India had its first-ever LGBTQI+ job fair on July 12th, 2019 in The LaLit Ashok of Bangalore. The fair became an attraction, inviting an almost sellout crowd on Friday. Some of the biggest names in the business sector were in a queue to interview the hundreds of attendees.
Goldman Sachs, Ford, JP Morgan, Uber, Accenture, PayPal, and Intel were amongst the companies. Big Indian companies such as Godrej and luggage maker VIP Industries were among dozens of employers that help in sponsoring the fair and offering jobs.
Pride Circle which is an organization that helps to promote the inclusion of the LGBTQI+ in the workforce organized the fair. They were found in 2017.
It has been a long journey for the Indian LGBTQI+ community. Finally, last September, the Government struck down the colonial-era law that prevents individuals from consensual same-sex activities.
“Either you meet queer people in the pride marches, or you meet them at gay parties, or you would meet them at film festivals,” Pride Circle co-founder, Srini Ramaswamy says to CNN Business. “And in all these three big spaces, you would probably not go and ask: ‘Hey do you want a job?'”
Ramaswamy tells CNN Business how it was hard to get companies to sign up with Pride Circle when they had first started in 2017. Since then, to now, there has been an impeccable difference. Now, Pride Circle has over 700+ members from the initial 4. They have spread out their reach across 10 Indian cities. “Companies are now coming out in support and solidarity” continues Ramaswamy.
The organization initially began as a platform for people from the LGBTQI+ community to meet and discuss in Bangalore. They did so by allowing individuals to talk about the multitude of challenges they face in their workspaces. Soon, they had begun organizing workshops at companies around the city to raise awareness. Organizing the job fair was “a sort of lightbulb moment”, says Ramaswamy.
The RISE Job Fair – an acronym for Reimagining Inclusion for Social Equity. The Job Fair was an attraction to more than 450 candidates which was exceeding the event’s 350 person capacity, says Ramaswamy. The ones who did secure a place had a chance of competing for around 250 jobs at 35 different companies.
The companies speak up:
Uber was one of the many that had booths set up and were looking to recruit people at the job fair. Uber took it upon themselves and changed all its route maps in Bangalore to rainbow colours in a show of support.
“We are committed to creating an environment that works for everyone,” says Vishpala Reddy, Uber’s regional HR director for the Asia Pacific to CNN Business. “India’s first LGBTQI+ career fair is a strong fit with our commitment in creating an environment that works for everyone and where people of every background can thrive,” she adds.
Bangalore is also home to the 3rd biggest Goldman Sachs office in the world following New York and London. They have been pro-lgbtqi+ since much before the striking down of Section 377. In fact, one of the bank’s analysts in the city was a petitioner in the Supreme Court case that legalized homosexuality.
“Collective voices and efforts matter in order to make progress,” says Goldman Sachs Bangalore’s head of Human Capital management Vidya Lakshmi in a statement.
“This first of its kind job fair in India is a unique opportunity to also actively demonstrate such and lean into this talent pool.”
Pride Circle aims to double the number of cities it operates in by next year. They intend on holding similar job fairs in Mumbai, New Delhi, and Kolkata with the hope of facilitating at least 2,000 hired over the next two years.
The organization is also using the job fair to showcase smaller businesses run by individuals from the LGBTQI+ community. They have also gone ahead with the creation of a resume database for the employers.
However, more options seem to be opening up. Another LGBTQI+ group, Six Degrees, is hosting a job fair in “celebrating diversity across different genders, age brackets, disabilities and sexualities” in Mumbai later this July.
“What has shifted for job seekers is a ray of hope and happiness that there are companies which are now opening doors, and they are making a positive effort towards inclusion,” Ramaswamy says.
“It’s not about reservations, it’s not about a quota, it’s not about token service,” he adds. Rather it’s about creating “an opportunity to welcome everyone.”
They acknowledge the growing difficulty of getting a job. Every year there are around 10.2 million active job seekers for only about 386,000 vacancies. The Government of India has been facing criticisms for its failure to create enough job opportunities for the workforce.
It is all the more difficult to get a job when one identifies as a different gender or sexual orientation.
Also read: Indian Companies Allying With The LGBTQ+