India’s first ever LGBTI job fair attracted a sellout crowd Friday as some of the biggest names in business lined up to interview hundreds of candidates in the tech city of Bangalore.
Goldman Sachs, Ford, Uber, Accenture and Intel, as well as big Indian companies such as Godrej — a family-owned conglomerate — and luggage maker VIP Industries, were among dozens of employers that sponsored the fair and offered jobs.
The event was organized by the Pride Circle, an organization founded in 2017 to promote the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and intersex people in the workforce.
“Either you meet queer people in the pride marches, or you meet them at gay parties, or you would meet them at film festivals,” Pride Circle co-founder Srini Ramaswamy told CNN Business. “And in all these three big spaces, you would probably not go and ask: ‘Hey do you want a job?'”
India’s LGBT community has faced a long battle for legal rights. Homosexuality was considered a crime until less than a year ago, before the country’s Supreme Court struck down a colonial-era law last September.
Ramaswamy said it was hard to get companies to sign up when Pride Circle first started. Since then, it has grown from four members to more than 700, spread out across ten Indian cities.
“Companies are now coming out in support and solidarity,” he added.
The organization started as a platform for people from the LGBTI community to meet and discuss challenges they faced in the workplace, by hosting “safe space” groups in Bangalore. It then began organizing workshops at companies around the city to raise awareness.
Organizing the job fair was “a sort of lightbulb moment,” Ramaswamy said, aimed at creating a space for LGBTI job seekers and employers to interact.
The RISE job fair — an acronym for Reimagining Inclusion for Social Equity — attracted more than 450 candidates, Ramaswamy said, exceeding the event’s 350-person capacity. The ones that secured a place had a chance of competing for around 250 jobs at 35 different companies.
“We want to create a workplace that is inclusive and reflects the diversity of communities we serve,” Vishpala Reddy, Uber’s regional HR director for Asia Pacific, told CNN Business. “India’s first LGBTI career fair is a strong fit with our commitment to create an environment that works for everyone and where people of every background can thrive,” she added.
Bangalore is home to the third biggest Goldman Sachs office in the world, after New York and London. One of the bank’s analysts in the city was a petitioner in the Supreme Court case that legalized homosexuality.
“Collective voices and efforts matter in order to make progress,” Goldman Sachs Bangalore’s head of human capital management Vidya Lakshmi, said in a statement. “This first of its kind job fair in India is a unique opportunity to also actively demonstrate such and lean into this talent pool.”
Pride Circle wants to double the number of cities it operates in by next year, and hold similar job fairs in Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata with the aim of facilitating at least 2,000 hires over the next two years.
The organization is also using the job fair to showcase small businesses run by people from the LGBTI community, and has created a resumé database for employers.
And more options are opening up. Another LGBT group, Six Degrees, is hosting a job fair “celebrating diversity across different genders, age brackets, disabilities and sexualities” in Mumbai later this month.
“What has shifted for job seekers is a ray of hope and happiness that there are companies which are now opening doors, and they are making a positive effort towards inclusion,” Ramaswamy said.
“It’s not about reservations, it’s not about a quota, it’s not about token service,” he added. Rather it’s about creating “an opportunity to welcome everyone.”