In Conversation with Lakshmi C, Managing Director, and Lead – Human Resources, Accenture in India on LGBTQ Inclusion
Lakshmi is the Managing Director and Lead for Human Resources for Accenture in India. In this role, she is responsible for leading the human capital strategy for Accenture in India. She has an unwavering passion for her people and is focused on enabling 300,000+ people in India to be successful, professionally and personally.
Prior to this role, Lakshmi has held numerous HR leadership positions, supporting different Accenture businesses both locally and globally, during her two-decade-long stint at Accenture. Prior to joining Accenture in 2003, she has worked with iGate (now Capgemini) and Nestle in various HR roles.
Lakshmi is a strong advocate of enabling a culture of equality – both at work and outside – so that everyone can flourish, have equal opportunities to learn, grow and succeed in their careers, and be their authentic selves every single day.
She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Presidency University, Kolkata, and an MBA in Human Resources from XLRI, Jamshedpur.
Q- Beyond equal opportunities, why is it important for companies to hire from diverse backgrounds and be inclusive? What is your approach to Pride inclusion?
At Accenture, we believe that creating a culture where each person feels like they belong is both the right thing to do and drives innovation and business performance.
Diversity offers people the opportunity to collaborate with people from different backgrounds, with different work styles and life experiences, thereby ushering in a richness of ideas and perspectives. And when every person feels like they can be their authentic selves at work and is valued for their unique perspectives, they are able to grow and flourish.
Our Getting to Equal industry research highlights that a vast majority of employees across the world work with a greater innovation mindset without fear of failure in an equal and diverse culture – a win-all situation.
Our commitment to creating an equal, safe, and open work environment for all our diverse groups, including our LGBTIQ+ people, has enabled us to be deliberate about how we attract, hire, and grow them. We have inclusive hiring practices, progressive people policies, specialized learning and development programs, and robust employee resource groups and ally networks.
Q- How do you recruit from the LGBTIQ+ community?
We are very intentional in our approach around how we hire from diverse segments. We leverage strategic external partnerships and participate in niche job fairs and employee referral programs to get access to the right talent from the LGBTIQ+ community.
It is equally important to build skills wherever there is a gap. For instance, we run a six-month-long inclusive internship program to develop a skilled talent pool of transgender candidates.
This on-the-job learning opportunity helps transgender interns build essential workplace skills, gain work experience, and form professional networks for the future and gives us an opportunity to evaluate the interns for full-time employment opportunities at Accenture.
Q- From a policy and benefits standpoint, how do you create an equal platform for your LGBTIQ+ people?
We have a rich heritage of adopting progressive people practices and curate our policies and benefits in line with emerging needs. For instance, in 2016, Accenture was among the first companies in India to introduce medical insurance cover for gender reassignment surgery for its people. And we have continued to make progress over the years.
In 2021, we modified our parental leave policies to focus on the importance of caregiving versus gender binaries to support our LGBTIQ+ people and their partners in their parenting journeys.
We offer equal access to all our people including our LGBTIQ+ people to Accenture-enabled life and medical insurance programs.
In addition, we meet the specific needs of our people from the LGBTIQ+ community by offering medical insurance coverage for facial reconstruction surgery for our transgender people, hormone replacement therapy, mental health consultations to address gender dysphoria, and including the partner’s parents under the ‘parents-in-law’ category.
Q- How do you create safe spaces for your LGBTIQ+ employees to voice their perspectives? Secondly, how do raise awareness and educate your workforce on Pride, and what role do ally networks play?
For us, Pride is about being open and supporting each other in a safe and inclusive environment. Our people have the option to voluntarily share information about their gender identity and sexual orientation through our self-id initiative.
We have vibrant employee resource groups (ERGs) that provide safe spaces for members of the community to be vocal about their experiences and find solutions to common challenges. These ERGs also support our recruitment and talent development initiatives and collaboration with our external ecosystem partners so that we can attract talent from the LGBTIQ+ community.
Our global LGBTIQ+ ally network of 119,000+ people is enabled through training and mentoring to become more informed and vocal advocates of Pride. In India, we have a virtual platform called ‘Hues of the Rainbow’ that enables our LGBTIQ+ people to share their stories with their Accenture ally network in India, address questions and encourage others to confidently express themselves.
The platform is used to address specific issues like mental wellness concerns faced by the community as well as host curated conversations between our LGBT+ people, allies and experts. We also focus on intersectionalities – as an example, we have hosted sessions for our people on parenting children who identify themselves as members of LGBT+ community.
These sessions not just help members of the LGBT+ community speak up but also serve to inform and educate others who may otherwise find it difficult to understand the challenges faced by the community and help create and engage more allies.
Our LGBTIQ+ Leaders Learning program equips our high-potential LGBTIQ+ people and allies with the information, tools and support to continue to build their careers and develop into LGBTIQ+ role models and leaders.
Q- How do you reduce any scope for discrimination against gender identity and sexual preferences of LGBT+ people at work?
Our ongoing sensitization campaigns help all our people understand the nuances of gender expression and identity
, and the use of inclusive pronouns.
We extend these sessions to recruiters, hiring managers, relevant teams, stakeholders, client touchpoints, and workplace support teams.
We also organize sensitization sessions for specific teams that have individuals undergoing a gender transition. We encourage all our people to speak up and have several formal channels to report misconduct, discrimination, or harassment.