When we speak of freedom, what usually comes to mind is freedom of speech and expression, religious and cultural freedom, freedom to travel the world, etc. However, we must remember that sexual freedom is another very important aspect of a person's life. Yes, it is as important as any of the above mentioned types of freedom. Human beings are sexual beings, and the right to express one's own sexuality is a basic human right that everybody, without exception, should be allowed.
Today, we live in the age of information, where there is quick and unrestricted access to almost all of the information that a person requires, be it with regard to education, politics, lifestyle, behavior, sexuality, gender identity, etc... the list goes on and on. It is a special time, indeed, to be alive because unlike 50 years ago, we do not have to struggle in any way when we make an effort to find out more about the world around us and its people. Having this advantage plays a huge part in understanding and accepting components of human life that we were previously unaware of, or that the media portrayed in a lopsided fashion. One such subject is human sexuality and gender identity. For decades, mainstream society considered heterosexuality the only normal. However, with increased awareness, better education, and consistent advocacy, things are beginning to change. There is also a lot more awareness today about Gays, Lesbians , Bisexuals ,Trans community, Intersex, Gender Fluid, Gender Non Binary, Asexual Identity community and its people. Of course, we still have a long way to go in terms of cultural assimilation.
June is celebrated as 'Pride Month'. We all have heard this term a lot in the past few years. What does this mean, and what are we proud of? LGBTQIA+ Pride refers to the promotion of the self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, gender fluid, gender non-binary and asexual people as a social group. It is a celebration of a community that was shamed and subjugated for decades. The whole month is dedicated to the uplifting of LGBTQIA+ voices, celebration of LGBTQIA+ culture and support of their rights. Throughout June, we witness several demonstrations of sexual & gender freedom and liberation, and events conducted with the intention to accept people of this community, in addition to educating society as a whole about what Pride stands for. But why June, specifically? To answer this, we need to turn back the pages of history. LGBTQIA+ Pride is celebrated on June 28 because on this day in 1969, the Stonewall riots commenced, which were a series of spontaneous violent demonstrations by members of the LGBTQIA+ community in response to a police raid that took place at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich village area of Manhattan, New York City. The demonstrations were against the prevailing culture and the anti-gay legal system back then, where people of the LGBTQIA+ community were persecuted and marginalized. These protests are considered to be one of the most important events that lead up to the gay liberation movement and modern day advocacy of LGBTQIA+ rights in the United States of America.
SAP has a very clear stand on Pride. We believe that every individual has the right to freedom and gender identity, and that no person should suffer any sort of discrimination due to their gender identity. Hence, SAP has stood in steadfast support with the LGBTQIA+ community. Beginning in 2017, we have actively celebrated Pride Month every year by conceptualizing and conducting a plethora of activities. This year was no different. We upheld the same enthusiasm and spirit, albeit with different logistics. Due to the pandemic, connecting virtually has become the new normal, and we did our very best to conduct interesting and exciting activities despite the limitations posed by such a medium.
We kick-started the month with a virtual LGBTQIA+ Inclusion session conducted by our allies Arundhati Kanungo and Utkarsh Jain Sankhla, that facilitated a no holds barred dialogue about important topics concerning the LGBTQIA+ community. It was well attended and well received by employees from all entities of SAP India. (Click to know more)
We also received an incredible amount of support from around 40 other companies, who willingly participated in Pride Circle's D&I Roundtable, where relevant topics like metrics in inclusion and data driven decision making were discussed. Our very own Sameer Ranjan Kumar represented SAP Labs India in this round table.
Additionally, we launched a tool called Pride@SAP which allows employees and allies of the community to freely pose questions and share their concerns anonymously. This session was conducted by Anita Joshi, Santarshi and Sameer and the initiative was undertaken keeping in mind the different circumstances that a person may be going through, causing him or her to not be "out." However, we at SAP still offer unhampered support and access to resources to our employees of the LGBTQIA+ community, regardless of whether they are out or not (Anonymous Portal)
We also conducted a talk on LGBTQIA+ inclusion for Success Factors Engineering - Management Team. Click to know more. There was also a Pride Circle Meet, where SAP employees as well as external participants came together under one roof and had a conversation about the challenges and opportunities, to ideate & execute, and to make a collective change. In fact, we even changed our Pride@SAP flag from a six-colored one to an eight-colored one. Normally, the ‘rainbow flag’ which is a symbol of LGBTQIA+ pride and social movements is six-colored one that represents the diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community. However, this year we added the colors brown and black to advocate racial equality as well.
Another activity conducted was Ally Experience Sharing session, which was an interactive panel discussion by SAP employees, where panelists shared their stories and experiences, and defining moments on their path to promoting the cause of gender diversity and inclusion. Read more about their experiences. Various other talks and discussions were held, including 'LGBTQIA+ through the ages,' 'Discover Their Stories,' and a few other inclusion sessions for SAP employees and Leadership teams (know more). We also conducted a special session for SAP Germany about being gay, lesbian, and transgender in India, where the audience could ask any question to enable them to better understand the Indian LGBTQIA+ diaspora. We also participated in 'Sticks and Stones Career Fair' in collaboration with SAP Germany, where we represented SAP in the virtual pod to talk about our inclusive culture.
Some other events and activities we engaged in during Pride Month were the Photo Contest, Signature Campaign and the Virtual Background which allowed users to lend support to the community by using the free virtual backgrounds in their MS Teams and on Zoom and the winners of the Pride Photo Challenge were Neha Shikha Kachhap and Pallavi Vishwanathan We also ran a successful social media campaign by highlighting each event conducted and sharing testimonials by attendees, thereby reaching a wider audience and increasing awareness about the cause.
However, we didn't stop there. Celebrating Pride would have been incomplete for us if we did not bring in an element of Intersectionality to it, because the concept of Pride rests on the fundamental principle of inclusivity. We strive to achieve a work culture where every person feels valued and respected despite individual differences, and this is a core value shared across different spheres of SAP. Our leaders Sindhu Gangadharan, SVP & MD of SAP Labs India, Shraddhanjali Rao, VP HR, SAP India and others participated in Pride Circle, and graciously lent their support by sparking off the events and sharing stories of struggle, learning and hope that culminated in SAP's journey of creating an inclusive workspace. In addition, attention was drawn to different policies we currently have at SAP, such as medical coverage for samesex partners, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) extended to families, family care leaves, and insurance coverage for gender affirmation surgery. We were extremely happy to see a diverse set of employees, especially Executive Leaders, Managers across lines of businesses, women and men as allies, and our budding Early Talents take time out to partake in the events and activities conducted throughout the month. Also throwing light on the intersectional nature of our celebration of Pride, is the fact that our events saw participation from specially abled people too. Know more about Pride Circle Meetup
We at SAP celebrated Pride Month this year with more passion and fanfare than previous years, even despite challenging times and adverse circumstances like the one we are facing currently. We are extremely grateful to our allies and volunteers who worked incredibly hard to organize all the activities and ensure that every undertaking was a triumph. All of this stems from the inherent belief in us that inclusion is the way forward, in order to create a better work environment that respects and promotes increased visibility for the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies. At SAP, we look forward to actively pursuing more ways to help build a community of talented professionals who go the extra mile to admire the multicultural nature of the world we live in, and value each other's individuality and freedom of expression.
Furthermore, we also recognized three of our allies who went over and beyond, because it is of utmost importance that we take a moment to acknowledge the ones who go an extra mile to make an impact. A special mention to Annu Kumari, Developer (API Management), Santarshi Samanta, Sr. Support Engineer (SAP CPI, SAP SCP, NW Java), and Sandeep TDS, Product Specialist (TI CP Mobile Services – IN) for their vigorous efforts to bring about change in SAP.
Star Allies of PRIDE Month 2020
For an extra dose of inspiration, let me leave you with a few words of wisdom from our leaders
Pride Month at SAP was celebrated in a way that reflected our core belief that the workplace should be a safe and respectful environment and that allows everyone to thrive, regardless of our identity. With these small steps, SAP aims to be the most inclusive company on the planet. Let’s all join hands and live the fact of diversity through a proud inclusion!