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IBM, Godrej and Standard Chartered Flock To Mumbai's First Diversity Job Fair to Hire LGBTQI & Diverse Employees

By: Simantini Dey


Last Updated: July 29, 2019, 18:16 IST

Image for representation.

Image for representation.

The one-day event was not only a meeting place for recruiters and jobseekers but also had many panel discussions on job opportunities, work culture as well as a film screening.

Mumbai: "My first job was with a big telecom company and I still get goosebumps whenever I think about that experience. Back then, we weren't accepted in the society and people didn't even know or understand the LGBTQI terminologies. For them, 'different' just meant one thing that we were all 'hijras'," said Durgesh Gupta on the sidelines of Vividh 2019, Mumbai's first career fair aimed to enhance workplace diversity.

Gupta, like many other LGBTQI members, people with disability, women and elderly people attended Vividh 2019, the diversity job fair, held this Sunday at Nehru Centre hoping to find job opportunities in workplaces which have diversity and inclusion (DNI) policies embedded in their work culture.

Gupta says one of the biggest challenges he encountered while working for BPOs and the telecom company was that he had to pretend to be straight. “I had to always be in the closet at my workplace for the fear of discrimination. As a consequence, I developed a phobia of going to work," recalled Gupta.

On Sunday, Vividh 2019 saw a significant footfall of jobseekers as recruiters from big companies like IBM, Standard Chartered, Godrej as well as relatively new start-ups like Smartcirqls infotech Limited flocked to the job fair to hire employees belonging to a diverse workforce. The one-day event was not only a meeting place for recruiters and jobseekers but also had many panel discussions on job opportunities, work culture as well as a film screening.

Praful Baweja, co-founder of 6 Degrees, an LGBTQI+ growth network, and the organiser of Vividh said that this is the first diversity job fair in Mumbai and he is planning to make it a yearly event and take it to other cities as well. "We have made a big headway with companies like IBM, Standard Chartered coming in for hire. Almost 15-18 big companies have come directly, while indirectly almost 20-25 companies are hiring. We are also in conversation with other companies for DNI (Diversity and Inclusion). Some of them may not have immediate openings, but they are in the process of transition." added Baweja.

According to Baweja, more than 350 candidates had turned up for the career fair. "Almost 40 per cent of candidates attended our walk-ins were people with disability. We also saw a huge footfall of members of the LGBTQI community. As far as women and elderlies are concerned, we are currently working more with CVs instead of physical footfalls," he said.

Several NGOs also spread the word about the job fair. Saloni, a differently-abled job seeker said that she heard about Vividh from Sarthak, an NGO she is associated with. This is her first experience of a job market and she is still looking for a job that matches her qualification. "I have passed 12th standard and I have computer knowledge," said Saloni, adding the response she has received at the job fair is heartening.

A representative of Standard Chartered said the overall response to the job fair has been good. "Many candidates had come from various parts of India, people even came from Andhra. It was really heart-warming to see people turn up with such determination and confidence... There have been people with visual impairment, autism, hearing disabilities but what was quite touching for us was to see the kind of optimism the candidates had," he said.

"We have an active inclusion and diversity policy that looks into various groups like women, working parents, people with disability and LGBTQI. We have employee resource groups within the bank who cater to each of these segments. So, we are trying to make a statement here that we are an inclusive employer and that we do not discriminate," he added.

Sweta, the Recruiting Manager for one of Godrej companies said that this is Godrej's second diversity fair this year after Bangalore. "Godrej started talking about diversity before it became the 'it' word. So, we take immense pride in the fact that we are not followers but leaders when it comes to DNI (Diversity and Inclusion)." she said.

"Under the leader of Parmesh Shahani, the Godrej India Culture Lab has done a lot of work in this area. We have a lot of sensitisation and policies in place but more than that we don't just want to be inclusive on paper. There is also a culture of inclusivity which is being built by the top management and leaders in different organisations within Godrej," she added.

IBM is another recruiter which took part in Vivid diversity job fair 2019. "During the early days of incorporation, almost 70-80 years back, IBM had launched a policy of equal opportunity. So, at that point of time also, IBM did not discriminate based on caste, creed, sex or any such thing," Mandavi, the talent acquisition partner with IBM said.

Mandavi said that many job seekers at the fair had queries about how inclusivity at IBM. "We have been telling them that at IBM, we have a dedicated team that keeps everyone aware and educated about diversity and inclusion. There is a zero-tolerance policy for any bullying or harassment...If a job is open for external hiring, it is open to everybody. There is no discrimination." she added.

Tejal Khorava from Smartcirqls infotech Limited, a tech company that focuses on big data, security analysis and business intelligence said that she is proud that her company is at the LGBTQI career fair. "It is a really good initiative made by our company to get talent on-board because talent is not based on gender or orientation," said Khorava.

Unfortunately, in India, many workplaces still remain extremely biased against the LGBTQI community while several others have no provision to hire people with disability. Shakti, a transwoman who attended job fair said, "I had made up my mind that when I start working I will not pretend to be something else. I am out, and proud. My first experience was pretty difficult because it was my pre-transition phase, so people asked many weird questions."

Sakti pointed out that if getting a job is hard for everyone, it is even harder for a member of the LGBTQI community. Most places do not offer any employment to the member of this community, and if some of them do, they offer 50 per cent less of what others are being offered. "Tell me, will you consider this a piece of good news to get a job with such low pay that you don't feel motivated to work? That is how much of discrimination that still exists," said Shakti.

Shakti had initially walked in at Vividh Diversity Job Fair just to see the kind of opportunities it had to offer, but as soon as she got there, she started updating her resume so that she can apply for a few positions. "I am taking a chance if I find a better opportunity here, I would definitely take it up," she said.

Talking about the job fair Shakti added, "I am so glad that companies are taking a stand for diversity and inclusion. They are not just spreading awareness through advertisement, but the fact that they are here, and willing to hire people who are in desperate need of jobs is very helpful for us."
first published:July 29, 2019, 17:02 IST
last updated:July 29, 2019, 18:16 IST