Queeristan by Parmesh Shahani

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A World Bank report published in 2016 analyzed 39 countries and found a clear relationship between marginalization and a loss in GDP. This report estimates India’s loss in GDP due to hatred towards LGBTQ+ people at $32 billion, or 1.7% of our country’s GDP. There is a lot of such research, data points, and numbers, globally and in an Indian context, that show that the power of diversity and LGBTQ inclusion should be harnessed.

Giving personal narratives to these data points is Parmesh Shahani’s Queeristan: LGBTQ Inclusion in the Indian Workplace. As a vice president at Godrej Industries Ltd, he talks about his ten-year journey as an out and proud gay man at Godrej. Other stories include those of inclusion champions, business leaders who describe their efforts to effect change in their workplaces. Stories of businesses that successfully reaped the benefits of diversity and inclusion include Tata Steel, IBM, Wipro, and the Lalit group of hotels. The educationist and Massachusetts Institute of Technology-educated entrepreneur Parmesh Shahani also penned down stories of employees whose lives were transformed by LGBTQ-friendly workspaces.

The author keeps in mind all kinds of audiences, and it is not just written for queer folks. Apart from LGBTQ+ people, a lot of conversations are intended for HR professionals who are looking for best practises for LGBTQ+ inclusion or for policy changes to make their workplace a queer inclusive workplace. Even if you know little or nothing about the LGBTQ+ community, there is a section of the book that will explain the various labels and languages around queerness.

The single point that this memoir-cum-manifesto wants to drive home is that “in diversity and inclusion lies the promise of an equitable and profitable future, for companies, their employees, and society at large.” There is a lot of “How To” for HR professionals, right from the queer-friendly recruitment process to the LGBTQ+-friendly work culture, and various other aspects of the workplace. It is not all data and policies, there are heartening stories and conversations around movements, institutions, and icons of the LGBTQ+ community. Queeristan in general brings in a lot of research and data to back up his stories and need for inclusion at work. Also, since context is everything, the author has been mindful of the Indian context while talking about LGBTQ+ inclusion at workplaces.

He also talks about ‘pinkwashing’ and why it is a bad approach for business—that is, companies that promote themselves as queer-friendly but are not serious enough to make changes in policies that actually make a difference to people of the LGBTQ+ community. Whether talking about policies or sharing the stories of LGBTQ+ office workers, the director of the Godrej India Culture Lab, Parmesh Shahani’s tone and wit are something that will draw you in, especially if you are listening to the audio book, which was narrated by Parmesh Shahani himself!

Witty and empathetic, “Queeristan: LGBTQ Inclusion in the Indian Workplace” is particularly important for business leaders and LGBTQ+ people who are working in diversity and inclusion spaces.

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