Associate Manager at Parexel, Snehal Shende, talks about standing for the rights of others and how to incorporate this into corporate management
BY MYGWORK, IMAGE BY MYGWORK
Snehal Shende is an Associate Manager at Parexel and a proud ally to the LGBTQ+ community. Based in their India office, it has been vital to her throughout her almost ten years at the company to propel diversity and inclusion forward and be there for her LGBTQ+ colleagues. myGwork spoke to her about authentic allyship and the steps Parexel are making to ensure their LGBTQ+ staff are safe and respected.
Snehal grew up in Nagpur City, surrounded by loving family and friends. With a close-knit community, empathy and kindness to those who may be different was instilled in her at an early age, particularly during holiday visits to her aunt’s township. As a child, Snehal was curious about the people she came
across there, some of whom seemed to conceal their identities and stay hidden inside their homes. She later found out that these people identified as transgender and considers her interest and desire to understand that community her first memory of being an LGBTQ+ ally. This support for the community from such a young age was further demonstrated when Snehal would hear her childhood friends making cruel and unkind comments about transgender identities and, despite the possibility of being subject to
mockery herself, would call out their behaviour.
“I just thought it was so wrong for someone not to be included in our society just for being who they are,” she explains. “So, I made sure I at least conveyed this to my friends.”
As well as developing a keen interest in nature, culture and singing, Snehal maintained her allyship towards the transgender community throughout her teenage years, all the way up to graduation. Showing a desire to learn and be the best version of herself, she enrolled in personality development classes which aimed to inspire personal growth. During these classes, she was asked to speak on a topic of her choice, and she chose to make a stand for the transgender community. Though this surprised everyone on the course, her speech was met with applause. Even before joining any official LGBTQ+ networks or inclusive groups, it’s clear that Snehal’s passion for LGBTQ+ rights and her inclination to be a strong ally to the community has always been a part of her.
“What I understand about allyship is you need to be very honest in your thoughts and intentions. Put sincerity into your efforts.”
After graduating, Snehal began her career as a research coordinator at the Central India Cancer researchinstitute before taking work at Tata Consultancy Services. She now works as the Associate Manager at the global clinical research organisation, Parexel. In her decade-long placement at the company, Snehal has overseen advancements in clinical data analysis, ensuring that Parexel maintains its status as one of the top-selling biopharmaceuticals and biotechnology companies. But it’s Parexel’s dedication to an inclusive culture and work environment that Snehal is particularly proud of.
“We have the Parexel PRIDE committee,” Snehal says, “Which strives to enhance the visibility of LGBTQ+ employees and assist Parexel with hiring, retention, and professional development of LGBTQ+ employees.”
Parexel PRIDE is an opportunity to learn from and improve conditions for LGBTQ+ people in the workplace. In her office, based just outside of Hyderabad, the committee constantly strives for positive change. From ensuring gender-neutral language and making sure the team knows how to talk to LGBTQ+ people in a respectful manner, to physical changes, such as the implementation of gender-neutral bathrooms, Hyderabad is currently taking steps ahead of the rest of the offices based in India.
As Assistant Manager, Snehal’s role in this progress has been integral, placing company awareness and kindness at the top of her priorities and knowing the impact of her role as an LGBTQ+ ally.
“Allyship is one of the important aspects of this LGBTQ+ journey,” she observes. “Allyship plays an additional role of support system wherein you make the system not just aware of this topic but also make the system understand the right behaviours and way to look at this. This eventually leads to a more inclusive and positive workplace.”
Snehal also joined myGwork earlier this year for a panel during WorkPride, talking about the importance of intersectionality in inclusivity and the specific experience of the LGBTQ+ community in South Asian communities. Also discussed was the importance of culture and religion and being open about mental health struggles. In the panel, Snehal referenced accountability and responsibility for cisgender heterosexual people to help make the LGBTQ+ community feel safer in the workplace and across all aspects of society.
Throughout her career and efforts to promote diversity, Snehal has witnessed a notable change in attitudes towards LGBTQ+ identities in recent years – particularly regarding the protection of human rights. “There is more visibility and buzz around LGBTQ+ safety and rights,” she says. “The conscious
efforts by Parexel for LGBTQ+ skill development and education through a corporate social responsibilities umbrella is also one of the important areas of progress and development.”
Snehal shares a positive outlook overall for the future of inclusivity and diversity in the workplace and anticipates effective change continuing to take place for the community. Her main wish for the future of LGBTQ+ rights is that young queer people are celebrated and accepted from birth, just as cisgender,
heterosexual people are. Her parting words are directed to her fellow allies and anyone who wants to see progress made for LGBTQ+ rights: “Just remember we are all humans. And it is our social and moral responsibility to support any human cause.”
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