed, it has been an incredible journey in a short span of time. A journey filled with much joy. When showing support, it is important to do it both publically and internally. Everyone's voice matters, and it is vital to speak out loud.

Those of you who have witnessed or been a part of any Pride Parade know how electric and high the energy on the street can get. The energy is infectious, and it is emotional to see so many people (young, old and from all walks of life) get on to the streets and vocalise their existence and rights. In 2017, we attended the Delhi and Bangalore Pride. This year, we have already shown our support at the Chennai and Mumbai Pride events. We can’t wait to attend two more yet to be held in Delhi & Bangalore later this year.

The RBS India Rainbow Network is not a CSR initiative. It involves a core team of volunteers who passionately work towards positive outcomes. Our dream is for people to be their true selves.

We are happy knowing that we contribute in little ways and, at least, ensuring a workspace that is safe and inclusive for everyone.

In the pipeline, we are hard at work turning more policies to be LGBTQ+ community inclusive. We want policies like accident cover, life insurance, death benefits, relocation, and compassion leave to transcend the traditional definition of a “family member”. We also work to provide protection over and above the legal sexual-harassment-at-the-workplace policy. These policies are usually women-centric. But we have extended protection to men, transgender and gender fluid people alike.

We want our hiring to include transgender people, normalising their presence in our workspace. It breaks our hearts that 96% of transgenders are denied jobs or left to do menial work with less pay!

Our plans also include educating and sensitising our employees and others about the LGBTQ+ community. Many people aren’t aware or have a half-baked idea about the community, their rights and unique problems they face. We envision a series of programs, workshops, experiential seminars and interactive sessions.

In the meantime, we are attending seminars, workshops and speaking to like-minded companies that are making a notable change to include the LGBTQ+ community within the workspace. In situations like this, we must encourage initiatives and thoughts within the corporate space at large. We must not treat our achievements as a “one-up” against others, nor must we keep our doors closed. We are allies that want to contribute in the right direction and leave the world a better place.

It is noteworthy to mention that all these changes are possible because RBS has truly forward-thinking leadership. They understand why we need to do this and have given us an impetus to make these impactful changes from a place of confidence that in doing the right thing, we have their support.

None of the things we have done is just to “put a check in a tick box”. I write because fellow RBS employees need to be aware; aware that the LGBTQ+ community are fellow humans that have the same rights, aware that discrimination will never be tolerated at RBS, and most importantly - aware that we are proud allies unafraid to speak out loud our support to those that our societies and government has marginalised.

The rest of the world is changing and realising their faults in oppressing the LGBTQ+ community. Countries have established laws that safeguard their rights. It’s time we broaden our minds and show solidarity.

In the UK, RBS has achieved top ranking in Stonwall’s “Global Workplace Equality Index”. Here in India, we look forward to living up to the same standards. So, bring yourselves to work, and shine true to whoever you are - LGBTQ or otherwise!

We are proud to support pride. We are the RBS India Rainbow Network.

Srikant Venkata, Chair, Rainbow Network India, Head of Candidate Attraction and Engagement, RBS India

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