Lessons in Diversity and Inclusion from Holi

‘Bas peela rang bacha hai, chahiye?’ (Only yellow colour is available, do you want it?)

With only 14 hours left for Holi*, as I heard the shopkeeper enunciate those words, I knew I was too late for my colour shopping spree this Holi. Dejected, I had no option but to buy the only last colour that was available. ‘Better to have something than nothing’ – I soothed myself, but as I sat in my car, I wondered how boring it would be to celebrate Holi with only one colour! Is it even Holi without the blues, the oranges, and the greasy annoying red that becomes too hard to get rid of!? Perhaps, not! Of course, not.

As I started the car’s ignition and began thinking of shops that may have a few last pieces of some other colours left, I couldn’t stop reflecting on the importance of diversity, not only in the range of colours we buy for Holi but in almost every sphere of life. What even is life without diversity, if not a boring insipid place without any flavour? And how true is it for even our organisations today? As I started driving, my mind wandered towards the queer community, as I pictured the bright colours of their flag, a true spirit of the festival of Holi. It was at that moment when my thought was abruptly interrupted by the harsh reality of the extant widespread discrimination towards the community that plagues our workplaces today.

Although diversity and inclusion have been spoken about at lengths and have been a part of the agenda for different companies, many organisations are still struggling to work towards it effectively. For instance, McKinsey’s (2020) study reveals that the queer community also more commonly known as the LGBTQ+ community, now referred to as the LGBTQIAPPHK+** community continues to be underrepresented, isolated, and experiences far more microaggression than others in the workplace. According to a Pride at Work report, the queer community faces different kinds of discrimination, often taking the form of denied promotions or hiring, verbal, physical, and sexual harassment, and a general lack of representation. All of this impacts the career progression of those belonging to the queer community and affects their mental health and well-being. For instance, a survey conducted by the Center for American Progress (CAP, 2017) found that 68.5% of employees felt discrimination impacted their psychological wellbeing. While the queer community continues to face discrimination, matters become even more pressing for the transgender community.

So, how can organisations become more colourful this Holi? By becoming safe spaces for the queer community. Here are four ways you can begin:

1. Check for Unconscious Bias
Unconscious Bias or implicit Bias is the underlying attitude and stereotype that an individual may unconsciously attribute to another person or a group of people. All of us hold biases we are unaware of, and the problematic aspect of unconscious bias is that it may be hard to identify. However, some tools may help us identify them. For instance, the Implicit Association Test may help one measure the attitudes and beliefs that people may be unaware of towards a certain gender or sexuality. Knowing what we are biased against may be the first step towards a positive change in our attitude, thoughts and behaviour.

Take the Implicit Association Test here: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/india/selectatest.jsp

2. Educate, Educate, Educate
While it is understandable to not know everything about the LGBTQIA+ community for reasons best known to an individual, it is our responsibility to brush up on the issues that the LGBTQIA+ community consistently experiences. Employers and Organisations need to add LGBTQIA education programs to their diversity and inclusion programs to distinguish myths from facts. It may be beneficial to bring in an expert who is well versed in LGBTQ diversity and inclusion training.

3. Be Mindful of your Language
Personal Gender Pronouns: Personal Pronouns are a part of our everyday conversations and interactions so much that it is often taken for granted. A gender pronoun or a personal gender pronoun (PGP) is a pronoun that an individual makes use of. For many of us, pronouns are an essential aspect of our identity, signifying how we want others to address us. While it is natural to make a mistake with someone’s personal gender pronouns, a simple way to become one step closer to becoming inclusive and to avoid insulting someone is by introducing the concept of personal gender pronouns in our vocabulary.

Gendered Language: Whether it is the salutation for an email or a form that employees have to fill, it is essential to make sure the language we use is Gender Neutral. For instance, using salutations such as Greetings! or Hello Folks! in place of Dear Sir/Madam or use terms such as partner instead of wife or husband.

4. Enforce Zero Tolerance Policies
Organisations must enable policies that establish clear boundaries and indicate intolerable behaviours. This can be done by implementing an anti-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation. Additionally, it is crucial for organisations to strictly admonish homophobic behaviour and take serious action where necessary.

By slowly taking steps towards diversity and inclusion, organisations can become places where individuals flourish and use their maximum potential to thrive. There’s no time like now to start. Your efforts may be small but you can make them significant – that is all that matters for now.

*Holi, or more popularly known as the festival of colours is celebrated and coveted by Indians and non-Indians alike. It signifies the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil.

**LGBTQIAPPHK+ = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Pansexual, Polyamorous, and Kink.



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We have an exciting update!

Six years ago, we started Karma Center for Counselling & WellBeing with limited ideas, resources and a dream. A dream of making mental health resources available in a sex positive, queer affirmative and accessible way to people in Delhi, since then we have seen growth and the ability to cater to our populations in the margins. It has been heartwarming to see our efforts go global over the years. What started small and has gained so much momentum as an organisation since then. It is with immense pleasure that I announce the launch of our new website!

The shift to online mode of working influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic has made me realize the importance of having a website that is people-oriented and easy-to-use. The first website was made by me using a simple template structure but at the time it gave direction to the vision that was still under construction! This website has been developed on a more professional level. While thinking about sections to add, It brought me great joy to see the way our service offerings have evolved and expanded to include, say supervision for new therapists or  working with prison mental health, to name a few. 

The excitement is palpable, as our in house psychologist and interns have put in all their efforts to create this new website. The team has incorporated various aspects to make it a smooth navigating experience for our users. 

Karma is more than just an organization, it is a family. Our family is growing and we could not be more grateful. This month we reached the 3k milestone on Instagram, and I would like to wholeheartedly thank all our subscribers for this as well.

I would like to again thank you all for being a part of our journey and supporting us. I hope this family continues to grow with the same love and support from each and every one of you!!

Manavi Khurana

Founder & Counselling Psychologist

Karma Center for Counselling & Well-Being

Karma Center for Counselling & Wellbeing, F7/7, Block F, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi, Delhi 110057, India