Published on 8th September, 2018, in The Economic Times
Will India Inc hire Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, a company today valued at trillion-dollars? Or will the Human Resource Department turn down his application on learning he is openly gay? This is a question that India Inc needs to ask itself in the post-377 era.
With Supreme Court of India decimalizing homosexuality in no uncertain terms on 6th September 2018, will companies include ‘sexuality’ as part of their diversity policy? Few show signs of implementing the NALSA judgment of the Supreme Court that recognized transgender as third gender.
So theoretically a talent will be turned away because of his/her sexuality, or his/her gender. If we cannot embrace difference, how do we expect to be innovative and creative in the global ecosystem? How can India ever hope to equal Apple?
People build a company and people come in all shades: all kinds of gender, sexualities, religions, languages, race, ethnicity and castes. It is human tendency to form cliques and prefer homogeneity. Such an ecosystem will not hire the Tim Cooks of the world who are different. And so such an ecosystem will not hire one of the corporate world’s most successful Chief Operating and Chief Executive Officer.
There is a story in Hindu Puranas of a sage asking God for nectar. God comes to him in the form of a beggar and offers him nectar in a broken, dirty, smelly pot. The sage refuses to drink nectar, refusing to believe that God would appear as a beggar or that nectar would be served in such a pot. His assumptions about appearances cost him nectar. Likewise, our assumptions about packaging costs us talent.
In Hindu philosophy, one must distinguish between deha (body) and dehi (resident of the body). Soul is dehi. Mind is dehi. Talent is also dehi, resident of a body. And the body may be straight or gay or bisexual or transgender. We must ask ourselves: do we seek nectar or the pot?
In Hindu mythology, the goddess of wealth Lakshmi is drawn to talent. She does not care if ‘Indra’ is gay or straight, male or female, Hindu or Muslim, white or black, Marathi or Malayali….an ancient lesson on focusing on only what matters. India Inc loves Lakshmi. But will it hire leaders who will attract her, or be too focused on things that do not really matter.
Many reject talent on the ground that they are gay, or lesbian, or bisexual. Many people claim diversity and equality are their values. But these are just poster material.
Many claim they value merit. But they assume all meritorious candidates are heterosexual. These assumptions cost us talent.
Or we have talent in our organisations who are terrified of sharing the truth of their lives with team leaders and bosses for fear of being humiliated, ridiculed, for fear of being denied career growth, fear of being sidelined, fear of being mocked in subtle ways, fear of the glass ceiling. How does this make business sense one wonders?
Recently a business family created a trust with the clause that should the children (who are still minors) ‘choose’ to be gay, they will be denied their inheritance including a place in the family business. Imagine if that child was Tim Cook? He would be denied the opportunity to turn the family business into a trillion dollar business.
These are questions we need to ponder when we read about the Supreme Court verdict decriminalising homosexuality. The government has stepped out of the bedroom. India Inc needs to follow.