Let’s Talk: Sustainability Celebrating Diversity

It is hard to believe that in some countries today it is still illegal to be gay. In fact homosexual activity remains illegal in 70 countries - only 65% of people living in United Nations countries can now be considered in legally consenting, same-sex relationships (Source: Forbes). That seems pretty shocking. Companies are more actively promoting inclusivity and yet attitudes take time to change. According to the Equality Index, many countries around the world still offer no protection for LGBTQ+ employees from workplace discrimination, as shown in the map below.

The Yogyakarta Principles were first developed in 2007 as recognition grew for the need to acknowledge and protect LBTQ+ human rights. It promised a future where, “all people born free and equal in dignity and rights can fulfil that precious birthright”. In some countries that still remains an aspiration rather than reality.

These are the stories of two employees at NTT in the UK leading the force for change as they look to educate others and provide a safe workplace for a diverse workforce.

Source: Equaldex

Can you tell me more about your experiences?

Gareth When I first joined NTT DATA we were very small in the UK, I was employee #29, nine years ago, and now we are over 3,000 people strong. I was not ‘out’ in the workplace. It just wasn’t part of the conversation. One day my boss asked me when I was going to set up an LGBTQ+ network. He said, “we all know so why don’t you think about setting something up?” Now it’s a standard part of life in business but it wasn’t back then. Now we have a load of Gen Z’s who have grown up with LGBT as standard.

Pragna I’ve been heavily involved in DEI for the past decade. I grew up in southwest London and, although I have some amazing memories of my childhood, I also have some difficult memories of feeling isolated and feeling as though I’d be rejected if people knew about my sexuality. I stayed "hidden" for many years, which took a toll on my mental health. Ten years ago, I joined a charity and as part of my induction was introduced to the LGBT network. This was a first in my career. I loved the warm, friendly people I met and finally felt free to be my authentic self. When we became NTT Ltd, I saw we didn’t really have anything like this in the workplace so that spurred me on to help set up the NTT Pride Alliance to increase awareness and help create an inclusive culture. Today I’m most proud of my own coming out journey, my South Asian heritage, being a first-generation British Asian and my voluntary work in the DEI space.

How have you been able to open up the dialogue on diversity at NTT?

Pragna We set up the Pride Alliance Network at NTT in 2020. Together with Michelle McGuire as Global Leads, we started to build the team across the regions. It’s challenging in some areas and culturally sensitive, especially in some regions / countries where we operate, but the key thing is we are here if our employees need some support and someone they can talk to and understand how they’re feeling. We have 60 members today inclusive of allies and community members and we launched a buddy support program so anyone can join and support LGBTQ+ community members and / or allies in their journey. We run live events (e.g. coming out in the workplace, the importance of allyship) with another session planned for June Pride month. We’re continuing to look for opportunities to raise awareness and ensure our workplace culture is inclusive, such as reviewing our health benefits, updates to policies, inclusion of pronouns in tools / systems and offering guidance where it is needed.

Gareth Recently a trans colleague joined us and this colleague is coaching us through it. It can be as simple as having an answer to, “where can I go to the loo?” We fixed that and now all our offices have gender neutral bathrooms and we’ve updated the pronouns fields in our systems. We need more people to be aware of different needs and educate to ensure sexual orientation and gender identity are not issues.

Thinking about sexual orientation especially, do you still face issues today?

GI grew up in the UK at a time when Section 28 of the local government group was still in law. This meant it was illegal for a government institution to include education to promote homosexuality as a positive lifestyle choice so when I was going through school and my degree I was part of a generation who grew up where there was no discussion formally allowed. I marvel at Gen Zs who don’t have that hangover. For Gen X’s there is still a lot of that hangover with institutionalized and internalized homophobia so I think it’s very important for the 40+ year-olds fighting against something you grew up with or lived through.

PWhen I joined the company I was in the kitchen and some colleagues were playing pool when one suddenly shouted, ‘that’s so gay’. I normally would have let it slide but that really triggered something in me and hearing it used in a derogatory way was very hurtful. I spoke to my Manager who dealt with it quickly and respectfully. Language is so important. We also did a live virtual event on this, to bring about awareness on the use of inclusive language. I really wish there didn’t have to be a network because it shouldn’t matter who I am. The good news is support for the LGBQT+ community is genuine at NTT because team members from all over the company actively get involved in our events. Everyone here is open to the idea of expanding their learning and awareness which results in people feeling able to share their ideas and stories openly.

GEquity is critical. We know that not everyone has the same starting block and we all recognize that. Sexual orientation is not the first thing you see in someone and it’s really such a small part of the whole person yet it can have a huge impact. Hiding your true self is exhausting and creates self-doubt and fears over coming out when you should just be able to be you.

Where do you go from here and what comes next?

PContinuing to grow NTT Pride Alliance, increase awareness, deliver more live events, help keep the conversation moving and ensure our policies and procedures are inclusive. In the past we’ve had parents reaching out to us as their children have come out and helping them to understand more about it and where to get further help if they need it. We’ll continue to support them and signpost to more information or help if they would like it. Creating an inclusive workplace where people feel they belong is so important to me because I felt so hidden for such a long time. Everyone has their own unique journey and I want our employees to feel cared for and safe, so they can be their best and most authentic self.

GBuilding relationships with our clients is very important. We are ranked above all our close competitors for positive diversity and inclusion by the Financial Times and that is based purely on client feedback that is provided anonymously. This year we were rated third in our sector and that means a lot to us. We’re going to continue investing in our partnership with myGwork too as a statement of our intent to increase our presence within ‘the business community for LGBT+ professionals, students, inclusive employers and anyone who believes in workplace equality.

Source: ILGA World; CFR research.

Wow that’s a fantastic achievement – do you think awards like that make a difference?

PYes, I think they do. It’s good to get the recognition and gives you a platform to do more and attract a more diverse candidate pool. I have been nominated for The LGBTQI+ Inclusion Champion Award at the DEI Tech Awards. The event aims to provide a safe and supportive space for like-minded individuals to collaborate, support and champion the differences that make us unique, and ultimately help businesses to thrive. It gives me an opportunity to highlight the issues we encounter and I feel really honored to do this and be involved. Two of my colleagues – Roli Agrawal and Elaine Riley– are also up for awards. (Full results and details are available: here)

What would be your final comment or piece of advice to people reading this article?

PI just want the right to be ignored, after all we should all just be able to come to work as our best selves and celebrate diversity.

GNobody’s just one thing and that’s what makes us exciting as individuals.

Pragna Tevani

Pragna joined NTT Europe in 2018 to fulfil a service delivery role. She then moved to become Transition Manager 18 months ago. Alongside this Pragna chairs the UK & Ireland DEI committee for NTT and at the global level is the lead for Pride Alliance – the LGBTQ+ network across all of Ltd. Pragna is based in the UK.

Gareth Lewis-Jones

Gareth joined NTT DATA in 2014 when the company was just a handful of employees in the UK. He now runs consulting for NTT DATA UK & Ireland. His ‘gay’ job, as he describes it, is running the LGBT+ and Allies network. He helped set up the group seven years ago and took over the leadership role four years ago. Gareth is now the executive sponsor with colleagues managing the group’s day to day activities.

Related Articles


Let’s Talk: Sustainability - A ‘Toast’ to brilliant public speaking

Toastmasters International is a non-profit organization that provides teaching and education in public speaking and leadership skills. Adult programming is delivered through both public and company-sponsored clubs—like Toastmasters at NTT DATA.


Let’s Talk: Sustainability - Saving our soil for a healthier world

Half of the world's soils have reached a level close to desertification because of agricultural soils. In our Asia-Pacific area, one of our VPs is raising awareness about this issue and possible solutions.


Let’s Talk: Sustainability - Breaking the Bias

Companies that are more diverse and inclusive are 35% more likely to outperform. The mission of this NTT Ltd employee is to ensure greater equality and equity at work for all in the company.


Let’s Talk: Sustainability - Empowering Female Leadership through Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts is a global movement that provides programs to help girls achieve goals and learn skills from coding to sustainability or becoming future leaders in science.


Let’s Talk: Sustainability - Addressing the Food Waste Crisis

Luisa Swetlik, from NTT DATA Business Solutions, is helping to address the food waste problem in Germany collecting food that cannot be sold and sharing with the community.


Let’s Talk: Sustainability - Coaching Against Violent Conflict

Bill Zuck, from NTT DATA, was a victim of a troubled past but is now is working with Alternatives to Violence Program to build peace in the home, schools and communities.


Let’s Talk: Sustainability - Getting Back from Giving Back

Nathan Hart transitioned from the cybersecurity to the Global Risk & Sustainability Team at NTT Ltd and now enjoys organizing volunteer campaigns and promoting sustainability.


Let’s Talk: Sustainability - Life and Death

Maurice Ripp, from NTT DATA DACH, encourages a more open dialogue around death and connect people as they learn to manage grief and the mental struggles that death can induce.


Let’s Talk: Sustainability - Enabling Resilience in the Elderly

Gaurav Oberai NTT Ltd is a committed volunteer in a charity called The New Charis Mission to support the lonely elderly population in Singapore.


Let’s Talk: Sustainability - The NTT Ltd Mental Health Avengers

NTT Ltd UK&I last year took the initiative to set up a brand-new program called The Mental Health Avengers (MHA) to break down the stigma attached to mental health.


Let’s Talk: Sustainability - Plastic Warriors Clean Cornwall’s Beaches

During the pandemic, Lisa Pendlebury from NTT Ltd, re-evaluate her life choices and began volunteering with The Beach Guardians, to hold the beaches clean from litter and plastic.


Let’s Talk: Sustainability - Exercise with a Difference - Plogging

Monika Guida, from NTT Europe, promotes between NTT employees to plogging, a relatively new eco-friendly exercise that combines jogging or brisk walking with picking up litter.


Let’s Talk: Sustainability - Restoring a Biosphere Reserve in India

Gadhu Sundaram, from NTT DATA, is fighting climate change at a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, restoring the natural ecosystem of an area in the south of India.


From Catering to Cloud - Finding New Talent from Unlikely Sources

Combining a commitment to building a more diverse workforce while fulfilling a business need to access a digital talent pool, NTT DATA UK embarked on a brand new hiring adventure.


The Gift of Giving at Christmas

Every year at NTT DATA Munich, the employees have the opportunity to make a children’s wish come true. Learn more about this inspiring initiative from Inga Simon.


Let’s Talk: Sustainability - Creating A Community Of Change Leaders

Employees at NTT DATA have been keen to join the NTT DATA / Environment / Sustainability / Technology (NEST) action group led by Fernanda Gallardo to make a sustainable difference.