“An ally is someone who supports, encourages, and stands up for all individuals across the spectrum, notwithstanding their race, colour, creed, religion, or any attribute.”
BY DYLAN MANN-HAZELL (MYGWORK), IMAGE BY RASHMI PANDIT
“If you want to be a true ally to the LGBTQ+ community, you need to start by working on yourself.”
Rashmi Pandit, Compliance Director for Morningstar, India, spoke to myGwork about authentic allyship and how it plays a role in everyday life, not just occasionally. She also described her journey towards becoming an ally, sharing details of the events in her life that led her to be such a firm supporter of the LGBTQ+ community.
Rashmi Pandit has never been a stranger to the diversity of humanity. From a young age, family life circumstances allowed her to interact with people from various backgrounds, cultures and identities. Her father’s job as an army officer meant that her family was periodically transferred to different areas of the country, from the northernmost to the southernmost parts of India. Rashmi’s parents always encouraged her innate interest in diversity, inspiring her activism for protecting marginalized communities early on. Simply put, Rashmi firmly believes that diversity portrays “the beauty of humankind” and that authentic allyship has an integral place in that beauty.
“An ally is someone who supports, encourages, and stands up for all individuals across the spectrum, notwithstanding their race, colour, creed, religion, or any attribute,” she explained. “A true ally to the LGBTQ+ community would want to make the world a better place for them.”
Starting her career with a mutual fund as a compliance intern, Rashmi learned first-hand, the value of treating everyone in the workplace equally, regardless of background, class, or status. This consideration for inclusivity, along with her hard-working nature, allowed her to excel in the company, as she was offered a full-time job just nine months into the internship, and this paved the way for her evolving into a seasoned compliance professional in the financial services industry.
Rashmi also recounted how she was once praised for her English and communication skills by a senior board member of a company she worked for, who had a reputation for never applauding anyone for either. “That’s something I will always remember,” she said. “I think it was a standout moment in my career because I was supremely passionate about English. As someone who took pride in my English and ability to communicate with people at their level, being complimented by someone whose English and communication skills were considered impeccable definitely stuck with me.”
Not just English, Rashmi continued to educate herself in the field of securities and other financial laws too, which eventually brought her to financial services firm Morningstar in 2015. Immediately upon joining, she was responsible for setting up the compliance team, polices and processes for Morningstar’s regulated businesses in India, receiving praise for her efforts from the start. And her beautiful journey at Morningstar continues. But what Rashmi loves most about Morningstar is how welcoming, positive and inclusive the workplace is, a fact that has been acknowledged by external bodies too through the many consistent accolades Morningstar has been receiving, including the most recent recognition in the India Workplace Equality Index. As the benchmark for LGBTQ+ inclusion in India, this index is also associated with the Stonewall Index in analyzing the quality of progression in the company. For their efforts in diversity and inclusion, Morningstar India received a bronze award in 2022. Though they are proud of their achievement, Rashmi insisted that this was only the start of their inclusivity journey, as they are now gunning for gold.
As the leader of the LGBTQ+ focus group at Morningstar, Rashmi has consistently placed progressive values at the forefront of her career and lifestyle. She expressed how allyship is much more than being tolerant of those around you, but also showing an understanding of the history, culture and identities of the LGBTQ+ community. Her advice for those who want to display authentic allyship is simple: put the effort in.
“If you want to be a true ally to the LGBTQ+ community, you need to start by working on yourself,” said Rashmi. “Firstly, you must be absolutely comfortable around people who belong to the community. Secondly, you should be able to use words like gay, lesbian, and transgender, without shame. And you must develop a deep understanding of the issues that these individuals grapple with on a day-to-day basis and be confident enough to discuss them without any sense of fear or shame.”
Keeping her promise to strive to higher and further places, Rashmi is now involved in Morningstar’s brand-new employee resource group, Quetzal. Named after the colorful exotic species of bird from Central America, the vibrant colors of the animal represent the freedom of expression in the LGBTQ+ community, much like the Pride flag. The group seeks to provide LGBTQ+ people throughout the company the means to communicate with others within the community, with prominent support from allies too. However, Rashmi also wants to ensure that, in her allyship, she isn’t speaking over the voices of marginalized members of the community.
“We provide our LGBTQ+ colleagues a safe channel for communication,” she revealed. “Our LGBTQ+ employees in India have a channel to talk to fellow employees across the group at Morningstar. This is important to us, because sometimes they might not feel comfortable talking to a cisgender heterosexual person, but they would happily connect with members from their community until they feel comfortable in their skin and able to come out.”
Considering the company’s future efforts to maintain and consistently improve upon its diversity and inclusion standards, Rashmi first looks back to the past. She reflected on the messages found within sacred Hindu texts, referencing gender identities beyond male and female and ancient carvings depicting acts between homosexual couples. Calling for government action on progressive legislative rights for LGBTQ+ people, Rashmi believes that a clear understanding of the community’s history plays an integral part in society learning to accept them. Though the campaign for equal rights holds a long and arduous journey ahead, she is not deterred by the difficulty that comes with the fight. She maintains that despite the progress made so far, the hard work has only just begun, providing a quote by Robert Frost that keeps her motivated: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.”
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