• The Feminist Times


In the Era of Globalization that is awash with fierce competition among various talents, each tracing back their trail of origin to their own national, racial, gender, economical and religious diversity, the inclusivity of all such diversities at the workplace so as to achieve one common organizational objective seems to be a big challenge for Executives of Today’s global level organizations. Most of the time, diversity has less to do with multicultural but more to the ethical aspect of it which imbibes a sense of unity among different employees via organizational culture.

The executive considers the workforce as a single unit revenue generator, this compels the executives to form a religious organizational culture that would act as a source of higher productivity. The inclusivity of various strands of diversities which constitutes any work culture, has been directly linked to the organization’s productivity level.

The case study of IBM stands as a classic example – Since its inception in 1986, IBM has always managed to secure it’s seat on the list of Top 100 best companies on “Working Mother Magazine” because it granted women unpaid leave that could be stretched for a year in 1960s to three years in 1988. It also launched various programmes and projects that helped many college women to learn computer science and maths by their own female staff. The multinational company has always valued and appreciated diversity at workplace. By 1995, there were eight diversity task forces which included women, men, LGBT community members, Hispanics, Native Americans and individuals with disabilities. Diversity has acted as a strategic means of increased productivity level as against their competitors. Time and again, the work force diversity has acted as a catalyst for a problem solving work environment which provides a competitive edge to any organization.

Similarly, Sodexo heads the list of LGBT inclusivity at workplace. Sue Black is the current

Vice President, Global Transformation based in Toronto and Canada. Apart from being a

queer worker at the management level of Sodexo for the past couple of years, Sue was

immensely supported by the company by letting her head the Global Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) taskforce along with the LGBT taskforce. Apart from Sue, Normand St. Gelais has been the Director of talent acquisition and has been predominantly responsible fore recruiting people in managerial positions. Being a queer, Normand understands the necessity of tolerance and acceptance at workplace and hence, he founded and co lead the Sodexo Pride Canada Employee Business.

“Even if these initiatives are at the infancy phase, we are already seeing

an overall improvement in employee retention and satisfaction. It also

significantly helps me in my objective to recruit the best candidates for

the organisation” - Normand St-Gelais.

Dalip Singh in his book ‘Emotional Intelligence at work’ has mentioned that when

executives or managers are aware of their feelings, emotions and have a sense of respect

towards it, the sub ordinates also have the same feelings. Researchers suggest that

commonness feelings and emotions are contagious. The expected top down flow of

emotions, feelings and a sense of tolerance towards various diversities would create a

protective realm of psychological safety that boosts the employee innovativeness, creativity and positive approach to even deal with the most critical problem at the organisational level. This concept of creating a psychological safety has stood out to be one of the major factor contributing to the growth of many organizations acting as a melting pot of culture, such as KPMG, Sodexo, Deloitte, etc.

“The customer feels better connected to a diverse background”

Not only diversity bring in different approaches to organisational problems but time

and again, it creates an antithesis of boredom. A recent study by Boston Consulting

Group, conducted over eight different countries and in 1700 different countries concluded that a company with diversity produces 19% more revenues as against those who were tradition in it’s approach. A 2014 Gallup poll of 800 business units from two companies in retail show that companies with a gender diverse team had a 14% higher average comparable revenue as against those who don’t. The Gallup polls stated that retail units that are diverse and engaged have 46% higher increase in annual revenue.

Victoria Secret started racing at the time of 1980’s , when it clashed with the second

wave of feminism. Women were more oriented towards equal pay jobs and voting rights

instead of caring about marriages, families or babies. Women started to be more

independent and started buying their own necessary items. VS easily flourished during this time and made millions of profits as well as opened multiple stores all around the USA. VS was able to make profit because of feminist movements and the positive on-growing relationship between gender and economy of USA. All that while VS made bras that was a perfect blend of beauty and daily utility. It kept on making millions of profit which encourages VS to produce more units on women essentials including perfumes. VS also started a production line called “PINK” in 2004 to encourage younger women to be their new range of customers. Annual fashion walk soon became famous and opened career for many top models around the globe. It’s revenue fell from 14% in 2011 to 5% and even lesser in 2015. But its downfall started when Vs failed to include or consider various body types. Taking the case of Aerie which targeted even the younger customers but the units produced were more comfortable as compared to that of VS. Aerie kept increasing it’s revenue double the amount every year since 2011. Other than that, the most important point of difference was that – the customers focused on more diverse and inclusive marketing. Customers claimed that VS isn’t diverse and doesn’t represent women of different shapes and sizes which acted as a major drawback and fuelled as one of the factor for VS downfall. Whereas Ivy Park and Aerie included models various racial and sexual backgrounds. It also included women of different sizes with body imperfections. As against VS models who, the customers claimed to have unrealistic and demeaning representation. Lastly, such unethical approaches in the market was backlashed by many customers. According to Mintel reports, 97% of USA customers expect the companies to behave ethically. So, the question that seeks for our concern is – what can we do to

make a gender inclusive workplace?

From the perspective of social and development psychology, the understanding of

‘gender’, and ‘gender related attitudes’ is a learned behaviour. Due to various ways of

socialization, such as attributing colour blue to masculine nature, and colour pink to

feminine nature, which were further verified and validated by the family members has acted as the basic foundation of our wrong understanding of gender. If this understanding of gender is carried to our workplace then it would lead to social stigma, discrimination, ruminative thoughts, social isolation, dysfunctional coping mechanism for the target individual, and litigation, and even higher turnover for the company.

1. Well, firstly it is extremely important to normalise the process of gently asking for

what pronouns do the employee prefer. This could be done as simple as mentioning

your own pronoun preference in a formal, or informal conversation, or mentioning

of the same in all the formal emails. This can act as a rule-based approach to gender

inclusivity. Staunch polices, and rules laid by the organisation would act as wall of

protection for the queer community at workplace.

2. Organisations must proactively incorporate gender-identity-specific non-

discrimination policies and practices throughout their businesses

3. The presence of gender- neutral bathrooms explicitly conveys the value of gender

inclusivity at the workplace. Diversity trainings should be a part of the training

process to help employees understand the importance of mutual-tolerance, and


4. Organizations such as Accenture, has started endorsing the usage of gender neutral

clothing at workplace. This not only helps to normalise different gender expressions,

but destigmatizes the same.

Laura Sherbin, a researcher from HBS, has advocate that people don’t tend to

stick in an organisation where they don’t feel involved, or psychologically safe. She

advocated that inclusivity should be an everyday approach which empowers the

decision making process, sharing credits, and constructive feedbacks. It is extremely

important that both the external, and the internal communications are gender

inclusive which will further promote the organisation’s basic values. Furthermore, it

is extremely important that employees take into consideration the term ‘ally’ as a

verb, and not as a noun to take inclusivity as an everyday approach.

Furthermore, it is the social responsibility of the customers to have a political

inclination or preference towards brands and organisations that are gender sensitive,

diverse, socially responsive and ethical. Moreover, it has been an undeniable fact that a

diverse culture has multiple ways to deal with organisational problems and have a higher

level of tolerance towards all races, gender and cultural backgrounds. Tolerance at

organisational levels has always acted as a catalyst for innovation, creativity and

psychological safety which has contributed to a higher level of production. Hence, better

wages for their own employees and higher profit for the organisation.

-Appoorva Singh

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