Jigar, Procurement, India
Jigar is Head of Procurement for India. His work enables him to collaborate with hundreds of people in and out of the business and he tries to use his experience and background to increase visibility of LGBTQ+ people and support others who may be reluctant about being open about their sexuality. He believes that by being present and being out, he can accelerate the acceptance journey of society at large.
How did moving away from home affect you?
I kept my authentic self hidden for much of my childhood. However, once I moved to New York for my MBA, I got exposure to a wider LGBTQ+ community and witnessed them thrive and succeed in their respective careers. This gave me the courage to come out to my family in 2013.
While they are modern and forward thinking, accepting me as their gay son was a life-changing moment for all of us as a family. We all had to adjust our expectations and agree how we, as a family, could find ways to be happy together.
I moved home because I wanted to be close to my family and my culture. The Indian culture is all about celebrations – we have 28 festivals! While I was part of a large Indian community in the US, it wasn’t the same as being in India because there are some things you just can’t enjoy without family.
What were the challenges on a professional level?
For some, bringing your best self to work requires a massive leap of faith because you can’t know who knows what, how they will react both in obvious and subtle ways. There can be a lot of micro-aggressions, sub-conscious biases and prejudices, and you can’t help but worry what, if any, impact it might have on your career development.
I feel privileged. I was accepted at GSK. This acceptance in my peer group has enabled me to evolve into an outspoken advocate, ally and relentless mentor. I want to create enough awareness so anyone can say LGBTQ+ with confidence and no hesitation.
Therefore, I feel privileged. I was accepted at GSK. This acceptance in my peer group has enabled me to evolve into an outspoken advocate, ally and relentless mentor. I want to create enough awareness so anyone can say LGBTQ+ with confidence and no hesitation. When leaders speak with hesitation, the benefit of inclusion disappears.
You helped start the LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group for GSK in India but you’ve also offered support to those in the community outside of work.
Because I’m in a comfortable, secure and safe space, I can speak and advocate for those who don’t have the same privilege as me. A support group in Mumbai was getting desperate requests from teenagers in smaller cities. At 15 and 16 years old, the tenth graders had come out to their families with the expectation that they would leave their home for college. But with the COVID shutdown, they were trapped with their parents.
As a support group, we were able to provide them with guidance until the quarantines eased. Sometimes it helps just having someone listen and offer hope.
How does your advocacy align with our business goals?
My vision is looking at the economic benefit of inclusion. When we value different backgrounds, experiences, even education, we generate innovative solutions faster, So I’ve brought different teams based in India together to function not only as a support group but also to exchange ideas, inspire and motivate senior leaders to be vocal allies of the LGBTQ+ community.
To reflect our patient base, we must continue our efforts and find new ways to build diverse teams, a diverse talent pool and an inclusive culture. One strategy I’ve been using is incorporating intentional wording in our job postings. Because I can protect, coach and mentor LGBTQ+ talent, I have encouraged qualified members of those under-represented communities to apply. This encourages other leaders to do the same.
It’s about doing the right thing to unite science, talent and technology. Really how many people get to actually do the right thing? It’s a great feeling.
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