It is time to step up for inclusion. To show the world that we complement each other by being different. Together we are stronger and better. We can learn from each other and that is why five Deloitte colleagues are sharing their personal story about Diversity & Inclusion. Kanak Chowdhary (31), MuleSoft specialist at Deloitte Consulting, talks about being a role model.
“Seven years ago I was living in India with my ex-girlfriend and she worked for Deloitte. Coming out and accepting our identities was next to impossible in India. Surprisingly, one day she received an invite from work for a ‘Shankar Mahadevan’ concert saying ‘you and your plus one are invited’. Up until then companies only extended invitations for legally wedded husbands or wives. This ‘plus one’ invite from Deloitte on the other hand was exceptionally open and welcoming. It was a life changing experience for me. This was when I decided I wanted to move to a world that would accept me. Years later, while living in the Netherlands, I came across a job posting at Deloitte. The brand name brought back the memories and the impression of inclusivity. And I knew I wanted to be a part of an organisation that would accept me for who I am.”
Inclusion is very important, Kanak says. “Not only for the LGBT+ community, but for everyone. Everybody needs to feel comfortable at work. It makes you a happier person and brings out the best of you. In the case of LGBT+ members, it might be extra important as a lot of them struggle and often have friction at home. Having a workplace that is inclusive and let’s you be who you are, is vital. At Deloitte we feel connectedness. We have a supportive LGBT+ community called GLOBE and Deloitte was recently awarded the best employer for LGBT+. Even in the Netherlands this amount of openness is rare. Role models like Deloitte are necessary to change the world and being part of the organisation inspires me to be a role model as well.”
Her first day at Deloitte Kanak saw a presentation by one of the company partners, Leon Pieters, and that made quite an impression. “On stage he openly talked about being gay and that he wanted all of us to feel at home. I had seen drag queens and flamboyant gays but Leon Pieters was a real life example showing, you don’t need a mohawk to fit in as gay. You can also wear a suit, be a consultant and still be gay. From that moment on I often speak about it in my social circle. I tell my friends to have ambition, get into a position of power and then go make a difference. Deloitte has a lot of opportunities for making an impact and growth and that is something my friends crave for. Seeing me live a happy life, inspires them to pursue the same.”
"Sometimes being a role model starts with supportively being present and confidently being out."
Sometimes being a role model starts with just supportively being present and confidently being out, Kanak continues. “Talk about your experiences and be strong. Once somebody said to me: ‘I am gay but up until now I didn’t have the courage to accept it. Seeing how you can manage being out, even after such a conservative past, gives me the strength to also be myself’. And that is great. Deloitte GLOBE often has diversity and inclusion events to make us feel at home. Because we don’t have to fight for gay rights as much in the Netherlands as in other countries on the planet, people sometimes forget the importance of being present and engaged in diversity and inclusion events. But even a little effort is a big enough effort. The LGBT+ community has to go through an extra effort of coming out because the assumed default is ‘heterosexual with no need to come out’ and it is hard to change the default. Depression and suicide rates are much higher in the gay community because they can feel alone. It is our job to show them they are not. The closeted need to see they can live a life of honour and pride just as much as others do.”