In July of 2016, while living in Pune on an expat assignment for Symantec Sudhanshu Pandit, Vice President and Head of HR for Symantec in India, asked me to pull together names of all LGBT+ people I knew in Pune who work for corporations. Symantec had just launched SymPride, the Symantec LGBT+ ERG and Sudhanshu was committed to promoting LGBT+ diversity. Eight people attended. During dinner, we decided to stay connected by using the secret mystical power that connects all young people in India, WhatsApp. Gaurav Srivastava set up the group.
Within few days, we added Moulee and Ritesh Rajani. Others added people in other cities and within a short period of time, we were 30 and then 50 and we kept growing. Discussions were positive, energetic and frequent. Outcomes were impactful. One of my favorites was a newspaper article in Bangalore featuring quotes from Mahesh Natarajan, Ritesh Rajani, Romal Liasram and Vieshaka L Dutta, relating how an individual was involuntarily outed publicly and lost their job. Many different people in the group collaborated quickly and found them better placement, helped the former employer realize their error and mitigated some of the damage. Other group collaborations have been equally impactful. Individuals have benefitted through the discussions and several organizations have expanded LGBT ERGs, benefits and programs. This is apart from the friendships, personal support and learning we have created together.
Organizationally, we have evolved. Initially we called ourselves “Connecting Dots” then eventually changed the name to “Working With Pride”. Overtime, several people have participated on and off what we called a “Core Team”. Madhumitha Venkararaman, Ritesh Rajani, Suresh Ramdas, Vaishali , Vijay Nambi, Moulee, Vieshaka L Dutta, two other dedicated volunteers and myself have formally participated. Others have contributed greatly off of the core team. I’ll call out the contributions of Jiby Joyce and Zafrulla Khan. Others have set up meetings in Pune, Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. Early in 2018 we disbanded the core team so that more of us could focus on project and program work. Vieshaka L Dutta volunteered to be overall Group Facilitator with myself and Moulee rounding out a central structure.
The 150+ participants and collaborators energetically working for the benefit of all, have built a brand “Working With Pride”. Our collective commitment is to continue to build one other, to connect, collaborate and empower so that we can, in-turn build a more inclusive world for LGBT+ people and others.