As India’s advertising agencies work to create a culture of equality, it is important for them to enable and assist employees from the LGBT community to be visible at the workplace.
While it’s a much broader societal battle, advertising agencies — which have always been seen as organisations with a liberal approach — can be at the forefront in tackling the issue by actively recruiting and promoting LGBT leaders and drive progress for both gender rights and equality.
In terms of creativity, the ad agencies are already putting forth ad campaigns that embrace love, equality and diversity.
As India celebrates the international pride month for the first time this June, BestMediaInfo.com speaks to LGBT employees at ad agencies to understand the workplace atmosphere and the challenges they face.
Abhishek Satam, Account Manager, Digital Solutions, Publicis Beehive, said, “The culture in advertising agencies is quite open, bold and accepting. I think no other industry is that flexible to understand, accept and be welcoming than the advertising industry.”
Don’t treat us differently
A spokesperson from Dentsu Aegis Network, said, “Sexuality doesn’t matter at all in this industry. Most of my colleagues know I am gay but despite it, my journey has been very good for the last seven years in the advertising industry.”
Shekhar Mhaskar, Chief Growth Officer, Isobar India, said, “The ad agencies are better in accepting different kinds of people; not only male and female but also people from our community. I was at Ogilvy for about 11 years. They are pro-LGBTQ — very accommodating and understanding. The journey at Isobar hasn’t been different at all from my experience at my previous workplaces,” he said.
According to Satam, talent counts in agencies and no one is judged on caste, gender and community. “I have never hidden my identity to my present colleagues or at the workplaces I have worked so far. It is very important for people in the creative and communication field to be open about who they are to give their best,” he emphasised.
However, a spokesperson from DAN differed, “It’s not important to be open to everyone at the workplace about one’s sexuality. Recognition depends on the work I deliver and not on the basis of my sexuality,” he added.
“Compared with other sectors, ad agencies are one of the best to work for, where people accept the individuality of a person. At Isobar, it all depends on every individual’s skill,” said Mhaskar.
Speaking on how welcoming the ad agencies are towards the LGBT community, Mhaskar said, “In India, from a decade or so, the agencies have become more than welcoming in their attitude towards the community. Apart from agencies, brands we work for have become very welcoming to people from the LGBT community and their contribution in the ad world.”
According to an Accenture research, the culture of equality helps everyone advance to higher positions and is a powerful multiplier of innovation and growth for the LGBT community.
“A lot of social learning is happening in the advertising industry. In Publicis, I have seen workshops being conducted to educate employees about the community,” said Satam.
Publicis educates its employees through a series of animated videos followed by an online test.
Speaking on the shyness of people to talk about their identity as gay and lesbian, Mhaskar said, “People of the younger age group who realise their sexuality as gays or lesbians are very shy of accepting it, but as the person grows and matures, he or she understands and are convinced about their sexuality. They become more open and accept it themselves too.”
Satam of Publicis had a different perspective. He said, “The influence in and around this community over the years has helped people of this community to become quite outspoken today about their feelings.”
According to a DAN spokesperson, “The shyness has reduced over the years. Very few LGBT people are shy of accepting who they are from inside.”
“At the workplace, if an individual opens up about his/her sexuality, it will show in their work because the person will be more happy and confident while working and they will not hide their individuality to their colleagues,” he adds.
Ad agencies leading in terms of acceptance
Speaking on gender biases at the workplace, Satam said, “I have never faced any sort of discrimination with clients I have worked for. A client’s mind is only focused on good work.”
“When it comes to business, nobody bothers about a person’s sexuality. If you are good at what you are doing, the rest of the things don’t really matter. There are clients whom I know very well are more than welcoming towards me,” said Mhaskar.
The DAN spokesperson said, “Advertising agencies are the reason why so many gender-biased people across the country have changed their mindset by seeing LGBT ad campaigns. I have not faced any biased behaviour for being gay.”
Pooja Jauhari, CEO, The Glitch, said, “The advertising world is one of the most inclusive industries in my view. The landscape is changing and I can see my friends in advertising from the LGBTQ community feel more confident at their work places. It’s about time. This is their basic human right. With the creative community taking charge in representing this community well in film and ads will go a long way. There is no one way to do that; by not allowing stereotypes we will take multiple steps forward in the right direction."
“We’ve been holding a few talks, celebrating through open conversations and having a positive upbeat environment in our company by encouraging the right kind of stories to be told through our work,” she further added.
According to Satam, people are more aware of the LGBT community, which is actively working in different industries. But the visibility is more in the advertising industry because there is more acceptance here.
“The organisations I have worked for have supported and helped me in my personal challenges. There are no discriminatory thoughts against such people. Ad agencies worship creative ideas and work, and that’s what these agencies want,” concluded Mhaskar.