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Diversity And Inclusion: 10 Podcasts Indian Bosses Should Be Listening To

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By Rajkanya Mahapatra

Business leaders across the world are prioritising on making their companies more diverse and inclusive as research shows that a diverse workforce has a competitive advantage over others. That said, companies might be confusing diversity with inclusion. Hiring people from diverse backgrounds isn’t enough. Bosses will have to systematically alter the workplace to ensure that all employees have adequate psychological safety to be their best selves at work. Getting diversity and inclusion right is a constant work in progress.

There’s good news for business leaders and HR managers trying to create a diverse and inclusive workspace as they are spoilt for choice as far as learning about D&I is concerned.

In India, over 40 million people listen to podcasts and this number is only growing steadily. Podcasts offer the unique ability to communicate human stories and enable discussion using the warmth of voice and personal connection like no other medium can.

Stories are important in shaping our understanding of our place in the world and so is the case with D&I. This list of podcast series and episodes offers an important source of developing empathy towards others — a key ingredient in any D&I effort.

The 10 podcasts on this list strike a balance between ‘learning at home’ and ‘learning from others’. Featured here are voices that focus on bigger questions of D&I and the most effective way to put it into practice, as well as voices that focus on individual stories of hardships. Happy listening folks!

1) BBC Worklife India

Based in Delhi, this BBC podcast talks about the realities of modern work life in India, the many opportunities it offers, and the obstacles people encounter in accessing those opportunities. Over 45 episodes have been aired since May 2019. The podcast addresses many issues (gender, disability, sexuality, religion and caste) that will help business leaders and managers get an understanding of how working folks in India are coping at their respective workplaces.

Based in Delhi, this BBC podcast talks about the realities of modern work life in India, the many opportunities it offers, and the obstacles people encounter in accessing those opportunities.

A typical episode lasts 30 minutes, which means one could catch up on a good quality discussion while they sip their morning coffee and make breakfast. Here are a few recommended episodes from the podcast you can find on Spotify: The hidden world of modern slavery (25th August, 2019), Transforming transgender lives (9th December, 2019) and Fighting for dignity and inclusion (20th January, 2020).

2) Choose Inclusion

Choose Inclusion is an American podcast that started in September 2019 and is hosted by “a blind man, a woman of color, and a wannabe Latino” discusses various aspects of D&I. In its 20+ episodes on Spotify, you can develop a nuanced understanding of D&I issues ranging from how to Turn Diversity, Equity and Inclusion into strategy (5th December, 2019), to historicising the conversation on the need for accessibility and discussing how things should be in the future (20th April, 2020). For example, one of the hosts Nina Baliga, a tech developer, talks about building inclusive technology and how that process got her to recognise the need for inclusion within her organisation in the TED talk linked above.

3) Online Gods – Dalit Online Media

A limited podcast that will bring delight to those looking for an academic understanding of contemporary issues as it takes a theoretical deep dive into how our increased interactions on the internet are transforming public sphere. Led and co-hosted by Sahana Udupa, an Indian scholar and social anthropologist for the project ‘For Digital Dignity’, the podcast offers lucid lessons on how religion, feminism, caste and nationalism are unfolding on the internet and how Indians are dealing with it.

From a D&I perspective, the second episode has host Ian Cook discussing Dalit politics with co-founder of Round Table India Kuffir Nalgundwar. In half an hour, you will not only get an understanding of the history of Dalit politics, but also a reality check on how little we’ve done as a society to uproot the exploitative caste system. The biggest takeaway is Nalgundwar’s incisive take on the lack of Dalit journalists in the Indian media. It has been long enough and media organisations in India need to prioritise on D&I right about now.

4) Women In Labour

No podcast gives you a more complete listening experience than Women in Labour. Hosted by comic Aditi Mittal and journalist-cum-filmmaker Christina MacGillivray, the podcast covers a wide range of issues (childcare, navigating a male-dominated workplace/sector, decreasing number of women in the workforce, and more) that women face as they work in India.

As for providing a complete experience, each episode has a dedicated page that shares information about the guest speaker and what the episode is going to be about. In addition to this, the episode also provides for further reading. From a D&I perspective, Women in Labour offers insights from folks who understand patriarchy and have found a way to explain and/or circumvent it — HR professionals only stand to gain from tuning in as they will build an understanding of specific challenges women face at work and at home. Three recommended episodes are Episode 11 (Creches are Crucial), Episode 14 (The Economics of The Issue) and Episode 17 (Enabling Others).

5) Change Catalyst + Tech Inclusion

Created by Melinda Briana Epler, a senior professional with over 25 years of experience in developing strategies for business inclusion and innovation in the United States, the weekly podcast discusses D&I issues, including, but not limited to, disability advocacy, mental health, xenophobia and Islamophobia, and trans and gender non-conforming allyship.

The Tech Inclusion podcast — a separate offering from Change Catalyst — has young folks from Silicon Valley talk about their experiences of building diverse and inclusive practices at tech companies. This podcast is a goldmine for anybody trying to understand D&I issues irrespective of their nationality. Most speakers occupy intersectional identities, which makes each podcast unique. It’ll be hard to harbour biases once you’ve tuned into Change Catalyst.

Women trolled online
Women In Labour covers a wide range of issues (childcare, navigating a male-dominated workplace/sector, decreasing number of women in the workforce, and more) that women face as they work in India.

6) Queer Money

At 210 episodes, Queer Money by partners David Auten and John Schneider, is a one-of-a-kind podcast for queer folks on how they can manage their personal finances, live debt-free, and navigate in a world that sees and treats them differently. The podcast may be set in America, but it surely serves as a reminder on just how much can be discussed and done to make the lives of Indian LGBTQ+ folks better. Episode 108 titled Return on Equality with Todd Sears is a good place to start to understand how D&I policies can be made to facilitate the professional growth of queer employees and help them reach leadership positions.

7) Hear Me Too – Indian Express

Express Audio and UN Women joined forces for this limited podcast hosted by Ameya Nagarajan that focuses on violence against women (VAW) in India. In a series of seven episodes, the podcast addresses VAW in India both in public and private sphere. The episodes have several professionals weighing in with statistics and their expertise on how violence should not be seen as an explicit action of physical harm inflicted on women by other people. The podcast also goes on to reveal the systemic marginalisation of women on a daily basis. It’s essential to understand the many barriers that women have to overcome to be their most productive selves at work to be able to then build better D&I policies for them.

8) That’s Not How That Works

Just like other podcasts that focus on D&I, That’s Now How That Works also takes up issues of gender, sexuality and race, and dissects them critically. That said, it does one crucial thing differently – it turns the spotlight on those with the most privilege and all the things they need to be doing to be better co-workers and leaders.

In most conversations on D&I, the need to include and work with privileged folks within a certain context has been largely missing. Bridging this gap, hosts Weeze and Trudi, who call themselves JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) masters, unpack the little things about White privilege that need deeper introspection and correction. If something similar is done in India, it’ll have the potential to greatly enrich the conversation on D&I. Till that happens, this podcast can guide Indian bosses on how to go about unpacking their own privilege and those of others in their workspace to make room for them.

9) Keeping It Queer

An Indus Vox Media (IVM) podcast, Keeping It Queer, hosted by comedian Navin Noronha and Farhad Karkaria (who also co-hosts another queer podcast GayBCD), takes a look at the world through the queer lens. Now in its third season, the podcast deals with personal relationships, gender fluidity, asexuality, human rights, politics, and more. Keeping It Queer should be the go-to resource center for HR managers who are trying to figure how to hire and include queer folks within their organisation. The podcast provides the much-needed visibility to queer folks and does a great job at amplifying their voices. We need Keeping It Queer to keep it coming.

Actor and host Kalki Koechlin takes to the BBC style of documentary-like narration to speak to Indians with unique stories. Koechlin is sensitive in her treatment of complex issues and the podcast plays out like a story.

10) Kalki Presents: My Indian Life

Actor and host Kalki Koechlin takes to the BBC style of documentary-like narration to speak to Indians with unique stories. Koechlin is sensitive in her treatment of complex issues and the podcast plays out like a story. Clocking under 30 minutes, each episode manages to not just educate you about the lived realities of a person, but also about how society functions to impact such individuals. Indian bosses have a lot of work to do to get D&I at their workplace right — starting with checking their own biases, opening up to the lived experiences of their employees, and accepting the issues they face as legitimate. The drag king (6th December, 2019), The Goddess of Big Things (22nd September, 2018) and A Question of Caste (15th September, 2018) are three episodes you could begin with.

If you’re keen on building better D&I policies or just want to work on being a better co-worker, this list should help you get started on that journey. All you have to do is tune into an episode at a place where you can listen without interruptions. Off you go now!

Psssst: ‘Ungender’ is starting its own podcast dedicated exclusively to the issues under D&I in India, sign up for the beta now.

About the author: At Ungender, Rajkanya writes about the many ways in which modern workplaces can become inclusive. As a graduate student, she’s exploring the location of gender in issues of cyber security, artificial intelligence and violent extremism. She’s previously worked with online social justice media platform Youth Ki Awaaz as an editor.

This article has been edited  by Varna.

Note: Ungender Insights is the product of our learning from advisory work at Ungender. Our team specialises in advising workplaces on workplace diversity and inclusion. Write to us at contact@ungender.in to understand how we can partner with your organisation to build a more inclusive workplace.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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