by Vijay Anand — posted with permission from his original blog.
Earlier this month, I attended the Out & Equal Workplace Summit on workplace equality in San Francisco, where Intuit was a platinum sponsor. It was a life changing experience for me. We had great participation from Intuit, with all of our Pride network leaders led by Scott Beth, the chair of our diversity council and Atticus Tysen, leader of the Intuit Pride network. A proud moment for me was winning the Champion Award for 2014. Receiving the award from Scott and subsequently speaking on stage to over 3000 attendees was an experience I will never forget.
The conference was beautifully organized with some amazing leaders including Billie Jean King, the star tennis player and Olympia Dukakis, celebrity actor, sharing their own personal stories. It was moving to hear the challenges they overcame and how they are helping others to do so too. I had great fun meeting our folks at the Intuit booth as well as walking through and learning from other companies. Scott and I also did a panel discussion the next day, along with Zafar, from Thomson Reuters; about our journey on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) awareness here in India, beginning with the roundtable event in January, and our most recent panel discussion in October. We had a great audience asking thoughtful questions about how they could learn from our experiences and make a difference in their own organizations in India. Clearly, I can see the momentum building for this community here in India.
The most inspirational part of the event for me was meeting many people, including people from India or of Indian origin. They came up to me and thanked me for speaking out about this in India. Their own journey to come out has been so traumatic, disturbing and painful, particularly to their parents in India, their friends and family. Most of them still are not out to their circle in India, even though they are out to their friends and colleagues in the US!
My conversation with one gentleman, whom I shall not name, made me realize why it is so important for us, here in India, to be allies and champion the cause of LGBT equality. He is a young man from Bangalore, in fact from my own neighborhood! He now lives in the Bay Area and works for a top software company. He realized he was gay when he came to the US. His act of coming out to his parents almost drove him to the point of committing suicide. Even today, his parents are not comfortable and he is not out to any of his family and friends in India, because of the adverse reaction he expects. He is out to his American colleagues at work but not even to his Indian friends and colleagues, for he fears what their reaction will be.
Talking to me made him realize he had worked closely with my brother, who was with the same company at that time. His first reaction was, “Please don’t tell your brother, I am not out yet with him.” On second thoughts, he said, “Go ahead and tell your brother. Why shouldn’t he know?” He was inspired by the fact that we, at Intuit, are talking about LGBT and equality here in India, and feels that this will make a difference to the mindset among people here. He hopes it will help him convince his parents one day; that he is normal despite who he loves, and that they should continue to love him.
Such conversations with people made me realize why I was doing this, why it was important to be there, speak to people, and in a small way, make a difference. I am proud to receive this award on behalf of the wonderful people at Intuit and on behalf of the mission we are on, to build true equality at our workplace, irrespective of our differences.